Longboat Key Letters – Week ending March 3, 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.
In support of Daly, Brown
I write wearing my private citizen hat.
As a year-round resident of Longboat Key, a taxpayer, and a voter, I strongly support the candidacy of Jack Daly and Jim Brown for Town Commission. Jack Daly and Jim Brown have proven records of dedicated service, along with thoughtfulness, seriousness, and wisdom in carrying out that service.
As a Longboat Key resident for over 35 years, I have seen the growth of this Key firsthand. There are many beautiful residences and appropriately size condominium complexes on the Key, as well as some tall structures that were built before our Town restricted the heights of new buildings.
I lived next to the Colony during its heyday as an upscale tennis resort and have now witnessed it sad decline. Clearly this location on our Key requires a thoughtful development, retaining the beauty of the area with the least disruption to the environment and to its neighbors. I would very much like to see the Colony property redeveloped soon as an asset to the Key and to its neighbors, but not at the cost of adding density to the property, which already has grandfathered units.
Voters in this community will be asked on March 14 to approve a referendum that will add density to the Colony site. I am very much against this referendum and encourage all Longboat Key voters to vote ‘No.’ If approved, the density requested will likely entail tall buildings on the site, as many as ten stories plus underbuilding parking. While the density referendum directly affects the old Colony site, if it passes it would open the door to increased density at other properties. If it passes, we residents would no longer have a say in developers coming to Longboat Key with grandiose plans.
The neighboring buildings near the Colony site are four to six stories; several buildings of ten stories plus underbuilding parking would tower over its neighbors. Building an eyesore like this is a detriment to our Key. Our Town recognized this fact when they adopted the height regulations in 2011. We do not want to return to the days when any developer could come to our Key and build something tall and out of place. We do not want any further buildings that detracts from character and the quality of life on the Key.
The increased density would create additional traffic, noise, additional visitors and workers, and a loss of peacefulness in this area.
Again, I encourage all LBK voters to Vote ‘No’ on March 14.
Colony Proposal – Myths versus the Reality
Myth #1 – Unicorp’s proposal will improve traffic conditions.
Reality – The traffic study assumes 237 tourist units so therefore only includes adding the 180 residential units. No traffic is added for the 20,000 sq ft ballroom, nothing is said that there is zero traffic coming from the Colony property today. Unicorp declares traffic will decrease because there will be a trolley. But how many people who frequent 5 star resorts will actually use the trolley (bus)? Probably about the same as visitors to LBK use it today – a very small percentage of folks. Batching pedestrian crossing at St Armandsis very unlikely to happen. Another lane on Cortez at 119th St. will help but the real bottleneck is at the Bradenton Beach Circle. After the circle traffic moves in an acceptable matter, albeit slowly. It is tough enough now to get onto GMD, then once on GMD we have the queues both south and north. Lets not make traffic any worse, and lets not actually vote for more traffic.
Myth #2 – Unicorp has a right to build what it wants on its private property
Reality – The proposed towering buildings will have a greatly negative impact on surrounding neighbors. We need to protect our fellow Longboat residents. Who knows what neighborhood will be threatened next. We should vote as if we live next door to this proposal. Since there are many other properties (reportedly 47 non-conforming) that could be looking to redevelop in a similar manner, we need to support each other and strive to maintain the existing low density character and existing ambiance on Longboat Key.
Myth #3 – Unicorp videos imply they will recreate the old colony environment.
Reality – Unicorp plans on having only 3 tennis courts. After the 3 courts are in use they have suggested using the public courts behind Publix and at Bayfront Park, which are already heavily populated.
Myth #4 – The new development will pay real estate taxes and help all residents.
Reality – Taxes are being paid now by the existing Colony owners, and any future more appropriate development on that site will pay real estate taxes too.
Myth #5 – The hotel will be a 5 star resort
Reality – What is being proposed and talked about is only talk and renderings. The real proposal will come after the vote on March 14th – and only if the referendum is approved. The voters should acutely focus on the referendum words and not on ‘might be’ renderings, powerpoint presentations, and professionally produced videos designed to mesmerize the viewer. The key words in the March 14 Colony referendum are ‘ … to increase density to add 180 residential units …’
Myth #6 – The property is only increasing density from 13 units/acre to 24 units/acre.
