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Longboat Key Letters – Week ending February 2, 2018

 

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.

Zillow projection

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

I just received an email from Zillow and it says the trend on Longboat is for prices to decrease six tenths of a percent over the next year. I feel that Longboat Key used to do marketing or our home values will continue to decrease. I think we already have a reputation for horrible traffic during the season when people want to be using their homes on Longboat. The commission really needs to weigh what they’re doing at the colony in terms of letting hundreds of more cars on the road on an everyday basis.

The Colony public space request needs to be weighed in terms of the needs and the benefits to the Greater Community not just to the profit margins of the developer.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

Traffic studies will benefit from focus on barrier island communities

To: Kris Cella

As you know, at the Steering Committee meeting on the 26th, FDOT and the Committee approved my recommendation to form a small working group consisting of a technical staff member from each of  the four barrier islands ,while adding to the group a representative from the City of Sarasota;  in order to provide a more concentrated focus of the study on the barrier islands, and to add local experience to the  FDOT staff and your firm. Longboat Key has submitted its proposed representative for the Group to FDOT . I am requesting that steps be quickly taken to solicit the other members and establish a schedule for the group to get underway, in order to meet and conduct ongoing input to the Steering Committee and FDOT.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

Steering Committee Members/Interested Parties: The Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study is examining 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.   Phase 1 of the traffic study is complete.  Phase 2 of the project is underway and includes observations, collection of traffic data, review of land use, parking studies, etc.   

Steering Committee Meeting No. 3 is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Friday, January 26, 2018 at the Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, Florida, 34228.  The meeting will review the materials distributed at the Steering Committee meeting on November 9, 2017 including the traffic evaluation findings for all the islands, identified congestion “hotspots” and the parking evaluation.  The meeting will also present the results of the public comment from the December 5, 2017 public meeting.

Thank you.

Kris Cella

Public Involvement Task Manager

Florida Department of Transportation

Possible revision of meeting timing

To: Town Commission

Thank you so much for considering the rescheduling of your meeting to allow the P&Z to have the Chambers for the entire day Tuesday, February 20th, and possibly half-day on February 21.  It is important for the public to be heard as well as applicant and staff with some continuity that this rescheduling will afford to everyone.

BJ Bishop

Chair, Planning and Zoning Board

Longboat Key

Site plan under review

To: Town Commission, Planning and Zoning Board

As you might be aware, Unicorp National Developments, Inc., has submitted a revised application for the St. Regis Hotel & Residences located at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.  These materials were submitted late in the afternoon on January 26th.  The materials are currently being reviewed by staff.  Staff would like to provide access to these preliminary materials through the Town’s FTP site as they are too large to email to the P&Z Board and Town Commission. Again, please remember these are preliminary materials. Please let me know if you should have any questions, or difficulty accessing the site.

Donna Chipman

Office Manager

Longboat Key Planning, Zoning & Building

Proposed Historical Marker

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

I am writing to you in your capacity as our commissioner and vice mayor.  As you know, this year is the 50th anniversary of the Whitney Beach Condominiums on the north end of the island (1968), one the three earliest communities and arguably the first multi-family condominium (Spanish Main Yacht Club was the first single family association), forerunner of the condominium associations in which more than seventy-five percent of our population now live.  As Whitney Beach Condominiums are successor to the Whitney Resort, the first family recreational resort, founded in 1935 on the very property Paul Neal and Company (now Neal Communities) developed the Whitney Beach Condominiums, Whitney Plaza, and the landscaped open space, Whitney Beach Conservancy, we are also celebrating the significant role of Gordon and Lora Whitney.

Given this legacy, we would like to propose in recognition of this historic “birthplace” of LBK’s modern heritage that the Town of Longboat Key consider the erection of an historic marker, similar to the other markers on the island, commemorating the significance of this place.  In partnership with the LBK Historical Association, whose interest in the proposal has been confirmed, research assistance could be secured and a suitable inscription could be composed.  And so we write to ask if you could advance the consideration of this proposal amongst the leaders of the town.

