Directed to PIC

Guest Columnist

I find it interesting and worrisome that the Longboat Key Public Interest Committee is taking a financial stake in the forth-coming election by paying for a half-page ad in your newspaper in support of all of the incumbent candidates.  Not one or two  —  all.

Since it seems to be a serious matter, I would like to expose the stated “facts” to be erroneous.  Maybe “misinformed,” but allow me the opportunity to refute of them

To explain my previous vision of PIC, its website purports to spell out its raison d’etre:

PIC was begun in 1984 by concerned citizens to combat rampant over-development then prevalent on the Key. The response was instant and dramatic. Many Longboaters became PIC members and worked to elect town commissioners who reduced density, instituted strict zoning and made Longboat Key what it is today.

PIC has played a major role in maintaining the residential quality of life on Longboat Key. In the 80′s we helped to limit over-development and to blunt efforts to turn our island into one big tourist resort. PIC helped in stopping the transfer of density from bayside to gulfside, in fighting to keep our open space lands intact, and keeping the town commission from opting out of the state-required comprehensive plan. In the mid-2000′s when businesses began to suffer due to lost tourist units, PIC promoted rectifying this imbalance, recognizing that extremes either way were not beneficial to the island. We continue to keep a watchful eye on what is happening on our key and to work for what is best for homeowners and taxpayers.

It sounds noble, and, I agree except for the penultimate sentence. “In the mid-2000′s when businesses began to suffer due to lost tourist units, PIC promoted rectifying this imbalance, recognizing that extremes either way were not beneficial to the island.” But, probably PIC is so insulted that it is not aware of the economic malaise that has gripped our great nation and the rest of the world.  During this period our Longboat Key electorate authorized 250 additional “tourism units” to be built to expand existing tourism sites. anywhere in Town except for within PUD’s.  Until just recently, no request has been made for any of these 250 units.

Your paid advertisement trumpets: All town legal expenses associated with the club’s proposal were covered by the applicant. Please be informed that by official correspondence with the previous Town Finance Director, as of the end of the year 2012, the Town of Longboat Key actually paid out in real money the total sum of $224,176.71 (our money!) for its dealing and involvement with the Key Club Expansion Program.  (This consisted of $159,190.32 to Attorney Persson and $64,986.39 for “hearing expenses.”) This is totally an expense  —  there are no provisions for any of this to be reimbursed. (Note: some of these funds were expended after the previous owners of the Key Club had sold their interests and departed the scene.)  This does not include payroll for staff or other in-house expenses incurred after the completion of the initial staff report.  Staff was heavily involved during this period  —  no accounting was, or can be satisfactorily made.!  This does not include the unraveling now in progress for the new planning and amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinances for the future vision of our Town as the present Commissioners dream for it to be.  I trust that you will agree that $159,190.32 is a very real “town legal expense associated with the club’s proposal.”

A previous Commission’s actions allowed an egregious number of “departures.”  The Judicial rulings did not find a lack of clarity in our Codes.  They also found that the Commission’s interpretation was a miscarriage of justice and that their usurping certain powers was, indeed, a violation of the State Constitution..  The adopted Zoning amendments by the Planning and Zoning Board and Town Commission  subsequent to the original approval were a bold-faced attempt to bring them into compliance with the liberties already taken in order to justify their previous actions.  Hardly following your implied mandate for following the “strict zoning” you champion.

As regards the cost of beach renourishment  —  be advised that the present Commission is just “kicking the can down the road.”  Do you know what the costs of beach maintenance have been since it was made the law of Longboat Key?  Would you like to know?  And we are just getting started?.  The original mantra of “Sand or Seawalls?” has now become “Sand AND Permeable Groins.”  The availability of suitable sands for renourishment is rapidly evaporating.  And, now, who else would now like the Town to give him a free Gulf groin to protect his property?

Now, with respect to Tourism and actions by the current and past Commissioners.

PIC must be unaware that previous Commissioners had already approved 196 Tourism units plus 76 Tourism/Condominium within a grand total of 354 new units in the Islandside PUD.  When Judge Haworth had finally ruled that no “tourism units” could be constructed within Islandside, and long after the Loeb Group had departed the scene, our current Commission paid our former Town Attorney thousands of additional dollars to petition that the Judge amend his ruling and allow them in.  Understand  —  neither the State approvals nor our Comprehensive Plan nor our Zoning Ordinance currently allow more Tourism Units within our PUD’s. Was this intended as a Welcome Wagon gift to the new owners or a harbinger of good things to come? Was that not a “drastic expansion of tourism”?

And, to switch to the matter of “density,” which is purportedly controlled by our Town Charter; of special interest to PIC and especially to any of its members who may live in Islandside or Bay Isles, the current Commissioners (including your choice of candidates) recently passed Ordinance 2012-08, SECTION 4 (L)(1)and (2).  In clear legalese, these all-new provisions state that now within those two PUD’s a total of 1884 additional units can be constructed therein at the whim of the Commission (and the application of the owner).  And, how will that affect our traffic and the Town infrastructure?  Should this not have required a prior approval by the electorate? Why not require that your recommended candidates explain it?  Did this action escape your “watchful eye on what is happening on our key”?

In all candor, you are interpreting a so-called “Vision Plan” as the Comprehensive Plan.  It was conjured up by a small group of people who systematically denied contribution by any of our citizenry with a different view of the future of our island.  This tightly knit cadre has succeeded in occupying the body politic of our Town and refuses participation (except for a strictly timed three minutes at the podium,) by other of the concerned citizenry who espouse the same causes to which PIC but gives lip service.  It has also, systematically, effected the removal of veteran Town Staff:  including our Planning Director, Town Manager, and now our Town Finance Director.

Proportional representation be damned!  I compliment your choice of words wherein you want to elect certain “incumbents” to the Commission.  You have obviously refrained from using the term “re-elect.”  Congratulations on your choice of words! None of your recommended candidates has been “elected” by the citizenry. They were all originally chosen by sitting Commissioners who carefully vetted them  before their anointment and appointment.  It is time for serious votes by the Commission to be less than unanimous.  It is time for some representation by the almost 49 percent of the citizenry who voted against returning the Vice-Mayor to the Commission in the last election.  It is time for the names of some members of this 49 percent of the citizenry to be listed in more venues other than the local telephone books and the tax rolls. It is time for some of these names to be found on the Town Commission and even on its rubber-stamping farm league counterpart  —  the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board.  It really is time for a change  —  to allow a few new voices and a little fresh air into these dusty chambers.

With respect to your negating the new candidates to the Commission because they seem to have no new ideas, allow me to offer something that Hippocrates Is reputed to have required of would-be doctors.  Primum non nocere  —  Above all, do no harm.  In all candor, would this not be a better requirement for our next crop of Town Commissioners?  Why are the incumbents hell-bent on changing our Town?  After all, we chose Longboat Key for what it was  —  not what we could change it into!

The P in your name obviously stands for PUBLIC.  The I for INTEREST.  Would that the C did not, blatantly, stand for COMMERCIAL

Now, quite candidly, who has been making the “many misleading claims”?

I would go on, but I think that I have already used up my 180 seconds.




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