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Longboat Key Letters – Week ending July 28, 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.

Town Manager hiring troubling

To: Town Commission and Town Manager Dave Bullock

The hiring of the next town manager is now concluded. However,t he process utilized included serious departures from our code. I believe we need a workshop to set a clear procedural course for the future. Let me first identify the departures and then recommend alternatives to be discussed at a workshop.

1. Article III, section 1 of the Longboat Key Town Charter states that, “The town commission shall, by an affirmative vote of at least five (5) members, appoint a town manager…” The charter assigns no role to the existing town manager in selecting his or her successor. The commission could not delegate its appointment responsibility to the existing town manager but I have no doubt that it could assign a role in the process to him or her through a proper procedure.

2. All commission actions must be decided at a public meeting. Under the Sunshine Law commissioners may not communicate with each other directly or through a conduit on most matters of town business, except at a public meeting.

3. Title 3, chapter 30.01.1 (A) of Longboat Key’s ordinances states that, “To the extent that they are not in conflict with any provision of the Town Charter, the town commission adopts and the town commission, to the extent not in conflict with this Code and other ordinances of this town, shall be governed in rules of procedure by Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief…” 2004 editionn.

4. The process for seeking candidates to succeed Mr. Bullock as town manager was discussed only in two public meetings, the Regular Meeting of June 5, 2017 and a Special Workshop Meeting on June 19, 2017. Consistent with usual practice, the draft minutes of both meetings were unanimously approved as item 2 of the July 17, 2017 Regular Meeting.

5. “Minutes are a record of what was done at a meeting, not a record of what was said.” Robert’s op cite at p. 120. As such, it is not “required or appropriate” for minutes to attempt to summarize arguments or other things said at a meeting. Robert’s op cite at p. 146.

6. Once approved, the minutes become the “official record” of the meeting. Robert’s op cite at p. 14, 146 and 150. Here we are faced with many serious departures. An hour or two after the unanimous approval of the above minutes as our “official records” they were rejected as such. However, no specific conclusion was reached as to precisely what would constitute the official record, or by what authority any change might be made.

7. The unanimously approved minutes of the June 5, 2017 Regular Meeting contain only three sentences: a reference by Mr. Bullock to available options, a list of subject matters discussed, and a comment made by a member of the public. Thus, under our existing code, the “official record” of this meeting does not show that anything was done. To ignore the minutes entirely and try to construct a legally binding action out of a blend of individual recollections of matters discussed at that prior meeting is a clear departure from our Code procedure. Moreover, the only binding action claimed to have been taken at that meeting was to give the town manager the relatively passive power to conduct a targeted search and then make a report back to the commission within 30 days, to be considered in deciding how to proceed from there. The power to “pursue” Mr. Harmer, negotiate a contract, make an offer to this single person, publicly announce the appointment, etc., (the real issues in contention) were all claimed to come later, at the June 19 workshop.

8. The unanimously approved minutes of the June 19, 2017 Special Workshop contain only two sentences pertaining to the subject at hand, which subject was not on the agenda and never noticed to the public. The conclusory second sentence, printed in bold type, said, “There was majority consensus to grant authorization to Town Manager Bullock to contact Mr. Harmer regarding the position.” The reason it is only a non-binding “majority consensus” is that it came at the end of a budget workshop. Title III, Chapter 30.01(D) provides that “The town commission may meet in workshop for study and discussion of the affairs of the town in the commission chambers of town hall, but no formal or binding action may be taken at these meetings.” Thus, here we have a multiple departure. First, it is an invalid attempt to significantly change the wording of the italicized consensus in the unanimously approved minutes from “contact” to “pursue.” Second, whatever the wording and no matter how expansive an interpretation may be ascribed to it, under our Code no workshop consensus can be a “binding action.”

Those are the major departures. What then will be our future practice? If we stick with our existing Code, I believe we should amend it to specify a strict methodology for what should and should not be included in our commission minutes. Anything “done” at a meeting should be stated in exacting language, to be carefully reexamined by every commissioner before approving the minutes. We should also spell out that approved minutes do constitute the “official record” of the meeting.

