How do we fight an avalanche of stupidity on Longboat Key?

Editor & Publisher

Bad ideas often come cloaked as useful suggestions. Other times a bad idea is like a single dislodged rock that sweeps down a mountain creating a singular misguided avalanche of stupidity in its wake.

Unfortunately, a very bad idea is sweeping right now through our Town Commission.


Restricting Longboat’s growth

Let’s look back to the past before we look at where the Town Commission — or to be fair — at least two of the seven — are attempting to embark.

Longboat Key Town residents voted overwhelmingly to stop the overbuilding of Longboat Key properties and to reduce the amount of possible future dwelling units on the Key in 1984. It essentially capped the density on existing and future sites at 6 units per acre.

This was a response to tremendous development pressures and to the conscious desire for Longboat Key to evolve as a low-density, low-scale residential community. What that meant was if any property owner or owners wanted to tear down and build anew, they would have to downzone to that level. Any new future development would have to conform to that density as well. The idea was to force and encourage upscale low- density redevelopment.

You can see where the tall condominiums literally stopped being constructed mid-Key. You can see that no high-density mom and pop resorts were built following this rule and you can see that no new trailer parks were developed.

Instead high-end residential homes flourished. Later, the redevelopment of the Holiday Inn brought us the low-density and low-scale Positano, which has $3 million plus property values today. The development of La Firenza and many others fit the new regulations as well.

Rules were adopted to allow property owners to rebuild the exact cube or size and shape of their building if it was destroyed by an act of God.

But other than an act of God, if someone wanted to redevelop, they would have to conform to the 6 units-per-acre zoning. Repairs to properties could be made, but you could not simply scrape a site and rebuild to the unit count you had in an expanded mode. Buyers of units owned a unit that could be repaired and renovated, but not voluntarily rebuilt. They were all nonconformities. And that defined much of the Key — thousands and thousands of nonconforming units.


Setting the stage

But then in 2008 something radically different came about.

The Commission believed that property owners should be allowed to voluntarily knock down what they owned and build anew and add a few things such as ADA compliant features, elevator shafts and other minor changes to the so called existing “cube.” But Commissioners needed the Longboat voters to go along with this idea.

They told the voters that the aging condominiums and resorts and properties were not being kept up and were aging and not undergoing redevelopment. They painted a portrait of a Key in decline in need of voluntary rebuild rights.

Voters were told the proposed new rights would allow property owners to rebuild what they have and nothing more than those minor changes. It was sold to the residents as the Voluntary Rebuild Ordinance.


A sneaky density referndum

What residents did not know, nor realize, is that it really was a wholesale density referendum that added thousands and thousands of potential units back to Longboat Key. Nor did they know that those units might some day be rebuilt with greatly enhanced sizes and heights over the existing zoning.

Even though it was sold to voters as a simple right to rebuild what you have, now the Commission — championed by Randy Clair and George Spoll — both instrumental with the 2008 rebuild ordinance — are attempting another change to the rules that will amount to the final undoing to the very resident and voter controls that make Longboat Key unique.

Now with the right to allow properties to rebuild to their existing density levels, the only thing that needs to be changed are the very land development regulations that dictate how tall and wide and how big the cube or box or condo or whatever you want to refer to is allowed to become.

They are abandoning the guiding notion that you only get to rebuild what you have, which voters agreed with in the voluntary rebuild ordinance.

It is a classic legislative bait and switch.

Voters were sold the idea of allowing the reconstruction of an existing building. But now, 10 years later, the push is to forever make all of the existing units “conforming” in new zoning districts and then set new redevelopment parameters. They want to change the rules to allow the existing heights and not hold anyone to the size of the cube or the size of the structure.


Open Season on Longboat Key coming…

It simply is becoming open season for development. The Commission asked voters in 2008 to allow voluntary redevelopment and in one fell swoop thousands of new units were allowed to be constructed. Now they are removing the redevelopment constrictions so the small units with low ceilings can swell.

What is at stake is the size and scale of Longboat Key. Voters are no longer in control when it comes to limiting density they way they were prior to 2008. Most do not realize this fact. The sad thing is we simply relied on leaders who are often more interested in enhancing development rights than protecting our Key.

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4 Responses for “How do we fight an avalanche of stupidity on Longboat Key?”

  1. Al Green says:

    Truth be told. the commissioners panicked during during the mortgage financial crisis.

  2. ghostrider says:

    who/s on first?: times change, and you have selective memory with regards to Mr. Reid’s recommendation to bury cables. I can assure you that the popcorn ceilings which you find a thing of the past are not in his house. It’s a comfort to know, nevertheless, that you most likely would find anything other than granite-tops in a kitchen to be passe as well. (We need to have a full court-press on the residents at all times, do we not ?) Let’s mock them while we IGNORE the TRAFFIC DENSITY that your wondrous recommendations will deliver to our community.
    You need to move to a more enlightened environment. I’ll even buy you a new set of towels as a going-away gift. Whaddya say?

  3. who/s on first? says:

    Steve: times change, but your memory apparently is stuck in 1984. People don’t want 8 foot popcorn ceilings anymore, no galley kitchens. , so denying them a chance to expand the box is critical to keeping people on this little slice of heaven call “the Key” Or would you prefer to hold up progress as defined by ten foot ceilings plus the appropriate elevation per FEMA rules. The Town reacted in 2008 in response to the loos of the HOLIDAY INN, not the Hilton by the way. I bought up some of the artwork, and extra towels for my daughter and her college friends who’d visit on weekends. It’s been a good dozen years since those girls graduated from FSU – it’s time for the commisssion to graduate from 1984 and approve reasonable and responsible economic development, and that time is now.

  4. Steve Keller says:

    It is becoming patently obvious that certain members of our Town Commission are deliberately courting special interest Development groups and in the process willfully ignoring the expressed referendum voted wishes of voters in recent years to maintain LBK as a low density low profile quality residential Community. It is now reaching the point where those Commissioners who continue to try to change or bypass density and height restrictions enacted by referendum in recent years should be recalled and voted out of office. They were elected to protect and preserve the Community and that doesn’t include promoting a new referendum every time a Developer asks for a variance. As Nancy once said – it’s high time to “just say no” and if they don’t have the stomach for that they shouldn’t be in office. Enough is enough.

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