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Editorial Letters – Week ending September 20, 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.

BITS update meeting

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

FYI — As a follow up to our BITS and Gulf Drive intersection discussion today, the BITS Phase 1 looked at previous area studies, one of which was SR 684 (Cortez) and SR 789 (Gulf Dr).  Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (“VHB”) performed the study in June 2016.  Below is a summary by Stantec of that VHB study.  We could also ask LK/District 1 if they could look into the signal timing change alternative referenced below (Green-T / Turbo-T). I am not familiar with how that strategy might work, but may be interesting to hear their take on them.  Also, if you read the very bottom sentence, you can see where the roundabout idea was essentially abandoned due to high right-of-way costs.

Isaac Brownman

Director Public Works

Longboat Key

 

BITS update meeting

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

FYI- a follow up to our BITS discussion yesterday on the Cortez/Gulf Drive intersection. Isaac mentioned a previous study performed at that intersection. See the info and comments below regarding that study. It appears they also rejected the roundabout back then due to the right of way acquisition costs.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

BITS update meeting

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

Thanks for the follow up. I continue to believe that this intersection is one of our crucial issues. As discussed , we should request FDOT to provide the right of way cost estimates and the related traffic mitigation data, perhaps at a meeting . We can finalize our approach next week.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

BITS update meeting

To: Public Works Director Isaac Brownman

Thanks. We are set to discuss next week before the Friday BITS Steering Committee meeting.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Manatee County Commission to discuss stormwater program funding, enhancements

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

Do you know if Longboat Key gets any benefit from Manatee’s stormwater program, either as a function of the wastewater fees or the taxes we pay them?  Thanks.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Manatee County Commission to discuss stormwater program funding, enhancements

To: Commissioner Ken Schneier

We currently do not receive any financial or program assistance from Manatee County for our stormwater program.  I also checked with James Linkogle this afternoon and he said he wasn’t aware of any historical support either.  If Manatee County has been using any general tax dollars and/or landfill fees, some of that revenue would come from our our Manatee County residents.

Many of the municipalities in our area charge a separate stormwater fee (non ad valorem), currently Longboat Key does not.

Potential stormwater project funding is one of the issues I discussed with the new Manatee County Administrator but that was before they announced their latest effort to implement the specific fee to the unincorporated property owners.

Going forward, Manatee County is obviously looking at a new fee for the unincorporated areas that wouldn’t apply to our residents (similar to the current Sarasota County’s program). Be happy to discuss further.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Town initiating online permitting & inspections scheduling

To: Town Manager Tom Harmer

Sharing some exciting news. We will be pilot testing the ability for contractors to apply for permits and schedule inspections online.

We are starting with one of our more straightforward and high-volume permits, A/C Change Outs. To begin pilot-testing, we are inviting five of our higher-volume contractors to an Open-House event at the Planning, Zoning and Building (PZB) Department office on Tuesday, September 24 at 10 a.m. to view a demonstration of the Town website’s functionality, assist with set-up and provide an opportunity to answer questions. This will be followed-up with a pilot testing period, followed by continued work on rolling out additional permit types.

We anticipate that these on-line services will be a significant convenience benefit to contractors, allowing access to Town services at times and locations that work best for them. We also look forward to efficiency improvements in application processing and inspection scheduling for staff.

I want to thank the entire PZB team for their efforts in developing this customer service resource, in-house, including mapping out each step in each permit types review, processing and inspections. I also want to be sure that extra kudos are passed on to Maika Arnold who took on the role of being both software developer and project manager to get this up and running. This was no small feat technically or logistically, not to mention the cost savings resulting from work that would otherwise have been done by technical consultants. Great job team!

Allen Parsons

Director Planning, Zoning & Building Department

Town of Longboat Key

 

Town initiating online permitting & inspections scheduling

To: Town Commission

The Planning, Zoning, and Building Department has been working on implementing an online permitting and inspection program for our contractors. The team has done a great job of setting up the system and will begin piloting testing the initial roll out of the program.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Tropical Disturbance 38

To: Town Commission

As we are in the peak of hurricane season there continues to be activity in the tropics that we are monitoring.  Tropical Disturbance 38 is the most immediate concern.

We have been monitoring it over the past several days and its future track is still a bit uncertain.  Like Dorian there is some question of when it will turn north and if it will stay off the east coast of Florida or more directly impact the State.  Its winds are still below tropical storm force level but expected to strengthen to a tropical storm and potentially reach hurricane strength winds.  It looks like our most likely impact in southwest Florida will be the potential for rain and some higher wind levels.

As we are heading into the weekend all of our departments are keeping an eye on the storm and will be ready to implement any protective measures that may be necessary.  We are in communication with both Counties emergency management staff as well.  As always we recommend that our residents pay close attention to the weather and any direction from local emergency management officials.