If we decide to go in a different direction, any changes should be debated and appropriate revisions should made in our Code. For example: How should minutes be constructed? What legal effect, if any, would be assigned to “approved” minutes? If they would not be the “official record” then what would be the official record of a meeting? In the event of a later dispute, would we be allowed to comb through discussions at a prior meeting to assign a new meaning to its approved minutes? Could binding actions be taken at a workshop?

These are very important matters. I request a workshop in order to reach a consensus as to a clear course that will help avoid a repeat of unpleasant disputes in the future.

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

New digital sign wanted at Christ Church

To: Town Commission

Christ Church of Lognboat Key has reached the point where we need to replace the main church sign at the entrance from Gulf of Mexico Drive. It is at the end of its life, and we want to replace it with a digital sign. Currently, we change the wording each week by hand and we would prefer to install a computer-directed sign which would allow us to change the wording from the church office electronically. We are not proposing a lighted sign which generates the movement of any wording, but want to eliminate the physical changing of the wording. In other words, a plain text word sign which can be changed from the office electronically.

We are aware that the town is currently updating its sign ordinance and would like this type of sign to be considered in the new ordinance. It would be no different from the normal signs already on the island, except it would be changed remotely from the office. Your consideration of this request would allow us to research the signs available to us and then submit a specific proposal to the commissioners for planning approval. We are happy to supply any further information that you may require.

Dr. Norman Pritchard

Pastor

Christ Church of Longboat Key

Turtle Enforcement update from Police

To: Town Commission

The following is a breakdown of the efforts made to date (7-24-17) towards enforcing Turtle Lighting and Beach obstructions for the 2017 Turtle Season:

• Code Officer performed 17 nighttime inspections

• Community Service Specialist performed 4 nighttime inspections tagging furniture in violation of the code

• 12 Beach Obstructions for items not permanently secured. (Chairs, umbrellas, etc.)

• 9 were issued 24 hour tags- (8 cases came into compliance, 1 case we removed and impounded the furniture).

• 1 issued courtesy notice

• 2 resulted in written cases

• 11 cases were opened for lighting violations and issued a courtesy notice

• 7were closed with voluntary compliance

• 2 are active and we are working with property owners/ managers to bring into compliance.

• 2 didn’t comply and were issued a Notice Of Violation

• Lighting survey for beach project was conducted the beginning of May and again in July per permit requirement.

• CEO documented 136 cases where lights were observed from the beach

• 116  first class letters were sent to physical address and secondary listed address with an educational brochure and letter from the Town

• 20 street lights were noted and an email was sent to Public Works to contact FP&L

• 230 email complaints on lighting and furniture from Turtle Watch and other volunteers, residents, and visitors.

• 38 complaints on 12 properties found in violation and Code Enforcement initiated action (11 courtesy notice for lighting violation, 1 courtesy notice for furniture violation, 2 Notices of violation for lighting violation, and 5 properties tagged for furniture).

• The remaining 192 email complaints were unsubstantiated due to insufficient information or found not in violation.

Of the 230 email complaints, all email complaints on a property with a real property owner/manager resulted in Code Enforcement contacting the property owner/manager and informing of the complaint.

Frank Rubino 

Deputy Chief

Longboat Key Police Department

 

Sarasota Planning Process Impact On LBK

To: Bob Gault

All good comments and suggestions. I offer a few of my own. First, and most importantly, as I’ve previously stated, I suggest we need to identify specific   Infrastructure remedies to our Island’s increasing traffic congestion on both  the north and south ends of LBK; that a group like you suggest can support and lobby therefore.  A general lobbying effort without such specifics, as I see it, would not be very effective.  Second, because FDOT owns or controls most of the existing and potential regional ingress and egress routes to the Key, whether we like it or not, they are integral to and must take ownership of any such future infrastructure improvements that may be involved. Third: Keep in mind that the first phase of the FDOT Barrier Island Study is simply to review all past studies as a preamble to decide which ones should be included and followed up on in the study going forward. My initial disappointment was with the seeming lack of initial participation thru the Steering Committee during this first phase of the study. The Barrier Islands’ mayors and our Town Manager have addressed that concern and FDOT has positively responded with substantive progress reports publicly expected in September. Bob, in sum, while there may well be other avenues to pursue, I feel that this Study may be our best shot to identify long-term positive traffic remedies that we can all rally around and achieve real results.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Town needs a lobbyist

