Longboat Key Letters – Week ending January 27, 2017
Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.
The Impact of the Colony Density Referendum on Traffic
Ask any resident about their concerns about Longboat Key and you’re likely to get one answer: traffic. There have been studies, meetings and petitions, but nothing seems to change. Why? Because the local roads simply can’t handle the population density already on the island.
So why would we citizens want to permit a developer to put 417 units on the Colony property, a property that is zoned for just 82 units? That’s 24.11 units an acre, nearly double the 13.6 that’s there now and four times the six units permitted under its current T-6 designation. On March 14 we have an opportunity to say “No.”
Consider, for starters, the cars from five high-rise buildings of 12 or 13 stories all pouring out onto Gulf of Mexico drive from a single exit; the additional commercial traffic that a five-star hotel will bring to the island—supplies going in and trash going out; and the additional traffic that will be generated by 1500 banquet guests going to a 20,000 square foot ballroom, potentially three times a day.
Longboat Key is served by a single two-lane road. As much as I’d like to see something done with the Colony property, the current density proposal will generate too much traffic. I’ll be voting no on the density referendum on March 14 and hope that others concerned about our traffic will join me. Enough is enough.
Right wing views
Peter O’Connor – Editorials Jan 13 edition: Your opinion re sequestration did not mention it was ultimately caused by the most right-wing element of the Republican party who refused to go along with the more rationale members of their own party. Government doesn’t work without compromise. The almost religious fervor that motivates these views is harmful to our citizens and especially our national defense. Surprisingly inconsistent, these right-wing zealots call for a stronger military but due to their fanatic views cut off the military’s resources.
Secondly, your review of ultra-conservative, let’s go back in time views of Hillsdale College president, Larry Arnn, is neither “Notable or Quotable,” but is quite predictable. He prefers 1776 to 2017. He would do away with government departments that protect our people and are clearly needed because of discrimination, debasement, and modernity. With respect to the Dept. of Transportation, back in Arnn’s “good old days” when horses were our main source of transportation, cars and airplanes were unimaginable. Slavery prevailed and no state laws protected the rights of minorities and discrimination was prevalent in every state. Thus the need for not only for an Attorney General, but for a Justice Dept to protect all Americans. Minorities in the Southern states had no right to equal education, thus the need for a Dept. of Education. And housing, do I need to remind you and Arnn, and the young people harmed by Hillsdale’s preoccupation of attempting to reverse every effort at equality and fairness for all, that housing discrimination was rampant thru-out the United States until the Dept of Housing and Urban Affairs was created to battle the good white folks views that we keep “the others” down. And pollution and destruction of our habitats required the EPA.
I occasionally find myself surprisingly agreeing with you but when you revert back to in effect praising, and giving credibility and gravitas to backward-looking contemptible ideologues like Arnn I find it disturbing.
Stuart Sinai, Esq.
Unwanted land behind Publix
To: Mayor Terry Gans
Needless to say, folks at the north end are aghast at the town’s plans to spend $2 million-plus taxpayer dollars on yet more unneeded, and mostly unwanted, land behind Publix for some sort of taxpayer supported town arts center that very few people will ever visit. As former commissioner said publicly, we already have enough public parks, and no one goes to them.
Do you remember the lack of community support for the concerts at Durante Park?
What peeves north end residents is that the town has no problem spending $4 million taxpayer dollars on unneeded land while the derelict gas station remains a public eyesore decade after decade, when the town obviously has millions to burn on unneeded land acquisitions elsewhere on the island.
R3 & R4 Height Restriction Considerations
To: Planning and Zoning Board Members
As you consider making recommendations to the Commission on restating and redefining the island wide height restriction ordinance language, I respectfully request that you consider the following suggestions specifically regarding R3 and R4 single-family neighborhoods.
As past Country Club Shores (CCS) IV President and having remodeled one and built two homes on LBK over the past 20 years, I have some practical experience with designing within what was a strictly enforced 30 ft. Town height restriction above FEMA required grade. Two of the homes included roof level observation decks served by spiral staircases within the 30 ft. Town ordinance.
While current best practices call for the very noble and well intended objective to establish ordinances to facilitate the ability “to age in place,” it is also important to take into consideration the impact on those who are already “aging in place” in older single story homes or who choose to build and “age in place” in a single story home.
To change the historically enforced 30 ft. height restriction and allow up to 40 foot structures above FEMA grade accessing observation decks would significantly change the character of R3 and R4 neighborhoods. It would clearly create a canyon effect for the one story homes next door, dwarfing them by these virtually three to four story homes rising some 53 feet, above the street level (five stories). Many existing single story homes are at street level.
It is important to note that creative and innovative architectural design along with modern residential elevator equipment technology can allow access to roof observation decks on two story homes within the 30 foot restriction solving the “age in place” objective. It just takes extra effort in design creativity.