With encouragement, we would be pleased to be fully engaged in helping to make this proposition a reality.  The 50th anniversary will be celebrated on Friday, March 9, at 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Whitney Beach Conservancy.

Denton Crews

Longboat Key

Proposed Historical Marker

To: Denton Crews

Your suggestion for a historic marker strikes me as being entirely appropriate.  Surely the resurgent LBK Historical Association would lend its support.  I have a scheduled meeting with the Town Manager tomorrow afternoon and will be sure to discuss this subject with him.

Ed Zuz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

Pickle ball at Bayfront Park

To: Town Commission

Commissioners, a quick update on pickle ball at Bayfront Park. The staff has been working on two initiatives to help address the high level of interest and demand for the one Pickle ball Court at the Park. The first is clarifying the use of the Court and the sign up process.  It will continue to be a first come basis but the players must be present waiting for the Court and not sign up in advance. This is the same process successfully used for the tennis courts- the sign-up sheet has been updated to address the policy. The second effort includes adding additional striping for one of the tennis courts to allow for two additional pickle ball court play areas for when that court is not in use. The other tennis court will be remain as a “tennis only” play surface.

Both of these changes will be monitored through the season to see is there are any other adjustments necessary.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

Pickle ball – Bayfront Park

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

Thanks to all involved. This news will be well appreciated in the community.

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

Pickle ball- Bayfront Park

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

Thanks for the update. These changes should help the present situation in response to expressed concerns. However, it is clear to me that the interest and demands for pickelball are not being met by our single court; suggesting that additional court options should be considered. This is a heads- up that I will be following up such possibilities with you.

Jack Daly

Commissioner, Longboat Key

Pickle ball- Bayfront Park

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

Commissioner Daly, thanks for the email.  Look forward to discussing.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager, Longboat Key

US 41 3rd Lane North Status- BITS Update

To: Town Commission

FYI- at the Barrier Island Traffic Study Steering Committee meeting last week the timing of the FDOT construction project adding the 3rd lane at 41 and Gulfstream was discussed.  The FDOT has indicated that it is an active construction project and the work at the intersection will begin in mid to late February and be completed by April.  I have previously expressed concern about the timing of the work during peak season.  They have indicated that the work will be performed during the evening and there will be no lane closures during the day.

In addition, at the Traffic Study Steering Committee meeting Commissioner Daly recommended a small technical committee of staff representatives from the barrier islands be formed to review the current recommended projects. This group would provide feedback to the Steering Committee. This was approved with the addition of a representative from the City of Sarasota.  Our Public Works Director, Isaac Brownman will be representing the Town on the technical review.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager, Town of Longboat Key

 

Colony would be rebuilt differently in Virginia

To: Town Commission

I stated at the workshop meeting on the 22nd of January that I am an attorney in the commonwealth of Virginia and not in the state of Florida. My comments are universally accepted when we amend a law we do it to clarify the meaning or the originator made an error in recording the law. It can never be used to replace a law. Let us examine the present case.

We have, in very simple terms, the hand on the right says yes, with certain goodies attached and on the opposite side the hand on the left says yes, with certain goodies attached, but our law says that you cannot combine the two of them. If you vote yes to the amendment, you are opening the door for another law suit. In addition to creating havoc, you are violating your sacred oath that each of you swore to at the time you took office to uphold the laws of the town of longboat key. Where do we go from here? Everybody wants the colony to be developed. In Virginia, I know Arlington, Virginia is not longboat key, this is how we handled like situations.

We would meet with the builder, inform him that we are voting against the proposal and work out a solution that would  be acceptable to the town but grant to the builder some of the goodies that he would have receiver if the amendment was given a yes vote. It, in my opinion, is a win-win solution I am positive that we have knowledgeable people on our pay roll, if not hire a firm to represent us. It will be cheaper in the long run. What do we give, is beyond my pay grade, I leave that to the experts

John Rutledge

Longboat Key

 

Other Colony developers waiting in the wings

To: Town Commission

Unicorp voted down by the owners. Why can they still apply for a PUD? They do not own the land. The owners rejected Unicorp’s proposal. So why can Unicorp apply for this? Unicorp has never done a project this big. Longboat Key cannot support a Five Star resort. Whittall is planning to sell the condos for $6 million, there is no market for that in Longboat Key. It will all end in lawsuits for the next seven years. There are three other developers waiting in the wings for Unicorp to finally pull out.