To: Town Commission

Regarding the real world results of new development we are seeing downtown Sarasota due to a poor planning process and what we are hearing about future “plans”, access to and from Longboat Key and other barrier islands with the downtown mainland is at serious risk. We need strong, aggressive representation of Longboat Key interests with the FDOT, City and County. Some on the Commission have the attitude we don’t control downtown (of course) but we are doing our best. Many of us understand but more needs to be done.

It is painfully clear that LBK and the other Sarasota Barrier islands are often an after thought, if even that, at the FDOT, City and County level.

As an aside, we hear that the first phase results of the barrier island traffic study is “disappointing” and that we should not hold out hope that the rest will be any better. No surprise. It was a few of our citizens that helped remind them to include Longboat Key in the study!

We respectfully make the following suggestions to positively influence Sarasota’s poor planning process that will unquestionably negatively impact Longboat Key’s future:

1. Commissioners and key staff should heavy up attendance and testimony at all key Sarasota City, County as well as FDOT meetings that could negatively impact LBK primarily relating to impact on access to and from the mainland.

2. The new Town Manager should “live” downtown during this critical time lobbying officials on LBK interests.

3. Most important, again, it has become clear that LBK and the other barrier islands are often an after thought with the FDOT,  City and County. We send them our dough but… We badly need a lobbying organization with a significant electorate constituency behind it.

We suggest LBK organize a Sarasota Barrier Island Association to include a Town Commission Rep., Manager, Pres. of the LBK Chamber, Director of the St. Armand’s Business Assoc.President of the Bird Key and Lido Key HOA, Dr Crosby from Mote and a Rep. from Resorts and the Real Estate Assoc. President.

The Mission: To represent Sarasota barrier islands interests at Sarasota City, County and FDOT.

4.The Sarasota Barrier Island Association would hire a strong lawyer/lobbyist to obviously lobby for barrier island interests, strategize barrier island interests with the association, attend key planning and Commission meetings and report etc.

If the Town cannot legally participate in this kind of organization it should still be facilitated and partially funded to represent LBK and other barrier island interests. The current disorganized and segmented approach is not working and the barrier islands are being left out in the field  on critical planning issues on the mainland.

Longboat Key and the other barrier island’s need representation with some voter clout. Longboat Key’s and other barrier island’s future, including quality of life, real estate and business values and sufficient generation of Town tax revenues for services are literally at stake. Thank you for your consideration and service.

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

To: Bob Gault

Thank you for your thoughts. Dave Bullock and I will discuss them. It is important that the level of energy, involvement, and interaction with other independent jurisdictions be balanced with specific goals and ultimate effectiveness.

Terry Gans

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

To: Ed Krepela

Yes, tripling density just North of downtown permanently, which at least doubles population downtown, will significantly increase traffic on the Fruitville / 41 and Gulf Stream / 41 main intersections and further restrict ingress and egress for the barrier islands. This in addition to the area’s usual population and tourism growth year to year.

Also, if they proceed with the planned one-lane traffic circles on Fruitville the downtown area will become one big “parking lot.” Maybe that’s how they plan to get people to walk.

There is no real traffic mitigation planning in coordination with these sweeping, unilateral density zoning code and rule expansions.  How can they pass on these sweeping changes without a clue to the impact and need for improved infrastructure to support them?

We are all in for a big property value hit on LBK, Lido, St. Armand’s and Bird Keys. Bad for our Resort, restaurant and retail businesses as well.

This negative impact will translate into the need for higher property taxes as values decline which will result in further value reductions, etc., etc., etc. We are already seeing softening in higher end home real estate on the islands.

We all need to get involved. Join the “STOP” concerned citizens organization to help them stop this runaway, poorly planned growth.

