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Don’t let traffic drive your vote

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Some vote by examining history and so-called facts and data and make their own biased, yet we can suppose, informed decision.

Some vote out of loyalty to a party or an idea or a to a lineage of family beliefs.

Then there are those who vote to punish; they take out their accumulated prejudices, frustrations and angst against a gender, a name or a party and they unconsciously pull a lever.

For many of the thousands of Longboat Key residents who have just received their mail-in ballots asking for a vote for or against allowing the Key Club tourism units for a new resort at Islandside, the decision will be based on two competing beliefs that will determine the outcome.

The supporters will say, “We need more tourism, an Islandside redevelopment and modernization will help the entire Key and the Club’s owners, Ocean Properties, is the kind of owner that will work hard to make the development something that will be successful and elevate the entire Key.”

Those opposed will say, “We do not need any more tourism, and furthermore, traffic has been and will continue to be intolerable and atrocious during season and you don’t flush more tourists into a broken sewer pipe.”

 

Thinking another way…

In many ways the relevant question is how much do you love Longboat Key?

Do you love the views from the shoreline, the rich hue of the swirling waters below the bridges and the sunsets that dance on the waves across the strip of Gulf beach each evening?

Do you love that our island is safe, feels like a place we can all come home and where we leave the stresses of the rest of the world behind?

Is it the passionate and feisty populace? An endearing army of Type A personalities who somehow find time to mingle drink wine, walk and bike along the roadways that alternately fascinate and frustrate our sensibilities?

We all love these aspects of Longboat Key and therein is the conundrum. Much of the dilemma is the rest of the world wants to be here and in the Sarasota region as well during the same three months out of the year. It is like looking at artwork at MOMA in New York; —how do you enjoy a Picasso or Van Gogh when throngs are standing beside you commenting, gasping in awe and offering their insights and bad breath at the same time? The same goes for traffic and tourism.

 

Trafficking delusion

Those against the plan will say we simply do not need any more traffic and we do not need more tourism. They will point out that residential homeowners by the hundreds are offering the homes and condos for rent on VRBO and other Internet rental sites – legally or not — and that the Colony will be back someday and the Hilton is expanding as we speak. They will point out that allowing the Key Club an additional 259 hotel rooms is simply not sensible given the traffic they just experienced day after day.

But this line of thinking as they say in court is prejudicial and not based on facts.

We all agree the season traffic can be atrocious. Traffic can be the evening plans dealbreaker. Traffic can make you turn Malthusian or even worse turn everyone into a psuedo traffic engineer. You should hear them of late in Town Hall, it sounds like this:

“What they need to do is put traffic officers at St. Armands Circle. “

“We need to time the lights correctly.”

“We need to build a bridge from Grand Bay to the mainland.”

“We need traffic circles and we need water taxis.”

“We need more SCAT buses. No, we need less SCAT buses.”

 

The more we have traffic, the more the ideas keep coming;  “We need toll booths,” etc. etc.

Right now, Town Hall and the Commission are trying to band together with Sarasota and Manatee Counties and other municipalities to pressure the FDOT to accept responsibility for the traffic – since it is their road is the logic – and undertake some real structural and engineering fixes.

And like a junkie who wants to quit and yet still continue, we see more and more development Downtown and on Lido and Longboat Key and it will all bring more and more cars. In psychoanalysis it would be inferred that we are seeking some top down paternalistic solution  —  “Daddy FDOT will soon come in and fix everything.”

That is delusion. Areas that are intrinsically overrun with beauty and a great lifestyle are inevitably overrun with people – that is Sarasota and Longboat’s destiny and no amount of engineering will stop the traffic. If it did, we would attract more people until capacity is again exceeded. Such is human nature.

 

Club should not be blamed

But back to reality and the Key Club. It is not fair to vote against the Key Club plan based on our anger toward traffic.

The Club for about 40 years has survived on its current hotel base. It has struggled to survive and sustain itself in a world of fierce competition. In short, it cannot continue to compete without significant meeting space and an attached hotel. That is something wherein our fates as residents and the Key Club are truly conjoined.