Blake Fleetwood

Longboat Key

 

We will cap ballroom attendance

To: Town Commission

Please find the ballroom layouts evidencing a maximum event of 425. We will agree to restrict to 425 people as we do not plan on classroom configurations.

Chuck Whittall

Unicorp Companies

Orlando

 

Ballroom

To: Town Commission

Unicorp is working with town staff and will present to P&Z and Commission why the ballroom size is so essential to the successful operation of the hotel.

I have also attached an illustration completed by our architect that demonstrates why we need the size and will restrict to a capacity of 425 occupants.

It is not realistic or practical to restrict the other spaces. Let me give you an example. For instance the hotel host a wedding and the couple gets married on the event lawn and then has a reception in the ballroom.

Or there is a public event in the ballroom and hotel guests are enjoying the event lawn for a BBQ.

The facts of our development is we are constrained by parking, we cannot have every space full at one time because we can’t park for that scenario so this will never happen.  However it is important to have these various spaces as every event will not use the ballroom. For instance we may have a retirement party at the hotel and they only need 3000 ft. of space and not a ballroom, we will need to accommodate this .  There may be a Birthday party that wants to have a BBQ on the law or a wine tasting on the lawn.  This is what makes the hotel successful,  Like I said at the end of the day we only have extra 229 spaces to Valet park. So the maximum people we could bring in other than hotel guests is 460 which is the size of a church service on the Key. Further these guests will exit in a trickle manner as each car has to be retrieved by the Valet so it will not be a mass exodus of 229 cars like that would happen at a church service where all leave at one time.

I’m sure everyone wants this hotel to be successful and I would urge you to listen to our presentation with an open mind. We have given up much on this project and I read in the letter that we have come a long way but need to come further. This is all being told to you by people whom have never done a development like this. We will have our hotel operator at the hearing to explain all this and I can tell you that they are nearing the end of the runway on this deal being able to fly.

As stated in the last meeting, the reason we are required to give up density is the tradeoff for departures.  We have a great opportunity here and I ask humbly for your support.

Chuck Whittall

Unicorp Companies

Orlando

 

Why do we need another large ballroom?

To: Mayor Terry Gans

I have been to several events in the Harbourside Ballroom at the Longboat Key Club. I understand that the room being proposed for the Colony property is twice the size of that room.  The Harbourside Ballroom seemed plenty big for any event on Longboat Key. Why do we need another one that’s much bigger?  It will only bring more traffic to Gulf of Mexico Drive. Between the Harbourside and the Resort John Ringling Room, don’t we have enough meeting space?  Please vote against any proposal that brings more meeting space and more traffic to our town.

Joseph Contorno

Longboat Key

 

Right-sizing Unicorp Proposed Conference Center Spaces

To: Town Commission, Planning and Zoning Board

While we believe that Unicorp continues to make progress toward a redevelopment of The Colony property that is in keeping with the character of our island, some important issues remain to be resolved.

We remain most concerned about traffic issues related to the capacity of the proposed conference center: ballroom, meeting rooms and event spaces.  The attached papers presents the case for the Town to reduce these dimensions and the justification for doing so.

In total the site plan calls for 17,700 square feet of indoor meeting space plus additional outdoor spaces of over 6,000 square feet.  By code, these indoor spaces alone can hold over 1,000 people. As the paper shows, that amount of space is well beyond that needed to accommodate the number of guests at the 166-room hotel and well outside the norms for other similar properties, including those operated by St. Regis. The developer claims that they will limit any events in their 10,000-square foot ballroom to 400 guests, well under its capacity of 666 under the code, while at the same time asking that the Town grant them a departure from the code relating permitting them to build the additional square footage that they don’t intend to use.  Permitting meeting spaces of this size would add to the traffic on Gulf of Mexico Drive and mean that the Town would be taking on the responsibility of forever monitoring that the hotel chain is adhering to the developer’s claims.    