Reality – The present zoning, according to the 1984 codes, is T6 which is 103 units. The property was granted, and is grandfathered, for 237. Unicorp is proposing 417. If the referendum is approved, Unicorp can then apply for the remaining 165 units in the tourist pool. Though we doubt the commissioners would approve this, it could happen. The total number of units, with the balance of 165 tourist pool units, could possibly be 582 units! And there would be nothing the voters could do to stop it.
Myth #7 – The public can use the restaurants and Spa
Reality – They have said they will charge $25-$35 for parking. Who will patronize them over the the other fine restaurants on Longboat Key with this steep parking fee? Will the managing hotel organization honor this ‘promise’?
Myth #8 – This is the best that we can do.
Reality – While the property has been dormant for 7 years, there are more attractive options for the site that are being proposed. For example, MW has proposed a 4 star hotel complex that has 10 tennis courts and is only 4-6 stories in height.
Myth #9 – Only one complex adjacent to the Colony that is complaining.
Reality – Keep Longboat Special has approximately 1300 members that span across all of Longboat Key. 82% in a recent informal survey of these members indicated they do not approve of the current Colony proposal presented by Unicorp. Both editors of our local LBK newspapers have written recent editorials with reasons and recommendations to note NO on this present referendum.
Myth #10 – The Keep Longboat Special group is always against everything.
Reality – The Keep Longboat Special group is for preserving, for protecting, and for enhancing all of Longboat Key: for preserving the special existing ambiance, for protecting from inappropriate development, for enhancing Longboat at every opportunity, for less traffic, and for the residents first. For example, we are for the March 14 Mote referendum to rezone 1.82 acres just north of Harry’s from commercial to residential because it is in keeping with the character and ambiance (10 units on 1.8 acres) of Longboat Key.
Myth # 11 – Everything will be great.
Reality – If you want more traffic and wall to wall high-rises up and down Longboat on both bay and gulf sides then you should vote for the colony referendum and continue theZota/Hilton trend along with Unicorp’s high-rise proposal. If you desire the existing ambiance, low density, the feeling of neighborhoods, and no greater traffic (the reasons you probably chose to buy and live on this Key) – then you should vote NO on the Colony referendum.
Let’s Keep Longboat the special place that it is today.
Pete & Carla Rowan
Well, I have just voted by absentee ballot, joining everyone I know in voting ‘No.’ It doesn’t matter where you live, you do not want more cars or people. At just the rumor of a possible new hotel, Siesta Key has already formed a group to oppose it. When I get stuck for hours in Anna Maria traffic I am frustrated, so the problem is which way do I try to get on or off Longboat Key.
Last year I went to hear the Symphony at the Van Wezel, taking over two hours to get there. This year I go to the Neal Auditorium, and last night the parking lot had gone to the building of a Library, so we had to park a distance away. So next year I won’t go to the Symphony. Don’t the over-developers realize they are driving people away?
I hope the developers are listening to the citizens. We do not want hotels. We thought this was a residential community. I’ve never lived in one with high rises or hotels, I was told those few which are south and not where you have to look at them were decided against for any more building. The people further north do not want tall buildings even though the developers can make more money. Almost every day this past year as I would drive down Gulf of Mexico Drive I would run into a construction site spilling on to the road. Stop please, enough is enough.
Anne G. Arsenault
Shore Retail Store
To: Director Planning and Zoning Department
Alaina, neighbors inform me that the Shore restaurant has added 1,600 sq/ft of retail clothing to the original site plan.
Is retail inside what was proposed as just a restaurant a permitted use?
Has the developer expanded the facility since the commission approved the site plan? If so by how much?
The developer had been making village residents suffer noise, construction dust and an ugly construction site for about a year. So far little seems to have been accomplished. Obviously, property values for adjacent residences are adversely affected. How many years can this go on?
Shore Retail Store
To: Gene Jaleski
The retail space was included in the Site Plan that was approved by the Planning and Zoning Board. The plan has not changed.
Director Planning and Zoning Department
Hi Jack. Has the FDOT or City presented any definitive plan and schedule for dealing with the key RT 41 island access intersections other than “we are doing a study next 2018 season?” Thanks Commissioner.
To: Town Commission
At yesterday’s workshop, you heard comments about the costs to operate Durante Park. Here are the facts:
The entire 2017 Parks operating budget is $210,554. Operating costs are $86,094 and Personnel Budget is $124,460. This includes Durante, Overlook, Quick Point, Bicentennial, Beaches, Training, Electricity, Water, etc. We do not break out each park separately and the crews move between parks as needed.
