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Longboat Key Letters – Week ending May 19, 2017

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com 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.

Visitors with lights most likely cause for sea turtle disorientations

To: Associate Editor Melissa Reid

I read with interest your article of May 12, 2017 in the Longboat Key News concerning the emergence of the first seas turtle nests observed on Longboat Key, as well as the unusually high number of sea turtle disorientations on the island during 2016. As someone who has unimpeded view of a long stretch of Longboat Key beach and numerous turtle nests, I can explain to you and your readers a very prominent reason as to why problems involving disorientations have escalated.

I live at The Islander Club with a full, unobstructed view north over the beach areas that sit in front of Vizcaya, Sea Gate, Veranda Beach Club and Islands West. I can tell you that without fail nearly every single night during turtle season, generally between the hours of approximately 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. there are literally crowds of children, teens and parents searching and scouring the beach with cell phone lights, cigarette lighters and flashlights of varying intensities looking for sea turtles. These are not residents of Longboat Key. These are “visitors” to our island that get wind of the possibility of observing nocturnal movements of sea turtles and treat the beach as their own personal “Disney Land.” These “visitors” shriek, yell, dig and light up the beach while having absolutely zero respect whatsoever for nature. These “guests” basically utilize the beach at night (after hours) as their own personal entertainment venue. This must end. If this does not end, you can expect the number of sea turtle disorientations to escalate well beyond 2016’s levels.

Here is the solution: Education and Enforcement. Education in alerting hotels, time-shares and condo guests that the beach is completely off limits after 9 p.m. at night until 5 a.m. in the morning. These are the hours posted by the Town of Longboat Key ordinances that public beaches on this island are closed. After 9 p.m., the beach is legally closed. That is the law. Enforcement in that anyone found on the beach after 9 p.m. will be cited by the Police Department for Trespassing. The Longboat Key Police Department in conjunction with Mote should make it a point to “police” the beach for trespassers every night (particularly, in front of Vizcaya.) If a “guest” is found in possession of shovels, lanterns, light sources etc., that trespassing charge needs to be ramped up to a Federal Charge of harassment of an endangered species (Sea Turtles). Easy solution. Now let’s see just how serious Longboat Key and Mote are about protecting our Sea Turtles and eliminating man made sea turtle disorientations or if this is all simply idle, empty talk.

John Weber

Longboat Key

 

Development in Manatee and Sarasota Counties

To: Editor

It might be helpful to have a lobbyist at state and local level. One of the issues for Longboat has already been done–all the building on Anna Maria. All that tourist traffic from there comes south on the island plus people who just want a scenic drive from Tampa to Ft. Myers. Many years ago, I was in a traffic jam on Longboat. The guy behind me got out of his car and wanted to know if knew what the problem was. I said I had no idea. He said, “Well I am coming from Tampa to Ft. Myers to work and just thought it would be a nice drive.” That was probably 15 plus years ago.

Ruth Miller

Longboat Key

 

Height Limitation in a T-6 Zone

To: Town Commission

I was surprised to learn late Monday that at that morning’s Budget Workshop there was an extended discussion regarding the Colony redevelopment project. As you know, Preserve Longboat represents the interests of the many on the Island who are very concerned about the height and density of the proposed project. As there had been no public notice that a presentation was to be made and that a discussion regarding the height of the project would take place, we and other members of the public were not in attendance and were not able to be heard in this matter.

I was able to view the video of the full 33 minutes of discussion. Mr. Whittall is requesting that the Commission consider changing the zoning code and comprehensive plan so that Unicorp can build eight 80-foot buildings in a T-6 zone that currently restricts height to 50 feet above base flood elevation.  As I understand it, he was asking that the Commission give him an indication as to whether you would consider modifying the law so that he could do so.  As several of you pointed out, it would be improper to give such an opinion without adequate discussion and an opportunity for the public to be heard on the matter.

In my opinion, there is a fairly straightforward answer. Unicorp should submit the plans under the existing code. If Mr. Whittall wants the town to consider changing the law so that properties of 15 acres or more are permitted to build eight buildings that are 80 feet above FEMA elevation, there is a process for that and he is free to attempt to do so—with proper hearings held in front of the public..  There is no reason to subvert that process simply because of the arbitrary June 26 date that Unicorp has set for making a submittal to the town.

It is interesting to me that Mr. Whittall recently wrote to the Colony owners saying his new project would require “NO variances or referendums.”  It seems to me that his first, unscheduled, appearance in front of the Commission after that email was to ask if you would consider changing our Town’s zoning laws to suit Unicorp’s needs.

If Unicorp insists on submitting plans by June 26, I trust that you will make certain that they will adhere to the code in place at the time of submission. We all want to see something done with the Colony site, but please make sure that it is done with proper notice and public participation.

Thank you for your consideration.

David Lapovsky

President

Preserve Longboat, Inc. 

 

To: David Lapovsky

Two important misstatements or misconceptions in your email.

The matter was raised by Mr. Whittall in the “public to be heard” portion of the regularly scheduled workshop in the afternoon, not the morning budget meeting. Anyone may raise any non-agenda item during that time.