The attached paper lays out our recommendation as to the proper size of the meeting spaces that would:

  allow Unicorp to accommodate the number of people they say they wish to,

  reduce the size of the departure requested, and

  lessen the obligation on the Town to continually spend time and money to police the size of events on the property.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Preserve Longboat, Inc.

Tom Meurer

Longboat Key

 

Follow up

To: Town Commission

I saw the article in the Herald Tribune this morning on the results of yesterday’s Sarasota County Commission budget workshop.  The article mentions the potential elimination of the Longboat Key SCAT bus route next fiscal year.

I have confirmed with our staff that there have not been any discussions between the Town and the County in advance of the workshop.

I contacted the County Administrator and the SCAT Director to express serious concerns about the reported plans to eliminate public transit service from the Key.  I have also requested a meeting with the County to further discuss.

As a follow up to my discussion with the County I have received the clarification below on the action taken, next steps, and their commitment to follow up with the Town.  We are also scheduling a meeting with the County to further discuss.

I will continue to update the Commission as additional information becomes available.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Follow up

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

We understand the importance of mobility to the community and to the Town of Longboat Key.  The FY18 budget is structurally sound and there are no plans for any changes in SCAT services in 2018.

Yesterday the County Commission held a budget workshop in which the staff discussed general fund reductions for consideration as we prepare the proposed FY19 budget. As you know several SCAT routes are partially funded through federal funds while other routes, such as Route 18 that provides service to Longboat Key, are funded solely from the general fund. That particular route has an average daily ridership of 62.

The budget workshop with the Commission this week focused specifically on reductions to the general fund. As part of that the Commission approved several SCAT reductions for inclusion in the proposed FY 19 Operating Budget. One of those routes is Route 18. That reduction would require an FTA Equity Analysis which is required for any major service change and includes public meetings. That process would take us well into FY19.

However, please be assured that the SCAT staff is looking at alternatives models and methods to provide service to Longboat Key in place of Route 18. Our intent is to have those alternatives fully vetted prior to any implementation of the recommendations presented yesterday.

There are also other parallel efforts that are under way that will play a role in the ultimate configuration and model for delivery of services.

They include:

• Request for Information (RFI) on transit services  – released and responses due February 21, 2018.

• Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) –  staff has been directed to review all recommendations to insure that all been enacted and planned for enactment.

I have asked staff to insure that town staff are an integral part of the discussions, review, and planning for those that would impact Longboat Key and will also personally follow up with Isaac.

Robert Lewis

Director of Community & Intergovernmental Relations

Sarasota County Government

 

Frontier

To: Town Commission

I wanted to reach out regarding the outage yesterday.  As you know, Frontier was experiencing issues with phone traffic in the Tampa area.  The first issue took place during the night due to routine network maintenance being conducted by Century Link/Level 3 associated with a Florida DOT road project near Clewiston.  The issue during the night impacted network links connected to E911 service in the area.  The outage during the night lasted for a period of approximately 1:50 minutes.  This morning at approximately 10:07 EST, some customers in the Tampa area were again experiencing an interruption in service due to issues it appears CenturyLink is experiencing related to network maintenance and a fiber cut. We have been in touch directly with CenturyLink and services were restored at approximately 12:30 p.m.

The Frontier SS7 design team is moving one of the SS7 links to another diverse path and rerouting it off of the existing Durham, NC path. This should help us to have a separate route on a totally different path that exists today and will restore the redundant network path.

911 calls are the most important calls carried on our network. While a third party was at the root cause of the network issues that were experienced yesterday, we understand that we are accountable for consistent, reliable service. The Frontier team has worked diligently to assemble a new network path which will be more diverse, and greatly reduce the chance of a repeat of Tuesday’s issues. The transfer will take place this evening, Thursday.  The 911 center traffic has been working satisfactorily  since the outages. Our customers have the right to expect the highest level of service for 911 connections. It is Frontier’s highest priority as well.

Please let me know if I can provide your office with any additional information.

Laura L. Lenhart

Manager, Government and Regulatory Affairs – FL

Frontier



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