As an aside, please consider the obvious question about how far is this “age in place” objective / “logic” / law going take us? For example, from now on should every new two story home be required by law to have an elevator to the second floor? Of course not…. But why not? Let’s require ADA height toilets and walk in bathtubs from now on, perfect for “aging in place” new homes. Very concerning.
I understand you have recently agreed to a compromise reducing the allowed square footage of the third floor observation deck landing structures up to 40 ft. but the above arguments still apply. Thirty feet is 30 feet, and the observation deck access objective is doable within the 30 ft. restricted level.
The Town’s 30 ft. restriction historical practice has worked very well in maintaining the aesthetics of these dense neighborhoods for decades. Canal homes need to be able to see some sky over their neighbors across the narrow canal as well.
CCS IV HOA Board has a consensus to maintain the 30 ft. height restriction in their neighborhood but they rely on the Town to enforce it as it has for decades. There is no HOA height covenant because the Town has enforced the 30 ft. restriction, again, for decades.
Please consider your R3 and R4 zoning height recommendation to the Commission very carefully as it will dramatically impact the architectural integrity and livability of the relatively dense single family neighborhoods island wide over time. Thank you for your service to LBK.
R3 & R4 Height Restriction Considerations
To: Michael Drake and Bob Gault
Just so everyone understands, the P&Z is not considering any changes to the zoning codes for Single family neighborhoods. This includes all zoning not just height.
As you know, the board recently looked at the issue of allowing construction over the 30 foot height due to a request by Lynn Larson. We made the ability to build over 30 feet for access to roof decks much more restrictive. Due to changes in the State Building Codes it was not possible to totally eliminate the structures entirely but we made them the minimum that they could be and still allow access. I believe it is a good compromise given the changes that are happening on LBK. It is unfortunate that existing single-story houses are overshadowed by the newer houses but it is impossible to prevent.
These roof access structures have been built on LBK for the last 30 years and no one has complained except in CCS.
Planning and Zoning Board
To: Bob Gault
Hope all is well with you and Shannon, may 2017 be a great year…Very well put and it would be irresponsible for the P&Z to recommend any change to the height of any residential zoned properties throughout the entire town of Longboat Key. Have a great day!
Michael D. Drake
To: Mayor Terry Gans
I read the letter to you titled Colony Redevelopment Project urging a “Yes” vote. The letter refers to “…Greater Sarasota and the Manatee Chambers of Commerce” and how at meetings “we have heard time and time again that our Region is falling behind other areas such as St. Pete, Tampa, and Naples to name a few in attracting new investments and training/retaining young professionals.” I find it hard to believe that with all of the development that is now going on or planned for Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch that we are falling behind.
Longboat Key does not pretend to be St. Pete, Tampa, or Naples and has drawn many of it’s visitors and residents because we are not these places. We come to Longboat Key after we have been to these places. Those of us not in favor of the referendum for 180 condo units added to the present 237 tourist units are not trying to stop progress but are just looking for the tranquility we originally came here for.
The traffic issue is not the only problem but height and density also plays into this project. The Town presently has a height limit so Longboat Key doesn’t become a tunnel of high buildings. The density ordinance has been in place since 1984 and it hasn’t damaged our growth or property values.
Redevelop the Colony with the 237 condo tourist units and make it an outstanding place to come to as it once was within the present ordinances and keeping in mind the present ambiance of Longboat Key.
Response to Tranquility
To: Madeline Spoll
Thank you for sharing your perspective on some of the issues surrounding the March 14 referendum.
I am confident that the voters on Longboat Key will learn as much as they can on the arguments both in favor and against, and be in the best position to make their own informed decision.
You have communicated your position well, and I appreciate your being part of the needed dialogue.
Busy week with good progress
To: Pat Zunz
Overall I think the week went well and folks seemed to enjoy the field trip this morning. Seeing is believing for sure!
I have not shared the following thoughts with anyone but thought you would be the person to share this with now.
When the two groins were placed you know the northern most one was going to be at the point where we went into the mangroves today. When the terminal groin goes in there will have to be engineering that chooses the right place and I believe it will be more extensive because the northernmost groin is so far south.
I am not sure how good Olson is from listening to them over the years but I think there is some weird dance going on that is something like this. Olson…tell me what you want? Town…tell me what we need? Olson…what are you trying to accomplish, etc.?
This would be a good time to sit and figure out the questions that Olson should be asked with this overriding strategic question. “What do we do to maximize the sea safety on LBK for the next 50 years that uses the latest technologies successfully implemented in other locations? We want a strategic view of where each technology or sets of technologies might be used most effectively. We want you to look at the beach as a system: including sand, dunes, mangroves and man made objects with the view of building a sea safe environment LBK wide. Your approach should also consider a sea level rise of 6 to 12 inches by 2050 and 2075 respectively.