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

The Quay area development impact

To: Mayor Terry Gans

Honestly Mr. Mayor many on Longboat Key do not understand how Sarasota can allow the new Quay property area development construction at Fruitville and Route 41 to proceed end of this year without Route 41, Fruitville and Gulf Stream intersections access infrastructure improvements FIRST and designed to handle this exponential increase in density. Nearly 1,000 new condos and hotel rooms, 30,000 sq ft of new offices and nearly 200,000 sq ft of new retail space are about to go into construction. All this over and above the about to open Westin, Vue and the new high rise condo complex that is already slapped right up against this intersection. Also, two huge new apartment complexes are nearly finished just a few blocks away from this already high volume hurricane evacuation intersection access to our nearest Interstate 75. Something’s got to give and it will surely include severely limiting egress and ingress for Longboat Key and the other Sarasota area barrier islands. Please urge the Commission, Mr. Bullock and new Town Manager to increase the pressure in representing our Towns’ interests in this regard at the Sarasota City, County and State levels. This is a critical issue that will negatively ripple through every aspect of LBK’s quality of life and our business and property values in the near and long term ahead not to mention the sadly negative impact on the ambience and functioning of Sarasota area’s “home plate” location downtown. Thank you for prioritizing to help stop this predictable and certain oncoming gridlock “train wreck.”

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

The Quay area development impact

To: Bob Gault

As always, thank you for your involvement and sharing your thoughts.

We are continually using rationale, analysis, questioning, and persuasion to try to address the potential for approved development to overwhelm the road network.  Some jurisdictions are better partners in this effort than others, but we won’t relent on our own efforts.

It is challenging in that we do not have control or veto power over other independent municipalities.  Nor do we have the ability to initiate projects.  So, maintaining pressure(I am not certain how we can increase it) as you suggest is the course we must follow.

It is heartening that some of those involved grasp the realities of the developing density and are dedicated to seeking mitigation.  We will also continue to work so that all might work from the same playbook.

While my magic wand is not as strong on these issues, you can be sure that myself, the Town Manager, and the Commission ― particularly our MPO representative ― will keep giving the strongest effort we can. And I know you will continue to urge us on.

Terry Gans

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

The Quay area development impact

To: Mayor Terry Gans

Thanks Terry, Understand. It appears that if Sarasota doesn’t change its Project Administrative approval process that shuts out public comment and prevents even elected officials from signing off, Sarasota is doomed!

Also, the insane addition of only a 15 per cent factor for high season traffic projections is completely unrealistic for this area.

In addition, it is said that the new Quay project traffic formula math approved by bureaucrats actually indicates it will generate slightly less traffic. Good grief the wheels are off.

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

The Quay area development impact

To: Sarasota City Commission

In regards to the intersection of East bound Gulfstream to South bound US 41 South please review opening the left lane back up (now closed) and convert this to a Right Turn lane giving you now two lanes right feeding two lanes South.

Install the appropriate signage, repair the roadways and call it a day.

Also, repair the whole Gulfstream intersection of broken pothole surface and I don’t think this requires an FDOT study, just a little maintenance.

Edward Jewett

Longboat Key

 

The Quay area development impact

To: Town Commission

Agreed with two issues that need quick reviewing.

In particular, a danger exists on eastbound Gulfstream at southbound US S 41, a series of chuck holes are now more treacherous as more traffic has been now diverted due to the existing adjacent blocked lane. When this area floods there is no escaping these holes causing erratic driving at best.  Drainage and maintenance!

The flooding of West bound Gulfstream across from the chuck hole area is a danger as mud accumulates in the area of merging traffic from South bound US N 41, creating again erratic driving.

Drainage construction and proper maintenance are called for.

The above is a mere dent in the overall issue of traffic management.

I sure hope I’m flat wrong here but with all that is being proposed I see darker clouds on the horizon giving us a heads up reaction situation instead of planning.

