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Editorial Letters – Week ending March 22, 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.

Sarasota Orchestra

To: Editor

I was happy to read of the resistance to plans for the Orchestra to move to a new hall at Payne Park. We have much enjoyed the convenience of attending concerts at the Van Wezel and agree with your editorial in support of the Orchestra remaining part of the Bay Project. If the problem is really thought to be sea level rise, any competent civil engineer – especially a Dutch engineer – could accommodate whatever wild projections the global warming activists can contrive.

Philip Alsop

Longboat Key

 

Street Valet Parking

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

I want to address some of the points you raise in your email because the opinions I express are shared by many residents in the village.

1) You wrote “your accusation that the town is “seemingly intent in intensifying traffic congestion” in the village is insulting and obviously absurd.” Over the past two decades, much of that time you were either on the P&Z board or the commission, the Mar Vista has been granted one largess after another and allowed to quintuple seating capacity and traffic congestion.

The village has seen the commission approve a gargantuan Shore restaurant on property that was zoned residential as the result of a voter referendum. So much for the will of the people where business expansion in the village and the commission are concerned. The commission’s total disregard for the voter’s wishes to lower commercial activity within the village was to many a betrayal of the public trust. If I am not mistaken, you were on the commission when they decided to use a loophole in the town codes, that allowed the commission to rezone a property from residential to commercial because doing so, after all, decreased density, and therefore did not require a referendum. Let’s see we now, now we have, by the town’s latest tally, 1,322 cars traversing up and 1,322 cars traversing down Broadway on a busy day, where we would have had perhaps 4 additional cars traversing Broadway, if the commission had honored the vote of the people and left the property to be developed as two waterfront homes. Ed, is this absurd? I am stating facts and town official figures. I feel it is sadly absurd that the commission has been so intent on intensifying commercial activity in the village for decades.

The commission did curtail parking to some extent on Broadway and one resident’s lawyer persuaded the commission to restrict parking on a narrow curve across from the then Moore’s restaurant. As for Lindly, the town decided to not paint garish screaming yellow and white lines on the south side of the narrow street, after the village residents rose up in anger at the defacing of Broadway with needless overly bright yellow and white lines that still deface our bucolic neighborhood. That was absurd and unneeded and another example of the town stamping their approval of on-street commercial parking in the village without even asking if we wanted the garish lines on our streets.

Ed, I am afraid that the historical facts belie your contention that the commission is pro-village resident. The only real solution to the horrendous traffic congestion, and safety issues, is to remove all commercial parking from the village with the exception of service and delivery vehicles. Restricting Mar Vista valet parking to one side of already narrow streets and calling that a solution is not any real solution.

 How many more decades is the village restaurant parking struggle going to take? Your email seems to suggest that the commission is embarking on some newly revealed problem. This simply isn’t the case. We have been before the commission, and before you, numerous times, asking for remediation and each time coming away with little or nothing. Residents of the village should not have to battle the commission year after year. What’s being offered now will not significantly reduce traffic congestion. You all act as though the soon to open Shore does not exist. Do you really believe that reducing the number of cars parked in the village by ten or twelve is going to be a solution? What about the Shore, which is solely the creation of the commission?

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Street Valet Parking

To: Gene Jaleski

Gene, I do not recall if you stayed for the lengthy discussions on Tuesday, but you have grossly misinterpreted them. Your accusation that the town is “seemingly intent in intensifying traffic congestion” in the village is insulting and obviously absurd. I pointed out that the historic number of required on-site parking spaces for the two restaurants has not been increased for the past 15 years. Years ago, as a concerned citizen, I had stressed to the town my serious objection to the manner in which those historic numbers had been derived. My expressed belief on Tuesday that those prior calculations could not now be changed retroactively was what went unchallenged.

Nevertheless, the Commission discussed at length many steps that might be taken to alleviate the situation. Staff, as well as a Commissioner, had already met with the restaurant owner and further discussions along those lines were planned. There were discussions of off-site parking arrangements for employees, creating a reservation requirement for diners, other means of eliminating a collection of diners waiting to be seated, increasing on-site parking by stacked parking, rearranging valet parking procedures to not permit street parking until the on-site lot was full, etc. Although LBK presently has no ordinance regulating valet street parking, some towns have such regulations and we will look into what might be done here in that regard. Therefore, the conclusions you brought from our meeting are far off base. Indeed, during a break some citizens thanked us for our attention to their concerns.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s meeting, another week long Broadway traffic study had been performed. Although the vast majority of vehicles did not exceed 25 mph, there was also discussion of how to reduce the minority of offenders.

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor, Longboat Key

 

Town biased for commercial interests

To: Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

Allen, it was evident to me from the Tuesday workshop that the entire town apparatus is greatly biased towards commercial interests, even if they are non-conforming within a residentially zoned neighborhood.