Commission Mail – 2/22 – #1
To: Bob Gault
I commend you for your efforts. Thanks for sharing your information.
Draft Outline of the Priority One Comp Shoreline Plan for Longboat Key
To: Pat and Commissioner Ed Zunz
Here is my first shot of the plan in online form. I know the March meeting is approaching so I wanted to get this to you early for your initial comments.
Once we have this in a form we are proud of we can share with the North Shore Longboat Key members and with the town. I have no pride of authorship so feel free to add or suggest changes etc.
CEO Waterstone Strategies Inc.
FLC Legislative Alert – Oppose HB 17 Preemption of Home Rule
To: Mayor Terry Gans and Town Commission
Attached and below is the “call to action” issued today by the Florida League of Cities relating to HB 17. This proposed legislation pre-empts the regulation of businesses and occupations, unless grandfathered, to the State. As discussed, the Florida League is advocating that municipalities oppose this legislation and communicate their opposition to the Legislature. Assuming that the Town Commission agrees that this legislation should be opposed, we can prepare a letter of opposition and bring that forward at a future Town Commission meeting for issuance on behalf of the Town.
Below is a link to the full text of the legislation:
This legislation is also being monitored by the Town’s lobbyist, Dave Ramba. Should you have any questions regarding this legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Maggie D. Mooney-Portale, Esq.
Cortez Bridge Improvements
To: Town Commission
I am writing this as a way of asking for our local government to consider the suggestion of relocating the Cortez Bridge from its current location. There are two viable alternatives to this idea: one is a new bridge from 53rd St. to Coquina Beach. A second option would be to build a new bridge from the current location on the mainland to again, end at Coquina Beach.
As you may be aware, there has been much discussion about improving traffic and quality of life for residents that live on the islands as well as tourists. I am a resident of Manatee county as well as own property in the City of Bradenton Beach.
If the bridge connection is relocated to Coquina Beach, several events would unfold:
1) Extensive traffic that is heading to Coquina Beach would immediately be at its final destination eliminating many of these cars off the road immediately.
2) Extensive traffic heading to Longboat Key would also immediately exit the island.
3) Extensive traffic leaving the island for both Coquina Beach and Longboat Key would exit the island substantially faster.
4) Additionally, with much of the aforementioned traffic out of the way, there would be less start and stops in high pedestrian areas such as around Bridge Street, as well as pedestrians crossing to and from the beach.
5) The lower vehicle traffic would improve up and down the islands as more vehicles could easily pass up and down from residents and business north and south of the new location.
6) Elimination of the gridlock that occurs frequently at the current Cortez and Gulf Drive location.
7) A high rise bridge could easily be built eliminating the need for bridge openings, again further easing congestion in both directions as well as improve emergency response.
8) Both of the suggested options eliminate the need for any demolition of current structures/residences.
9) Both options do not devalue adjacent properties.
10) Both options do not reduce the tax base for any loss of value from properties demolished or devalued.
Such improved traffic flows would improve, and safely do so, all forms of pedestrian traffic. There has been much talk about making the islands safer for bicycles, pedestrians and even Segue way users.
This suggestion has been asked of FDOT. FDOT has deferred the subject to Metropolitan Planning. Both organizations have stated that local government officials must make such a request for consideration as none has been made.
Therefore, I am respectfully asking all of the elected officials above to please consider and take up this suggestion as well as reach out to other local officials where applicable. This viable alternative creates a win-win for residents, and visitors of our islands and respective towns.
I have also sent a similar email to the mayor and commissioners of Bradenton Beach through their separate email system which precluded me from including them in this email.
Feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.
To: Town Clerk Trish Granger
I do not believe that a single family residential home should exceed the 30-foot height limit. Please pass on my comment to the P&Z committee and commission.
Melanie & Robin Carlstein
Water Taxi/Ferry Service Being Voted on By The Sarasota City Commission
To: Town Clerk, Town Commission
Tevatan LLC/Paradise Boat Tours’ application to run a year round Water Taxi/Ferry boat service serving Sarasota and Manatee County is before the Sarasota City Commission meeting starting at 2:30PM tomorrow February 21st, 2017. If approved, the service could start this high season.
“This application before the Commission is the culmination of over 2 years work by us and we are excited at the prospect of getting green-lighted this season,” stated Sherman Baldwin – General Manager of Tevatan, LLC. Approval by the Sarasota City Commission is the last of many approvals and considered the critical lynch pin in making a viable form of water transportation in our region a reality.
