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Residents’ right to control LBK’s future under assault

AL GREEN
Contributing Writer
green@lbknews.com

The State of Florida has decided that Longboat Key needs a major pro development push.

As if the current group of Town Commissioners isn’t hell bent enough into changing the character of the key, the State legislators along with their usual lobbyists have decided that a local government cannot restrict the density of their town by insisting upon a referendum.

Just to review, the Town changed its density plan back in 1984. At that time, they changed from over 90,000 to approximately 19,000 units. This new plan was a major step but since about 40 percent of the original plan was for areas completely covered by water, it wasn’t that extreme. From personal observation, I can say that the clause was supposed to be a death knell on over expansion in the future.

Density was reduced to 6 units per acre at the most, with all the previous, more built-up areas already developed ones allowed to remain in place. To ensure future observance, the Town would require a referendum of the entire community to make any changes.

Over the period from 1984 to early in 2000, this restriction “weighed down” the expansion for the key so that the assessable evaluations rose from about $1 billion to $6.5 billion. Developers like Arvida got very rich. Existing homeowners saw their home value rise about 500 percent on average.

Ironically, in almost every case, the developers didn’t even use the density that they were entitled to. A good example is the Promenade and the Water Club. Their exterior dimensions are exactly the same but the Water Club built after the 1984 change had more than 30 percent less residential density.

It isn’t too difficult to conclude that not only did the restrictions not hold back development, it actually increased it as it became apparent to potential buyers that Longboat Key was the place to come enjoy Florida weather and facilities without having to put up with Florida overbuilding and ever increasing density.

All of this is now at peril.

Looking back eight years ago, the State law would have been a mere waft of air. Now, given the actions of the Town Commission over the past five years it could be a Hurricane Andrew.

As you have seen, in every case where the rights of the residents came up against the desires of the developer, the residents lost. Even the United States Chamber of Commerce’s record in front of the U.S. Supreme Court (17 out 0f 20) paled in comparison.

The Town Attorney has suggested ways in which the Town could challenge this ruling but to think that a David Brenner-led Town Commission is going to authorize any expenditure of funds to pay for the legal demands, flies in the face of reality.

Already Mayor Jim Brown has declared that those who are concerned with the downside of this significant change are paranoid. Even paranoids can remember who authorized a $450 million dollar expansion at the Key Club.

In summation, the act by the State makes it almost impossible for any legal action that would stop the Gulf side from looking like Fort Lauderdale.

Given the Commission’s conduct in the recent rebuilding of Publix there is no way one could envision this group of commissioners looking even closely at any developers fantasy.

Hopefully, if you have read so far, you are getting the idea that the only protection you have is your vote on commissioners. Before this, you could always sit back knowing that you could always step in when it became serious. Now you can come back from your northern sojourn to a fait accompli you might not like.

In your next election, you will probably be confronted by a choice between Brenner and Rajewski. Rajewski could opt to run for the easier race against current Commissioner Terry Gans but that would not accomplish anything except assuage Mr. Rajewski’s ego.

Brenner came on the political scene with no secrets. He was the Chamber of Commerce’s representative proposing more commercial activity on the key. He brought with him, a slate of candidates that have followed his direction. The Colony, the Hilton, the Key Club, the undeveloped land in Harbourside will all be subject to his and Mayor Brown’s vision of what is good for Longboat Key. Always lurking is also twenty-some mom and pop motels just waiting to capitalize on their location.

In the last election, Brenner won by a two percent margin over Rajewski, with 15 percent of the electorate voting for him.  If the majority of the voters on Longboat Key do not see the peril that their beautiful, quiet residential ambience is under, they will have to live with the consequences. With the referendum obstacle taken away, you are now playing hardball.

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2 Responses for “Residents’ right to control LBK’s future under assault”

  1. Ross says:

    Hmmm, I thought the GOP was for local control. Selectively I guess. Silly me.
    Ross

  2. Ghostrider says:

    “They control you.”—-The late George Carlin
    Also:
    Quiet and sleepy isn’t on Big Money’s agenda. Longboat has the “perfect storm” on the horizon. The older generation is literally passing on, the newer one is mostly absentee, and REAL money is ready to sink its fangs into Longboat.
    Lake Okeechobee and the Governor are in the national news now. It’s time to see what that “noise” in your backyard is all about.

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