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Editorial Letters – Week ending March 8, 2019

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.

Longboat Key roundabout proposal: major safety concerns

To: Town Commission

As long-time residents of Longboat Key, the proposed roundabout to replace the traffic light at Longboat Club Road and Gulf of Mexico Drive at the south end of the Key raises grave safety concerns. According to the consultants hired by the Township: “A roundabout would increase traffic flow by up to 30 percent because cars would not be stopped at a red light.”   

Installation of a roundabout at this busy intersection will significantly decrease the gaps in traffic flow essential for the residents, visitors and contractors of Tangerine Bay Club, Bay Harbour and Country Club Shores, as well as customers of businesses such as Dry Dock Restaurant, the Mobil Gas Station, and Michael Saunders, to safely turn left onto or off of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Currently, during season and peak hours, a left turn exit from Tangerine Bay Club involves a wait for a gap in the northbound traffic and then a harrowing and dangerous turn into the center turn lane to wait for a kind soul to let one into the traffic flow. We invite the commissioners and their consultants to visit TBC during one of these times to experience this situation. A roundabout would make egress or entry at times almost impossible.

The second serious safety concern is that the traffic light at the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Club Road is the only pedestrian and cyclist crossing point at the south end of the Key. It is where pedestrians and cyclists cross to and from the Longboat Key Club, the New Pass bridge, the SCAT bus stop and, of course, Tangerine Bay Club and other residences and businesses on the west side of Gulf of Mexico Drive.  If a traffic circle is built at this intersection, we believe that, without some form of traffic stoppage, the safety of the many individuals attempting to cross on foot or on a bicycle would be in jeopardy.

We agree that better traffic flow on Longboat Key is desirable, but it must not come at the expense of the safety of the residents, visitors, customers and service providers of those who live or do business on the bay side of Gulf of Mexico Drive. And, we Longboaters realize that a significant problem with traffic on the Key is not Longboat Key itself, but rather the traffic congestion created by St. Armand’s Circle and the intersection of U.S. 41 and Rt. 789 in Sarasota. Rather than installing roundabouts, we suggest more focus on better turning lanes on Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key, an automated pedestrian detection system at the south end, and serious conversations with the City of Sarasota about improving egress from the barrier islands.                                  

Board of Directors

Tangerine Bay Club

 

Roundabout in Sarasota

To: Editor

Longboat Key village continues to attempt to stop the construction of a roundabout by the Florida Department of Transportation on Gulfstream and U.S. 41 in Sarasota.  This is a project that would be in the best interest of the residents of Longboat Key.

Construction starts on the roundabout at Fruitville Road and U.S. 41 after tourist season. The construction of the Gulfstream roundabout will facilitate traffic flow as well as vehicular and pedestrian safety in this area. Roundabouts work best in a series which is happening along U.S. 41.

Longboat spent $22,760 to hire a consultant to review the plans to find reasons not to build the roundabouts and to leave the current inefficient and dangerous signalized intersections.

Construction of the roundabouts will reduce fatalities by 90 percent, injury crashes by 76 percent, and pedestrian crashes by 30-40 percent.  They would increase efficiency of traffic flow by 30 to 50 percent, improve traffic flow for left turns and reduce the need for storage lanes according to national studies by the Federal Highway Administration. AARP. AAA (American Automotive Association), and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety endorses roundabouts.

While the citizens of Sarasota will benefit greatly from the construction of these roundabouts, so will the residents of the barrier islands including Longboat Key.

Roger J. Barry

Sarasota

 

Valet parking

To: Editor

On the morning of Feb. 19, I received a polite email from Melanie Barber advising me of valet parking activity by Mar Vista and asking me to “please look into this”. I did.  Only a few hours later, at our regularly scheduled Commission public workshop, I brought this subject to the attention of our Town Manager, Town Attorney, Mayor, all Commissioners, and everyone else who was present, including you or someone from your newspaper if in attendance.  The unanimous response  I received from all with knowledge on this subject was that our existing codes do not prohibit valet parking in legally permitted public street parking spaces. Immediately after returning home that same afternoon I emailed this information to Ms. Barber.

Apparently my information found its way to another neighbor, Samir Ragheb, M.D.,  who has never contacted  me on this subject.  Instead, a letter first appeared in your March 1 edition in which Dr. Ragheb stated: “I wander (sic) who gave this advise (sic) to Commissioner Zunz?”  His letter describes the situation and warns me to “Wait until…one transport carrier or more will be blocking” my residence.

At the outset of our regular Commission meeting today more than a dozen village residents, not including Dr. Ragheb, appeared and respectfully voiced legitimate concerns about numerous issues posed by restaurant parking throughout this residential neighborhood.  They implored the Town to help them improve restaurant traffic and parking.  Anyone who stayed to the end of the meeting would have heard the Commission’s unanimous resolve to become involved in this situation.