The discussion was over whether to give an indication of willingness to even consider thinking about what he might suggest. As there was no consensus on the part the Commission to give such an indication, the matter became moot.

Terry Gans

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Public Works Director

To: Town Commission

I have hired Isaac Brownman to take over as public works director upon Juan’s retirement. Isaac comes to us with good experience as an engineer, manager, and public works director. He currently serves as Public Works Director and County Engineer for Sarasota County.  He will be joining us in August.  As you know Juan is leaving at the beginning of February so there is a good overlap period.

Dave Bullock

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Charter Review Committee Agenda

To: Town Clerk Trish Granger

After listening to some of the committee’s deliberations, I offer three comments on topics under consideration. First, which I suggest is a no-brainer; is to provide that the vice mayor automatically succeeds the mayor under specified circumstances; this is the essence of the role of a vice mayor. The present procedure requiring a Commission vote is unnecessary, and contrary to that essential role. The Commission vote electing the Vice Mayor will take into account such automatic succession. Second: Based on my personal experience during my first Commission term, it makes sense to extend the present Commission term from 2 to 3 years, while retaining the current 6-year term limit.  During the first year for a new Commissioner, a learning/ acclimation period is necessary and helpful in order to transition into the new position, including interacting with fellow Commission colleagues. The current 2 year term, can require a campaign focus after only 1 1/2 years on the job, which could pose potential distractions from the main Commissioner duties. However, more importantly, the longer term could well encourage more Commission candidates. Third: While I support the goal to encourage more Commission candidates, I recommend extreme caution be taken with respect to reducing the number of current election Districts, by increasing the number of at large candidates. Recognizing that each and every Commissioner represents the voters on the entire Island, a corresponding geographical focus to respond to more local issues and specific more local voter concerns, as provided by the existing 5 Districts, based on my experience, has served the Community well. Perhaps of equal, if not more importance, creating another at large Commissioner could have the unintended consequence of a more concentrated, disproportionate – represented Commission. As I think more about this issue, perhaps I’m concluding that, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, one final suggestion on the topic for committee discussion, is to explore for other ways to encourage more of our voters to become Commissioner candidates. For example, not speaking for myself, but, would a recommended Charter provision that provided for financial compensation for Commissioners, which, if approved by the Commission, and ultimately presented and approved by the voters, provide an incentive for more candidates? I have heard from a fair number of residents that the workload and time commitments involved for Commissioners are a disincentive for potential candidates. Would compensation make a difference?

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Charter Review Committee meets

To: Town Commission

At the May 15, 2017, workshop, Charter Review Committee Chair Pat Zunz commented on the CRC progress and suggested that individual Commissioners submit items you would like to have the CRC review.

Staff is preparing the agenda for the May 24, 2017, CRC meeting and we would be happy to include any issues on the agenda you would like reviewed.  Agenda packets will be distributed on Friday and if you would like to submit written comments, we will include them in the packet.

Trish Granger

Town Clerk

Longboat Key

 

Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study Begins

To: Town Commission

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in conjunction with local governments is beginning the Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study.  The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility of improving the overall infrastructure, including traffic operations and circulation, on the Sarasota/Manatee barrier islands as well as island-to-mainland connections.

This study will evaluate a variety of elements including: travel patterns of users on the islands, trips on and off the islands, destination points, existing transit service, existing parking facilities, bicycle/pedestrian facilities and needs, event operations, and land development codes.

An extensive public involvement program will include stakeholder interviews, a steering committee, small group meetings, and six public meetings.

The study will be comprised of three phases.  Phase 1 will include reviewing available studies/transportation plans that have been performed for the barrier islands and summarizing the recommendations.  Phase 2 of the project will include observations, collection of traffic data, review of land use, parking studies, etc.  Review of these elements will lead to identification of the issues present on the islands.  Phase 3 will include a transportation management plan and recommendations to improve the current infrastructure issues, if needed, based on conclusions made during Phase 2.

Periodic updates will be emailed throughout the project progress.

Chris Smith

Director of Transportation Development

Florida Department of Transportation

 

Barrier Islands Study

To: Director of Transportation Development Chris Smith

Thank you for the update on the Barrier Island study, which appears well underway. Please include me directly on the ongoing distribution list for future updates. Through many discussions during MPO meetings, and with FDOT officials,we have informally agreed that Longboat Key’s Town Manager, Dave Bullock ,will be a member of the Steering Committee, when it is officially formed.  Please keep me posted on that as well.

Jack Daly

Commissioner 

Longboat Key

 

Beer Can Island Presentations for LBK Commission

To: Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore

Mayor Terry Gans asked me to send you the presentation material that will be used by the Commission today in discussions of erosion of Greer Island. I understand you may attend for a short while. The Mayor thought having the information ahead of time might be beneficial. If you wish to discuss further perhaps we can set up a time with you. We had a staff coordination meeting on Friday, which Charlie H. attended along with several others.

Dave Bullock

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Height restriction Longboat Key

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

This is a letter I sent to Terry Gans. Just thought I would copy it to you, as we are acquainted and you are an architect.