Edward Jewett

Longboat Key

 

Turtle Protection

To: Mayor Terry Gans

I am a LBK Turtle Watch volunteer who walks the beach twice a week starting about 6 a.m. My comments and opinions are my own and don’t represent Mote Marine Laboratory, the permit holder, or the LBK Turtle Watch Volunteer organization which operates under the supervision of Mote.

I have seen what appears to be direct violations of the Town Ordinance 2016-15 which is intended to protect nesting turtles and hatchlings from man made obstacles during the six month turtle nesting season from May till November.

I say presumed violations because the Ordinance prohibits the beach furniture, tents and other temporary structures from being scattered along the beach from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. I have to assume visitors and guests are not rushing out to place furniture on the beach  between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and that the furniture and other temporary structures were left out over night which would be a violation of the Ordinance.

From what I’ve seen the Ordinance is not working as well as it should and the consequences of less than vigorous enforcement are what we are experiencing with nesting turtles getting entangled with beach furniture.

Leaving the enforcement issue aside, the Ordinance needs to be amended to clarify and specify the permitted placement and arrangement of beach furniture and temporary man made structures during the turtle nesting season.

Section 100.08 addresses prohibited uses of temporary structures and then includes provision C which provides arrangements and placements of these temporary structures which would not be in violation of the Ordinance. The permitted uses, or those uses which would not be in violation of the Ordinance, are buried under the heading of prohibited uses. It is not evident from the Ordinance what is desired in term of the placement and arrangement of temporary structures.

I would suggest a section that stated the permitted uses of temporary man made structures and then in a separate section list the prohibited uses. In this regard the Commission should understand that the ideal location for turtle nests are at the vegetated areas and dunes. These sites afford some protection from storm surges and tidal actions (but unfortunately not from predation). From what I have seen, what may be earnest attempts to comply with the Turtle Nesting Protection Ordinance, places an array of beach furniture at the very locations the turtles are trying to nest. So although the beach furniture is not in the vegetation as prohibited in the Ordinance, the furniture placement inadvertently blocks turtle access to the vegetated areas especially if the furniture is not stacked. The Ordinance allows the furniture to be placed in a “neat and orderly manner” so lining a section of beach near the vegetation line would seem to be what is required but again this arrangement is not best for minimizing obstacles to nesting turtles.

The Ordinance should have a “Whereas” clause that states an objective to minimize the impact of man made structures and to allow nesting turtles to find the best and safest nesting areas on the beach as best as possible or practicable near the dunes and vegetated upland areas.

This is a suggestion and I realize that no Ordinance is 100 percent effective. We are dealing with the behavior of a wild creature who is going to do what it needs to do where it needs to do it. I’ve seen a turtle nest under a beach lounge chair next to a sign asking folks to stack the chairs or bring the chairs to the location of the sign at the vegetation line. So conflicts can happen even with the best intentions of compliance. I think the Town should seek better solutions with the advice of Mote staff who have more expertise and experience than I do as a volunteer.

Irrespective of whether the Ordinance is considered for amendment, it is imperative to educate property owners and visitors on the provisions of the Ordinance. There also needs to be consequences for an incident or pattern of non-compliance and liability and fines assigned to the offending property owner and/or lessee presuming that the lessee was informed of the Ordinance.

I would also note that I am continuing to see sometimes enormous excavations on the beach which are left unfilled and therefore become obstructions and traps both for nesting turtles and for hatchlings trying to reach the Gulf of Mexico and there should be a provision that prohibits leaving these excavations unfilled.

Lastly, there are Town and Cities along the Eastern Seaboard (e.g. Myrtle Beach, North Carolina) that have prohibited large tents and canopies during the peak summer season. These types of tents and canopies, sometimes left out overnight with beach equipment and furniture underneath, are also more evident along LBK beach sections and are also obstructions. These are prohibited uses between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. during turtle nesting season but they seem to be out there regularly when I do my morning walk.

I urge the Commission to consult with the Mote Sea Turtle staff on how the Ordinance could be amended and improved and for the Commission to consider how compliance with the Ordinance could be more rigorously enforced to reduce conflicts between nesting turtles, hatchlings and temporary man made structures on our beaches.

Larry Grossman

Longboat Key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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