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Can we talk?

GENE JALESKI
Contributing Writer
jaleski@lbknews.com

Can We Talk? a line Joan Rivers made famous, meaning can we talk seriously?

I wrote last week about the now finalized buildout of Longboat Key, and the pending 95% re-buildout of many of our homes and condominiums, after four decades of Longboat becoming increasingly more popular and exclusive.

The wide, and often less that optimal, array of neighborhoods, up and down the island, is the result of a complete lack of planning on the part of the town, since its inception. Had it not been for Arvida and the Key Club development, it is likely Longboat might resemble Bradenton Beach.

We are now confronting a rebuild challenge that spans multi-million dollar condominiums to trailed parks, and everything in between

Commissioner Brown, while he chaired the Planning and Zoning Board,  introduced a plan to facilitate the rebuilding process in the form of two land use ordinances 2016-32/35.

While I agree with much that is contained in the two ordinances, I have   reservations about how the town is implementing perhaps the most far reaching and impactful land use changes in the history of our island community.

Where I disagree with the commission is in the effective exclusion of any meaningful participation on the part of property owners. And it is the property owners who will be most affected by the two ordinances.

I have attended countless commission meetings over the past twenty years. Often there is no one there but me, the two newspaper guys and the commissioners. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the commissioners feeling that any amount of effort on their part, to arouse public interest, in a seemingly uninterested community, is useless.

I can point to numerous times when the community did rise up and attend a commission meeting en masse. Usually to protest an unpopular legislation before the commission. Too many times the commission has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the residents, in favor of developers, to the great frustration of the many residents who spent time and effort to speak out (e.g. Key Club expansion, Hilton expansion, Mar Vista expansion, Shore Restaurant expansion and finally the north end motel. I don’t blame residents for being apathetic and demoralized.

In the past the commission has undertaken several projects where they reached out to the community. I and referring to the ULI process, the Bayfront Park renovation, the undergrounding project and the wireless communications project. All were successful efforts and saw substantial participation by the community.

Now the commission is proceeding post haste to pass two hugely impactful land use ordinances with virtually no effort to include, or even inform, island property owners.

The commission is also keeping the community in the dark about the taxpayer purchased $4 million property behind Publix. We are only told it will be amazing and terrific. Wouldn’t it be nice to include the community as they did in the above sited projects? Shouldn’t the residents decide what they want on their $4 million community center?

I hope the commission slows down and makes a concerted effort to get input from the greater community before forging ahead. Especially since they have been shown to be almost completely out of touch with their constituents when it comes to increased density. I believe one or two commissioners still believe we need more tourists to buy our homes.

Finally, can the commission talk to their community? Especially when one looks at the present pell mell rush to pass the land use ordinances, when there is no hurry, one has to wonder. Why the rush commissioners?

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