Another reason to support the measure is purely pragmatic: the other options are not superior.

The Town, thanks to our weak Commission, agreed when it rewrote its land use regulations this year that the Key Club has the right to ask to build about 600 units at Islandside with Commission approval. And this Commission is like a good first date: the words “No” are never heard by an applicant. The Commission could have only allowed the units by voter approval, but they opted to take the path of least resistance.

That being said, Ocean Properties can build out its open parcels at Islandside with residential condominiums if voters do not allow the tourism density. That would be a less favorable outcome. And if that happens, the additional traffic would amount to more than what they have negotiated and settled on with the neighbors.

Realize, Ocean Properties is a resort operator and a tasteful one and most importantly has the capital to invest and see this project through. That was not the case with the previous owners.

Secondly, if the resort is allowed to flourish, the amenities and the overall property increases in value dramatically. When the Key Club flourishes the ripple effect is felt everywhere — the golf courses are spiffy, the community events and generosity of the Club is felt everywhere and the members’ amenities increase as well.

 

Could Longboat use more Juvederm?

Perhaps it would seem nice if we could inject Juvederm and Botox into the face of Longboat Key and freeze its beauty forever to avoid all the scars of future development and traffic.

But a genuine refresher, a real facelift, a face for the next generation is specifically what Ocean Properties is trying so hard to create. They want wealthy visitors and corporate guests. They want the kind of guests who will one day retire, buy a condo or house and a full membership at the Club.

For this to happen they know what Loeb, the previous owners, knew;  they need that meeting space and a new and amenitized hotel.

Perhaps what is most admirable about Ocean Properties is they are far more sensitive to the neighbors and show far more respect as a company in going about their desires. They worked with IPOC to avert another fight over redevelopment. They moved all of the development to south of Longboat Key Club Road. They removed the monstrous parking garage and conference center from where the previous owners located it next to GMD and placed them within the Hotel.

Realize, our very own Commission had allowed and approved Loeb’s inferior plan, which really would have damaged the integrity of the south end of the Key.

Thanks to IPOC fighting that plan and the Town losing in court, Ocean Properties bought the Key Club and came up with something far more reasonable and well thought out.

If you support the request by Ocean Properties and vote “Yes,“ do so because our fate as property owners goes through life like so many conjoined twins with the fate of the Longboat Key Club. If the Club can modernize, attract newer and more upscale guests and be allowed to build meeting space to attract more prestigious corporate clients, it will pay dividends in increasing property values and hatch the next generation of Longboat Key homebuyers from a stronger gene pool than simply allowing the facilities to age and grow less relevant. And not one of us wants to age and become less relevant.

 

 

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2 Responses for “Don’t let traffic drive your vote”

  1. Blake Fleetwood says:

    Well put. More tourism will drive down property values and. Traffic and density will destroy the sweet life as we know it.

    The town will be selling its soul.

  2. geneonlbk says:

    Now the island has no “newspapers”, as both editors have adopted the COC mantra of any business is good business for LBK. Nothing could be more dangerous for an exclusive residential community than having the reputation of being somewhere to avoid in season. Every person, who has suffered multiple LBK gridlock experiences during season, returns north to tell all their friends and acquaintances that they will never return to LBK.

    I have seasonal neighbors who are selling their homes just because of our traffic snarls during season. Looking at the residential flight from the towns of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, one can easily see that too much commercial tourism can cause residents to sell their homes, resulting in the transformation of a residential island community into a tourist destination of rental homes.

    As for the tired mantra that we need more tourists to sell our homes, it is a false and deceptive propaganda ploy. The above article admits that we already accommodate eleven thousand tourist accommodations in the form of residential and condo rentals.

    Continually expanding commercial tourism will simply make our community less and less attractive place to own property. The size of the traffic jams does matter. We depend on seasonal residents to maintain our property values. Exacerbating the problem by allowing uncontrolled commercial tourism growth can only hurt our community as we know it.

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