The Proposed Service would launch its initial leg between downtown Sarasota Bayfront to the Bradenton Beach Pier on Anna Maria Island. Tevatan plans to launch a 125 passenger Ferry Boat as soon as permitted, running 7 days a week 365 days a year with a focus on locals and tourists wanting to travel to and from Sarasota and Anna Maria Island without a car. Tevatan plans on launching a Bradenton to Sarasota leg as early as this fall.
Tevatan has far reaching support and has received the endorsement of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and the Bradenton Beach City Commission.
For more Information contact Sherman Baldwin at (203)628-8843 or via email at Sherman@paradiseboattours.com.
Captain Sherman Baldwin
TevanTan, LLC – Paradise Boat Tours
To: Ernest Lasche
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the list on Fruitville Road. We hope to have the opportunity to speak regarding the Town’s position on this project Wednesday evening. I would expect that your group will be represented as well.
To: Mayor Terry Gans
As you may know, the City of Sarasota is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 5:30 p.m. at Sarasota City Hall to discuss their two alternatives for slowing down traffic on Fruitville Road, between US 41 and US 301. Although the alternative with roundabouts and two-laning has received more negative press, it is important to realize that the stated purpose of both alternatives is to slow down traffic and change the character of the road from a thoroughfare. Attached please find the Scope of Services where this is stated.
In my opinion, this is an excess of the ideology of calming traffic. As bicycle/pedestrian activists, we certainly support calming traffic on some roads but we also realize that society needs some higher-speed, high-volume thoroughfares to move a lot of automobiles. Thus, we don’t support calming traffic on I-75…or Fruitville Road. For a variety of reasons, quality of life and the economy among them, we need Fruitville Road to move traffic quickly to I-75, downtown, and the barrier islands.
As this issue is coming up on Wednesday, and will probably continue to be an issue thereafter, we are attaching a list of 23 reasons why we think both Fruitville proposals are bad public policy, points which we hope you will find useful. We would like your support in the future as we battle this misguided Sarasota plan. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how we can oppose this project, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
P.S. — Besides hurting Longboat motorists, this plan will also negatively impact future Longboat bicyclists. The Sarasota County Commission just directed its staff to find the funding for the Legacy Trail extension which will have its northern terminus at…Fruitville Road. The direct and safe route for Longboat Key cyclists to access the Legacy Trail will be on the Fruitville Road bike lanes, which are the very bike lanes that these City planners want to eliminate.
To: Mike Lasché
Thank you for your comments and concern. It is my belief that the term “calming” as used in this case is a misnomer and misdirection from what would be the actual result, i.e., bottle-necking, traffic back-up, otherwise avoidable traffic jams, and re-direction of some vehicles to other streets, resulting in the same there. To me it is nothing more than a marketing ploy used to push something that is exactly the opposite of what would occur. Fruitville Rd is a vital, perhaps the most vital means of ingress and egress to all of our islands. What is proposed would be a nightmare, not only to our islands, but to the entire waterfront area of Sarasota.
Your review, please
To: Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale
The attached was on Page 6 of the Longboat Key News February 17 edition.
Does it meet requirements for such ads under Florida law? If not, then what?
I am asking for the purpose of safeguarding the integrity of the process, not in favor or any candidate.
Your review, please
To: Mayor Terry Gans
Political advertisements and their compliance with state electioneering laws (Chapters 104 and 106, Florida Statutes) are regulated by Florida’s Election Commission. The Florida Election Commission is the state agency that has been conferred jurisdiction to preserve the integrity of the election process, by investigating and evaluating complaints regarding violations of Florida’s election laws including those laws regulating campaign financing and electioneering communications. The Town does not have a role in this process. Please let me know if you would like to discuss this matter further.
Maggie D. Mooney-Portale, Esq.
New Town Center
To: Mayor Terry Gans
The Town just purchased the second of two lots for a hoped for Town Center, for a total of approximately $4 million dollars. News one would like to celebrate. But that is not to be. In an interview with the president of Ringling college, he made it clear that the college would select the architect, select the design and the Town would pay, the Ringling College would select the programming, manage the Center and the Town would pay. “The Ringling would pick the architect because we want a building that would be usable by us” We, the Town has to raise the money for it.