On another subject, there is also much vocal citizen concern, sometimes with incomplete information, about new light poles associated with the undergrounding project.  All of the expressed concerns are well understood by the Town, which is committed to accomplishing both the aesthetic and functional goals of the project to the greatest extent possible.  A wide variety of pole and lighting components are still under consideration; decisions have not yet been made.  It is anticipated that a major portion of our March 19 public workshop will be devoted to this subject.  Experts will attend and so may the public.    

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor, Longboat Key

 

New Colony construction

To: Editor

As I was stuck behind a meandering dump truck leaving the Amore demolition site, it occurred to me that once the new Colony construction begins our traffic issues on GMD will only intensify.

I was wondering if anyone has given thought to utilizing the Colony pier to accept deliveries via barges? It would be unique to that site as the pier already exists and really reduce traffic issues.

Tom Ivaskiv

Longboat Key

 

Irresponsible, wasteful spending

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

The proposed LBK changes remind one of a wealthy housewife buying a new house and then ripping out everything in it for the dump.  We are known as the most wasteful people in the world. Why not leave everything the way it is without spending the horrendous amount of money to dig with big polluting machines to put wires underground and replace lights?  Landscaping can be used to make areas near the sturdy poles more attractive.

Susceptible to flooding, Difficult to locate Faults, underground power lines would not prevent outages caused by damage to high-voltage lines or towers

After, say 30 years, the loop of underground cable start having problems. The polyethylene insulation may develop treeing, which is the spread of breakdown leading to a failure called a cable fault. Or it might take a lightning hit. Or someone might dig in to it while installing other utilities in the parkway next to the street. A URD loop through a subdivision may start at two remote spots by connecting to the overhead out by the highway, then loop through the subdivision with several switching points where the source from either end can be used to feed any part of the load. That way, a cable fault only causes a prolonged outage to the one faulted cable. A “thumper” and a time domain reflectometer are used to locate and mark the fault location so it can be dug out and repaired. Meanwhile all the transformers have been switched to a live source via the switching points. It might take an hour or more for a worker to come out and isolate the faulted section and get the power back on, a bit longer than overhead restoration. The problem is that by the time the URD installation is 25 or 30 years old, the cable may start having frequent faults due to aging and treeing, and the utility May have a policy of not replacing any one section until it has faulted a set number of times. Six sections of ageing cable might thus have twelve outages before it all gets replaced! This is poorer service than I would expect from overhead, unless they do no tree trimming. Additionally, I have seen the insulating parts in the switching locations age so that they come apart when the serviceman tries to unplug cables, causing prolonged outages. The moral is that underground distribution is great, but expensive to install and with a limited service life, which means increased lifetime and yearly costs. It also is very fragile if overloaded for some reason.

J. Hummert

Longboat Key

 

Street Lighting

To: Commissioner Ken Schneier

I am writing to voice my opinion and state my opposition to the newly proposed heights of the proposed street lighting poles to be installed along Gulf of Mexico Drive (GMD) and throughout Longboat Key’s neighborhoods.

My understanding is that the Town Commission is considering installing light poles along GMD that could possibly be 45-feet in height, an increase of 18-feet over the 27-feet originally discussed. I also understand that the additional height is needed for better coverage for the cameras that will be installed and to accommodate antennas for better cell coverage.

Throughout Longboat’s neighborhoods, I understand the light poles could possibly be 35-feet in height, an increase of 10-feet over the 25-feet originally discussed, and that the same needs apply as with the poles on GMD.

When the “undergrounding” issue was initially proposed and throughout the consideration process, the main focus was on island-wide beautification and the need to create an electrical and lighting system that was more resistant to outages.

It appears that the focus of the street lighting plan has now shifted to make camera and cell service coverage the overall priority at the expense of beautification, the core of the original arguments to underground our power lines. The other “carrot” used to promote approval of undergrounding was a resulting increase in property values due to the elimination of “unsightly” power lines.

A 45-foot concrete light pole with a diameter of 16-inches in no way falls into my definition of beautification. Rather, beautification will be sacrificed in favor of creating a picket fence of towering poles topped with lights, cameras and antennas the full length of GMD.

And in our neighborhoods, where current codes limit the height of buildings to be no more than 30-feet above grade, the proposed poles would be five-feet higher then the tallest homes.

I’m all for better island-wide cell reception, but not at the cost of the original intent and expected result of the project.

Michael Riter

Longboat Key

 

Street Lighting

To: Michael Riter

The size, composition, height and function of new poles on LBK are all still under discussion; nothing has been decided and everyone’s opinion counts.  We will have a major presentation on all these matters at the Town Commission workshop on March 19.  I hope you can attend.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner, Longboat Key

 

Concerns about light poles

To: Town Commission

Individual Commissioners have recently received emails regarding concerns associated with light pole height and design in conjunction with the Town’s undergrounding project.

