Mote to ask LBK voters for new density

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The other Mote, not Mote Marine, but the Mote Scientific Foundation, is asking Longboat Key voters this March to allow 7 residential units on a 1.8-acre parcel it owns in the middle of the island.

The property is located at 5630 Gulf of Mexico Drive and has been vacant since Bill Mote acquired it in 1982.

Mr. Mote settled on Longboat Key in Country Club Shores in 1965, and wanted to create a Marine Laboratory on Florida’s west coast. He connected with a shark researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, who was struggling to keep the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory viable.

Mr. Mote assumed the leadership of the organization and provided business acumen as well as financial support. In 1967, the laboratory’s name was changed to Mote Marine Laboratory and it was moved to its present site on City Island.

The Mote Scientific Foundation, which owns the property in question, is a not-for-profit philanthropic organization, more than 65 years old and operates separately from Mote, but has given more than $40 million in donations to the laboratory over the decades.

The organization has also supported the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee and Sarasota Counties, All Faiths Food Bank, SPARCC, as well as more than a dozen other local agencies and organizations.

The property is currently zoned commercial and has no assigned residential density. The Mote Foundation has sought to sell the property since 2003 with some offers seeking approval for a commercial storage facility, which has not been found to be compatible with the community. About three years ago, the Foundation offered to sell the property to the town for a park or open space, but the offer was declined.

The advocates for the approval of the density maintain that it will be the same zoning density of four units per acre that exists in the residential areas to the north and east. The other argument is if the property remains commercial, that there is no certainty what traffic or business might someday be permitted.

The Foundation asked for a density increase to allow 11 units on the site two years ago, and that request was voted down by the voters. Since then, the request has been lowered to keep in the same category as the neighbors.

The town charter of Longboat Key requires a referendum vote of approval to add any new density on the island.

Mote Foundation says if the referendum passes it will sell the property and use the proceeds to advance oceanography and marine research, which is the mission of the organization.


Another ballot question

The only other matter to be voted on by Longboat Key voters in the March election is a Town Charter referendum regarding commissioner term length.

Currently, members of the town commission can only serve a maximum of three, two-year terms. After the six years is up, they must sit out for a minimum of 24 months. The referendum will ask voters to increase the length of each term to three years, but reduce the number of consecutive terms to two.

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