A college caters to a different age groups, with different needs than the Town’s population. A college student would not be interested in attending a play or a concert that a resident of Longboat Key would attend and vice versa. The proposed arrangement is destined to fail and is a prescription for endless pain.
The art center of Longboat Key deteriorated significantly since Ringling College gained control. Ringling college never paid enough attention to LBK art center. If this is meant to be a gift to Ringling College please say so outright. Thank you,
Samir Ragheb, M.D.
New Town Center
To: Dr. Samir Ragheb
I appreciate your comments, and hope over time you will be persuaded to view this project positively.
Ringling College and Longboat Key are developing a cooperative relationship in designing and operating an Education, Art, and Cultural Center—in the heart of our Town—with programming appropriate for the needs of the Longboat Key population. The College has much experience in programming for the non-college age population. The private Longboat Key Foundation will be the principal fund-raising arm to get the construction completed.
I regret that at this time you have a negative view toward the Town’s investment in this effort for our future. We will all work so that when the Center is a reality, you may be able to be one its loudest cheerers.
To: Mayor Terry Gans
Thank for your response, would it be reasonable to assume that all the public funds that are going to this project have been spent and no more taxpayer money is going into this project? Thank you again,
Samir Ragheb, M.D.
To: Dr. Samir Ragheb
Once we have a finalized agreement with Ringling College defining the responsibilities of each participant, we will have the ability to identify the level—if any—of Town fiscal responsibilities. Any decisions resulting from a potential agreement would be subject to public hearings and discussion.
Therefore, at this time, it would not be reasonable to assume one way or another on your inquiry. And, in the interest of clarity, the expenditures for property acquisition came from Open Space funds provided by developers in conjunction with past projects. These funds can only be used in very narrowly defined ways, including the use for projects such as the Town Center. As all funds held by the Town are by definition taxpayer money—whether raised through taxes or not—this Commission has regarded its stewardship of these funds with the utmost care and seriousness. And will do so with all Town funds in the future.
As the Town Center project progresses, perhaps you could reflect upon and share any thoughts for programming which could be provided.
To: Planning and Zoning Board Chair Jim Brown
Thanks for your response. Where can I find P&Z rewritten code that requires much stricter and restrictive requirements for residential properties height?
I’ve lived in Country Club Shores since 1996 and I have seen a lot of new homes built in the neighborhood and FEMA requirements increase. Only recently have I seen the over 30+ FEMA building height. Sorry to hear those were built illegally, but glad they will not be the new norm.
Another problem with going so high…homes built within the last 20-25 years and abided by the 30+ FEMA rule will now appear dated by not being as big or having handicap access rooftop decks. Property values will be less. I have no problem with someone having a roof top deck with elevator access. Wonderful, but why not have a building structure lower to accommodate the enclosed elevator housing and conform to the 30+ FEMA? Rules and codes are here to protect people and their property investments and I find it alarming that Town of Longboat Key is not looking out for their existing residents who provide all the tax revenue.
Again, please let me know where can I find P&Z rewritten code that requires much stricter and restrictive requirements for residential properties height?
Thanks again Jim.
To: Susan McAnany
As you may know, the P&Z recently addressed this issue at the request of the commission after Former commissioner Larsen ask the commission to ban the projections over 30.
The planning board reviewed the current zoning code applying to the allowed height above the 30-foot building height limitation. The planning board revised the language of the current code to require much stricter and restrictive requirements for residential properties. As a result of state building codes, it is not possible to totally eliminate the structures above the 30-foot level. Roof decks are allowed as long as they don’t project above the 30-foot height and many people today want to take advantage of the opportunity to see the gulf or bay. Access to these deck requires stairs or elevators and state code requires that these stairs or elevators be enclosed on a weather proof enclosure. The planning board discussed only allowing access by stairs but decided that would prevent individuals with handicaps or limitations because of age from being able to take advantage of the opportunity to use their deck. The new restrictions require that the projection be kept to a minimum both in size and height.
Homes being built today are taller because of the FEMA requirements and people are using the extra height to take advantage of the views. These raised structures have been built on Longboat Key for the passed 30 years but have only found objections in the past year in Country Club Shores. I live next to a house that towers over my single story house by 2 1/2 stories. It seemed oppressive when it was built 15 years ago. Today there are several homes in my neighborhood built at that height.
In summary, the new code is an improvement over the old version, but those homes built before this latest revision were built legally.
I hope this answers your questions. I’m sorry your neighbors are not pleased with the new neighbor’s homes.
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