I have also received emails from individuals directly to my attention.

I have generally responded to each of the emails directed to the Town Manager as follows:

Thank you for your email.  No decisions have been made yet on replacement poles and light fixtures.  The Town is evaluating the types of poles and pole heights based on aesthetics as well as the infrastructure that may be needed to address lighting requirements and technology (wireless and/or cell coverage).  It is anticipated that there will be a pole and light combination approved for Gulf of Mexico Drive in the Florida Department of Transportation right of way and separately a neighbor pole/light combination likely to be shorter and more decorative.

The staff provides a monthly update to the Commission at their Regular Workshops each month.  Their next update is scheduled for the March 19th meeting.  The agenda and the associated reports are published the Wednesday afternoon prior to the meeting and available on our website.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager, Longboat Key

 

Street lights

To: Planning and Zoning Board member Mike Haycock

After receiving information on the various light options for GMD and neighborhood street lights, my husband and I would like to see similar lights for both GMD and the neighborhood lights as are at St Armands.  We took special note of those our last drive through that area.  Thank you for your contribution and dedication to Longboat Key.

Alice and Andy Dzenitis

Longboat Key

 

The case for charm

To: Town Commission

It sounds like the proposals for new street lights along GMD and LBK neighborhoods in conjunction with the under-grounding project are getting higher and higher?

I am especially concerned about the light choices in my little neighborhood of Longbeach in the north end of LBK where so many of us appreciate the historic uniqueness of our village. 10 years ago the Florida Sate Division of Historical Resources designated the core of the village as the Longboat Key Historic District. It was the result of work by many people over many years. The purpose of this designation is to create awareness with municipalities that preserving Florida’s cultural history is valuable to Florida.  It would appear this notion has been proven already. We now have two multi-million dollar high-end destination restaurants at the end of Broadway. The restaurant owners obviously valued the old Florida ambiance of this neighborhood in making their decisions to invest here.  I think it would support both commercial and residential needs and desires to choose a decorative street light than enhances the unique historical charm of our neighborhood – perhaps something similar in height (15-foot high) to those erected along Bradenton Beach and St. Armands Circle?  What draws most people we know  to Longboat Key over and over  is the tropical island charm.  I would like to ask the commissioners to keep charm in mind as they make the decisions about new street light fixtures in conjunction with (the) under-grounding project.

Carol Weiss

Longboat Key

 

The case for charm

To: Carol Weiss

Ms. Weiss, thank you for copying me on your email.  No decisions have been made yet on the replacement poles and light fixtures.  The Town is evaluating the types of poles and pole heights based on aesthetics as well as the infrastructure that may be needed to address lighting requirements and technology (wireless and/or cell coverage).  It is anticipated that there will be a pole and light combination approved for Gulf of Mexico Drive in the Florida Department of Transportation right of way and separately a neighbor pole/light combination likely to be shorter and more decorative.

The staff provides a monthly update to the Commission at their Regular Workshops each month.  Their next update is scheduled for the March 19th meeting.  The agenda and the associated reports are published the Wednesday afternoon prior to the meeting and available on our website.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Longboat Key Street Lighting

To: Town Commission

With regards to Longboat Key street lighting:

1A. Street Lights – GMD

Residents voted for undergrounding to beautify GMD. We don’t think 45-foot concrete poles with 16-inch diameters and attachments at the tops (acting as small cell towers) are appropriate for Longboat Key.  St. Armands has gorgeous 15-foot tall decorative street lights and no tall poles. Wouldn’t it be great to have these same, or similar, street lights for both GMD and the neighborhoods? We can do better than what is being planned for us.

1B. Street Lights – Neighborhoods

Residents voted for undergrounding the neighborhoods to help beautify them. In our KEEP survey last year there was overwhelming support (94 percent) for 15-foot decorative lights to create a neighborhood ambiance as found in most planned developments on this Key and nation-wide. Lets try to get the street lights and poles we desire and expected.

David Grgat

Longboat Key

 

Longboat Key Street Lighting

To: David Grgat

No decisions have been made yet on the replacement poles and light fixtures.  The Town is evaluating the types of poles and pole heights based on aesthetics as well as the infrastructure that may be needed to address lighting requirements and technology (wireless and/or cell coverage).  It is anticipated that there will be a pole and light combination approved for Gulf of Mexico Drive in the Florida Department of Transportation right of way and separately a neighbor pole/light combination likely to be shorter and more decorative.

The staff provides a monthly update to the Commission at their Regular Workshops each month.  Their next update is scheduled for the March 19th meeting.  The agenda and the associated reports are published the Wednesday afternoon prior to the meeting and available on our website.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

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