Following all the verbiage about the height restrictions of family dwellings on Longboat Key. I am absolutely staggered that a new house being built on Gulfside Road is actually 50 feet high.

The elevation above the slab is 30 feet (I have seen the structural drawings), which I gather is within the guidelines.

However, what I don’t understand is why from the grade to the slab is 20 feet plus. The required height above the mean high tide level on that site is 11 feet. The grade is approximately 5 feet, so theoretically the slab area should be about 6 feet above grade.

It is in fact over 20 feet above grade. And the floor of the garage is so high that a car couldn’t get into it without bottoming out and as such the floor had to be dug up and lowered. So the height of the garage space is now 20 plus feet.

It would seem that this building makes a mockery of the rules.

I would like to know how this building was given permission to be 50 feet high.

Patrick Bogert

Longboat Key

Height restriction Longboat Key

To: Patrick Bogert

I would like to know the same thing. I’m looking into it.

I’m out of town until the 26th but I’ll be in touch with the building department.

Jim Brown

Commissioner, Longboat Key

 

To: Patrick Bogert

The measurement for the 30-foot height is from the FEMA height or the 11-foot height. If it more than 30 feet above that point it is in violation. You should ask for a verification. Some contractors make changes after approval.

Jim Brown

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

All I would like to find out is how they could get permission to build a house that is 50 feet high? Anyway thanks for helping me with this.

Patrick Bogert

Longboat Key

 

To: Patrick and Sandy Bogert

Again Patrick, the critical measurement is the 30 feet above the FEMA level of 11 feet above mean high water. The building can be 41 feet above mean high water no matter what the grade is at the site. If it is higher it is in violation. The first floor elevation has no relevance except that it must be above the FEMA elevation.

Jim Brown

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

Hi Jim thanks for getting back to me.

The height of the building above the garage space is 30 feet, which is correct.

My concern is that the height of the habitable floor is more than 20 feet above the mean high tide mark. The FEMA height minimum as I understand it is 11 feet so the slab is more than double the FEMA height, which is why the building is 50 feet high off grade!!!

The garage height is approaching 20 feet!

Just don’t understand how they could get permission for that.

Patrick Bogert

Longboat Key

 

To: Commissioner Jim Brown

Ok I understand all that, but this house is over 50 feet above FEMA level. The first floor to the top of the roof is 30 feet.

So the lower level where the cars would be parked is more than twice the FEMA level plus 11 feet.  They are over 20 feet high from grade, and grade there is about 5 feet over the mean High tide mark.

So I do understand the 30 feet plus 11 over Mean High tide.

What I don’t understand is how they could have got permission to build way in excess of the allowed height.

Just don’t understand that…

I am sorry if I appear to not understand, but I do believe I do understand the rules. what I don’t understand is the 50 feet plus of this building.

Sorry to bother you with this.

But thanks for your patience.

Patrick and Sandy Bogert

Longboat Key

 

We must be vocal about traffic

Gentlemen – please publish this in the upcoming edition of your paper. Thanks

As a resident of the north end of Longboat Key, I support FDOT’s proposed options for non-stop eastbound traffic flow on Cortez Road through the 119th street intersection, a key contributor to traffic back-ups over the north bridge during the season.  During the season (Oct – Apr) traffic often backs up from 119th all the way to the north end of Longboat and it can regularly take more than an hour to drive the 3 miles from the longboat pass bridge to the 4 lane section of Cortez.  The waste of time and gas, not to mention possible delay of emergency vehicles, is unacceptable.

Certainly there are other contributing factors to the traffic delays:

• Bridge openings on demand during peak travel times.  Why can’t it open on the hour? Better yet, prohibit openings during peak traffic times. For example, Ft Lauderdale does this with their bridges. Also, the bridge tender should wait until the boat is actually AT the bridge .. too often it opens well in advance of the boat arriving and waits too long to begin closing after the boat is clear.

• The silly roundabout at Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach.  This round about is too small to be functional and serves no purpose other than to slow traffic to a crawl.   It should be removed or replaced with a signal that is synchronized with the signal at Cortez/GMD.

• Traffic slowing to find the just the right parking place along Coquina beach.    Consideration should be giving to charging a significant parking fee at Coquina  and providing free off-island parking and shuttle service to the beach.

Of course, the ultimate solution would be a new bridge from either Longboat or the south end of Anna Maria to the mainland.  Such a bridge could readily be financed by tolls and/or developer fees on new projects.  Its unfortunate that there is no political will to have a serious discussion of a new bridge.

I would encourage every resident of Longboat Key to send a letter to FDOT supporting continuous east bound traffic on Cortez    A hearing was held on May 9, which was well attended by Cortez residents who loudly opposed to any change that would restrict current access to their neighborhood.  Although vocal, they represent a very small percentage of Cortez road traffic.  LBK residents must be equally vocal.    Please send your comments to david.wheeler@dot.state.fl.us  and/or richard.howard@dot.state.fl.us.

Jim Haft

Longboat Key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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