Candidates Daly, Grossman talk planning, Ringling & future LBK
Longboat Key District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly has a tone of cautious enthusiasm about what he sees as progress on some significant issues.
Daly faces re-election on March 14 and is being challenged by candidate Larry Grossman who assumes a tone of disdain bordering on outrage at what he says is the lack of proper planning by the sitting Town Commission.
Center of debate
Exemplifying the disparate views between Daly and Grossman is their take on the town’s recent purchase of Amore Restaurant to help facilitate the development of a Town Center in cooperation with the Ringling College of Art & Design.
Daly told Longboat Key News on Friday that he was “excited” about the recent purchase of the Rooks property because he said it moves the process along.
“We have gone from concept to now approaching reality and this could be the cornerstone of a very real town center on Longboat Key,” said Daly.
Daly elaborated that the only ingredient missing on Longboat is, “We do not have a local center or gathering place where people from different neighborhoods can come together. It would put a little frosting on our community. It is an ingredient that is missing and we are now focusing on the real stuff and getting it out of the planning and discussing it phase,” said Daly.
Grossman says that buying the property for a Town Center could be a good idea, but he is frustrated “because there has not been any true debate or dialogue about this plan.”
Grossman says the commission and town is approaching a Town Center idea with no overall plan and in piecemeal manner. He asked rhetorically if the Ringling was going to take its proceeds from the sale of its property on the north end in the Village and put it into the site. He wondered why the commission had not entertained the contingency that it might not work out with the Ringling and that the building should be designed with other uses or a Plan B in mind.
“I cannot believe the town is ready to charge ahead. There is no programming and we don’t know anything about the building. We should be talking to Publix about shared parking and we should also be preparing for potential failure. We should not make our future dependent on Ringling’s operation,” said Grossman.
Daly replied, “No,” when asked if he was surprised by the workload of being a town commissioner. But he said that what did surprise and impress him the most is that any Longboat Key resident who has a question or concern or a complaint and wants to make a comment has a very real opportunity to do that in Town Hall.
“That individual gets a response. I cannot believe that that exists in other, larger communities and I think it is a wonderful thing,” said Daly.
One thing Daly has been involved with on behalf of the commission is traffic. Daly is the Longboat Key representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) board and has been bringing community concerns and urging solutions over the past two years.
Daly said that although it is not a scientific poll, everyone he talks to seems to think traffic’s a little lighter this year. Daly said the support of his fellow commissioners and town staff as well as the Mayor has all been very helpful in making our case to the MPO and other agencies.
“We should take some credit in that we pushed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for traffic studies and they’re happening now,” said Daly.
Daly said he is encouraged by the attitude and willingness of the FDOT to listen and implement short-term suggestions. Daly added that he was under the impression that some adjustment to the signals on Fruitville as well as at Ringling and US41 have been implemented.
Back to planning…
For Grossman, he feels that on most issues the town is not properly planning.
“This is a great place; I do not understand why we cannot do anything right,” said Grossman.
Grossman said that the lack of planning also applies to the lack of ability the City of Sarasota has exercised in controlling “monster buildings with no setbacks and no sidewalks.”
Grossman takes issue with the town’s evolving Planned Unit Development ordinance. He says, “It makes no sense and may not even be legal.”
Grossman said the proper approach is for the town to look at what sites need redevelopment, what needs preservation and to create options and guidelines.
“But you cannot have everything up for grabs. You cannot have all these non-conforming sites as ‘opportunity’ sites. Opportunity for what?” said Grossman.
Grossman hopes to bring his penchant for planning to the commission. Daly hopes to continue his work on developing the Town Center, the undergrounding of power lines and other initiatives the town has underway.
Election Day is March 14 and the two contested seats are District 4, which is currently held by Commissioner Jack Daly who is running against candidate Larry Grossman. The other contested seat is the At-Large seat which has former Mayor Jim Brown running against former Commissioner Gene Jaleski. The District 2 seat will be filled by current Commissioner George Spoll who is running unopposed.