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The rebuilding of Longboat Key

GENE JALESKI
Contributing Writer
jaleski@lbknews.com

The history of the development of Longboat Key includes the Key Club, which has played a major role in making the island a premier community, known for its bucolic, low density and low profile. Over decades of evolving as an affluent predominantly winter home community, several neighborhoods emerged, ranging from high-end homes and condominiums to two trailer parks, and everything in between.

Over the past thirty-five years, the bottom sixty percent of Americans have experienced a decline in real incomes. The recent recession, along with outsourcing, automation and computers, have reshaped the economic profile of America to now resembling an hourglass, with a hollowed out middle class. And that is a problem for Longboat Key going forward. Simply put, properties between $400,000 and $650,000 are no longer selling well on Longboat Key. That segment of the population, that bought middle class houses on Longboat, can no longer afford second homes.

The ordinances bought forward to the commission by Commissioner Brown and the PZB, ordinances 2016-32/35, are an attempt to address the changing American economic demographics and enable property owners to upscale their homes, so as to be viable in today’s real estate market. However, I believe the ordinances are overly simplistic and fail to address several key issues, as our community moves forward.

The recent, and now ongoing, problem of too tall houses in Country Club Shores is systematic of the deficiencies, within the currently proposed land use ordinances, to address the rebuilding process that will sooner or later have to occur on Longboat, as American tastes mutate and Longboat becomes ever more affluent and exclusive.

I believe the biggest challenge confronting our community is minimizing negative impacts of the rebuilding process on neighborhoods, and preserving the low profile charm that makes our island so desirable to new, and evermore affluent home buyers.

Ordinances 2016-32/35 define a maximum envelope for redevelopment, but do not address what may be best for the diverse neighborhoods that exist on the island. Without any safeguards, developers and property owners will inevitably seek maximum profit, which translates into maximum allowable height and bulk. Country Club Shores is the first community to push back against too tall houses that residents feel have a negative effect on both surrounding homes and the community as a whole.

The proposed ordinances transform presently non-conforming properties, either to many units per acre or too much land coverage, as is the case with forty or more condominiums along the beach, into “conforming” properties, thus skirting the existing rebuild policy set by a previous referendum, that does not allow increases in height or square footage.

The new ordinances would allow much taller buildings and greatly increased bulk in a Planned Unit Development setting that allows the presently non-conforming properties to be reassembled in tall massive structures all along out coastline.

Perhaps the commission should pause and seek out a community consensus concerning the rebuilding process, and how the town can best serve its residents.

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