If we could get their view given this SOW then the town will have a planning context and be able to set priorities as I have been suggesting.
Listening and reading to the views of our not very continuous process of the past 10 – 15 years I think the time is right to really study and create a vision for LBK that would get claim across FL and the nation. Perhaps this would be a way to start that process.
Lincoln Day Dinner
To: Mayor Terry Gans
Dear Mayor, Haven’t congratulated you yet, but here goes. Congratulations, on that note each year Waste Manangement gets a table for the Lincoln Day Dinner and we invite the Mayors & their spouse or guest.
The dinner is Mar 2nd at the Fete Ballroom & Polo Grill Lakewood Ranch. Thus far that’s all I know but if you would like to attend, I’d love to see you there.
Please respond ASAP, I will fill in the details when I know them, so far I just know the date & place.
Amore restaurant purchase
To: Town Manager Dave Bullock and Town Commission
The Observer reports the town wants to buy the Amore property for $2.2 million and likely incur several million dollars in fit out costs tocreate a “Longboat Key Center for Arts, Culture and Education.”
The article fails to address why Longboat need such a center nor why is it the purview of government to build one, particularly when world class arts and cultural venues are a few miles away.
Why would the town fund such an attraction when the town is currently also funding a study to reduce island traffic. If the center were built and became even moderately successful, traffic would obviously increase diminishing the efforts toward reduction.
Town purchase would also remove a $2.2 million taxable property from the tax rolls necessarily adding to the burden of every other owner on the Key. It would also increase annual expense for maintenance, staffing and general upkeep.
I’ll bet that proponents of the project have argued that the Center would be “self funding.” In my working career, I’ve been involved with several public arts and culture buildings; all predicted self-funding. None ever became self-funded–not at creation, not in infancy and not at maturity.
The residents of Longboat can easily fund their own activities. LBK’s per capita income exceeds $93,000, more than three times that of Manatee and Sarasota counties, Florida and the US.
Any one interested in having such a center should band together, raise funds and then enjoy–at their expense. Please stick to your governmental knitting and not go searching for new ways to spend your constituents’ money.
To: Dan Whelan
Thank you for your comments regarding the Town Center and the potential purchase of the Amore property.
The Town Center concept was part of the original development plan for the Town going back to the early 1980’s, and reinforced by the ULI study’s as meeting the need to (1) make our Island a true community as opposed to a collection of basically unrelated neighborhoods; and (2) provide those activities “at home” that residents and visitors otherwise would have to leave the island to enjoy. If successful, such a center keeps traffic off the roads.
The tax implications to Longboat Key (around $2,600 per year) are far outweighed by the value we perceive the project offering.
Land acquisition is from a Fund limited to such purchases, and which will still maintain a substantial balance after the purchase. Ringling College is partnering in the project, and the Longboat Key Foundation is committed to a fund raising effort for development.
Again, thank you for writing.
To: Mayor Terry Gans
Thank you for such a fast response.
But you didn’t answer my basic question: Why is an arts, cultural and education center necessary for the benefit of the town and why don’t the existing arts, cultural and education opportunities in Sarasota and elsewhere sufficient. What happens if the fundraising activities and long term support of the center fail to materialize.
With respect to traffic, whether the trip starts and ends on the island does nothing to diminish overall traffic. And if the vision is that the center will draw the vast majority of its audiences from the community, I can almost guarantee it will fail to support itself. There simply aren’t enough bodies to do so. I served on the board and chaired the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia for several years. The Philadelphia metro area has over 6 million people with resident companies that include the Phila Orchestra and touring artists such as Winston Marsalis, Ravi Shankar, the Berlin Philharmonic and a wide range of pop artists. The Kimmel Center has never had a balanced budget since construction completed in 2001.
Finally, I don’t find it compelling that a long term plan envisioned a “town center.” The island is 4 square mile in area. Why it needs a town center at all escapes me, and in my humble opinion will do absolutely nothing to end the neighborhood character of the town. One might argue it will serve as more visible divide between the north and south ends of the island, much more tangible than the county line.
In any event, I know you don’t want to get into a debate and I thank you for listening and your answer.
Arts and Cultural Center
To: Daniel Whelan
We have argued and debated this issue through the town for nearly six years, and we believe the Arts, Cultural and Education center, in Association with the Ringling College, will be a Longboat Key specific complement to the cultural resources you reference off island. Further, we believe the more activities offered on Longboat, the fewer
vehicles fighting for constrained capacity on bridges and into the mainland cities.
As you indicate in your final sentence, this appears to be an issue on which we will continue to respectfully disagree.
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