Mr. Zunz’s comment that the town is powerless to control on-street parking abuses went unchallenged by other commissioners, the town attorney and staff. Is it not true that the town has absolute control over street parking?

On-street valet parking is the most destructive activity yet condoned by the town, as it doubles congestion, exhaust fumes, noise pollution, difficulty in residents trying to get onto Broadway and the probability of an accident.

1) parton drives down Broadway to Mar Vista.

2) parking attendant drives up Broadway to park car

3) parking attendant either walks or drives up Broadway to retrieve car and drives down Broadway to restaurant.

4) patron drives up Broadway leaving restaurant.

Why is the town seemingly intent in intensifying traffic congestion? When all street parking should be removed for reasons of safety. The town’s do-nothing position is directly, and adversely, affecting safety in the village. If there is an accident, and injuries, or even deaths, who is partly responsible? And all for the sake of ever increasing profits?

At the workshop, I do not remember any meaningful discussion, including from staff, about what happens when the Shore restaurant opens. Street congestion is likely to double. Once again, a percentage of Shore patrons will opt to park on the street, rather than risk their car being damaged by a parking attendant, who always swears it wasn’t him/her. Having had car upholstery damaged by a valet parker, I now avoid valet parking whenever possible.

What does happen when the Shore opens? What about the hundreds of residents, who pay the preponderance of the real estate taxes in the area, who are inundated with traffic and congestion on a year-round basis?

My take-away from the workshop is that the commission may perhaps request that the Mar Vista relocate one or two shrubs to slightly increase on-site parking capacity, that currently goes unused due to patron reluctance to use valet parking.

Has the town even approached Mar Vista management about using a reservation system, as is used by a majority of on-island restaurants, to try to moderate the restaurant’s negative impact on the village community? If the only way to persuade the Mar Vista owner to work with the community, and show some gratitude for being allowed to expand from approximately forty-five seats to the current one hundred and sixty-nine seats, is to remove all on-street parking, then I believe the restaurants will still continue to be very profitable. After all, seating capacity is based on on-site parking, including boat slips and bicycle rack(s)?, so there should be no problems for the Mar Vista not using our streets as their parking lot. Why is the Mar Vista granted such largess over all other eating establishments on the island?

The Mar Vista appears to routinely serve food and drinks to waiting patrons (remember no reservation system) in violation of codes, and increasing the likelihood of their being an alcohol related accident on an overly congested and unsafe Broadway. Broadway is overly and unsafely congested as a result of the town’s unwillingness to control growth at the two restaurants. Though residents have repeatedly observed and reported these violations, the town does not appear to be aggressively addressing the problem. Perhaps the town might allocate a modicum of policing resources to observe the purported violations and issue a “red tag” when the restaurant is violating town codes, jus as happens at construction sites when they violate town codes.

The commission and the town have several means to reduce traffic congestion in the village. The question is why aren’t they doing anything to solve a problem that goes on year after year? This season appears to be just another example of foot-dragging and inaction.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Village parking concerns

To: Town Commission

We are writing to express our concern over the parking situation in Longbeach Village, and to express our support of the efforts, and agreement with the proposed solutions, of our neighbors, Carla and Pete Rowan, Madeleine Stewart, Stephen Garrod and many others.

Our main concern is the quiet enjoyment of our residence.  We are also concerned about noise, safety, and property values.   When we purchased our home we knew that there were two restaurants across the street and that there would be restaurant traffic.  It has been busy, and that’s good, we like to eat at the restaurants and want them to be successful; however, it seems that Mar Vista has gone to extreme measures to create a nuisance with this latest valet scheme, perhaps with the intent of trying to use the lots next to our home for parking.  We urge that this never be considered.  It was considered in the past and it was not approved.   We believe that the restaurants and the residents can peacefully coexist once the parking situation is addressed.

We are in agreement with the following “Recommended Actions” proposed by the group that met with Tom Harmer, Allen Parsons, and Police Officer Frank Robino:

Enforce 169 seats.  No serving food or drinks without a seat.

Improve parking situation:  Two options – both acceptable.

2A.  No parking in Village, except on Broadway and Lois (one side), parking on Broadway and Lois stays as it is during daytime.  Add ‘No Parking’ signs on Russell and Linley (Bayside to Poinsetta).  No overnight parking anywhere in Village.  Future:  extend signs into new areas as/if needed.  Parties, resident parking OK with approval from the town or some such allowance, tbd.

2B.  Resident parking only except on Broadway and Lois (one side), parking on Broadway and Lois stays as it is during daytime.   ‘Resident Only’ parking requires ‘Resident Tag’.  Signs needed on Russell and Linley (Bayside to Poinsetta).  System to be worked out to satisfaction of Village residents (tags, permits, signage, etc.).

In addition to the parking options above, we believe that a restaurant shuttle from a Commercial location, like Whitney Plaza might be a viable option, but not one with parking in the neighborhood.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter and any assistance you may provide.

Brian and Karen Feeney

Longboat Key

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