Thomas Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Disturbance 38 Advisory 9

Current Location: 25.2N, 75.3W

Geographic Reference: Over the East-Central Bahamas

Movement: West-northwest at 7 mph

Max Winds: 30 mph gusting to 40 mph

Current Hurricane Severity Index: 0 out of a possible 50 points (0 size, 0 intensity)

Max Predicted Hurricane Severity Index: 18 out of a possible 50 points (9 size, 9 intensity)

Current Radius of Tropical Storm-Force Winds: 0 miles

Max Predicted Radius of Tropical Storm-Force Winds: 125 miles

Organizational Trend: Slowly Becoming Better-Organized

Forecast Confidence: Average

Chance of Development: Near 100 percent

Key Points

1. The forecast track has been shifted a little farther south of the Carolinas.

2. Disturbance 38 is forecast to become a strong hurricane next week as it tracks away from the U.S.

Our Forecast

Satellite imagery and surface observations across the Bahamas indicate that the disturbance still lacks a well-defined closed surface circulation this morning. Moderate westerly wind shear continues to drive all squalls to the east of the weak low pressure center. However, the upper-level low pressure area over the central Gulf of Mexico continues moving westward. This should allow the wind shear over the disturbance to relax over the next 12-24 hours, allowing it to develop into a tropical storm.

The European model and the United Kingdom model have been performing best with the disturbance. Both models keep the center at least 80 miles east of Florida this weekend. The American model, which had been insisting on a track into the Gulf with landfall on the mid-Gulf Coast has now shifted well east, taking the center along the east coast of Florida this weekend. The trend is farther off the east coast of Florida today. Our track remains to the east of the National Hurricane Center’s track. We think that the NHC will be gradually adjusting their track eastward, farther away from Florida, over the next 24 hours.

We have not made any significant changes to the track or intensity forecast over the first 72 hours of the forecast. Our forecast takes the center about 70 miles to 80 miles east of the Florida Peninsula this weekend as a strengthening tropical storm. This should be far enough offshore such that tropical storm-force winds will remain offshore. Most of the rain should remain east of Florida as well. The one change we made in the track is that we keep the center a little farther south of the coast of the Carolinas next week, with a sharper east-northeasterly turn beyond 72 hours. This should keep all significant weather south of the Carolinas.

Models indicate that the system will likely become a hurricane as it tracks east-northeastward next week. Our forecast is for max sustained winds to reach 105 mph to 110 mph as it tracks well south of the Carolinas on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Expected Impacts on Land

Central and Northern Bahamas: Heavy squalls over the next 48 hours may result in scattered power outages and localized flooding.

Florida Peninsula: Brief heavy showers may cause localized street flooding. Wind gusts to tropical storm-strength along the coast may cause scattered power outages.

Georgia and Carolinas: No significant impacts expected.

Meteorologist: Chris Hebert

The yellow cone represents track error from the previous five years. Over the past five tropical cyclone seasons, the center of the storm tracked within the yellow cone 75% of the time. The cone does not represent the forecast uncertainty in the current advisory for this storm. In addition, strong winds, very high tides, large waves, and heavy rainfall can often extend well outside the yellow cone.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

We need your help at CAN Community Health

To: Vice-Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We need help getting a large generator from our office to CAN Community Health on Fruitville (4440 Fruitville Road) sometime tomorrow. We need a truck with a ramp of some kind because it is heavy but on wheels. Please email AlbaniHogan@gcbx.org if you are able to help!

Albani Hogan

Gulf Coast Builders Exchange

Sarasota

 

We need your help at CAN Community Health

To: Albani Gustason

Thanks for reaching out to me. I have copied the City Manager on this email and he will respond appropriately.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

We need your help at CAN Community Health

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We found a truck for tomorrow. Thanks!

Albani Hogan

Gulf Coast Builders Exchange

Sarasota

 

Ringling Bridge Color Lights

To: Alexandrea Davis Shaw

Can you find out what the range of colors are for the lights below the Ringling Bridge?

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Ringling Bridge Color Lights

To: Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

FDOT told me that they will run through the colors of a rainbow but I will check on what those colors will be for sure and let you know.

Alexandrea Davis Shaw

City Engineer

City of Sarasota

 

Ringling Bridge Color Lights

To: Alexandrea Davis Shaw

So can we do specific colors for specific events?  Say red white and blue for veterans/4th of July?

Hagen Brody

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Question regarding Martin Hyde comments

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I am writing an editorial on comments Mr. Martin Hyde made at a recent City Commission meeting. I am wondering if you would be so kind to call me so I can obtain your comments/response? I am available this evening until 8 p.m., or Wednesday morning. Thank you for your consideration.

Matt Walsh

Observer Media Group, Inc.

 

Question regarding Martin Hyde comments

To: Matt Walsh

My apologies for not getting back to you last night, I didn’t see the email until after 8 p.m. Could you please let me know which comments you are referencing? As you know, I need to be careful, especially with quasi-judicial matters or even matters that foreseeably could become quasi judicial. Also, if something is in litigation, precautions are needed. I have copied the City Attorney on this email as well so he can comment on your response.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Question regarding Martin Hyde comments

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Here’s what I want to discuss:

• Do you feel Martin Hyde is making a positive or negative contribution to the governance of the city when he makes his appearances and comments at every City Commission meeting?

• I know commissioners typically don’t respond to his remarks. Nonetheless, what would you say your typical unspoken response is to his remarks? That’s it.

Matt Walsh

Observer Media Group Inc.

 

Question regarding Martin Hyde comments

To: Matt Walsh

I value all comments from constituents and speakers at City Commission meetings. Having access to, and participating in, local government is one key to democracy and good governance. Commissioners don’t respond to comments because our process does not allow it. I am not sure I understand what you mean by “unspoken response”. However, if you mean my own thoughts, then that would, of course, vary with each comment and each speaker. Thanks for reaching out to me.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue

To: Sherriff Tom Knight & Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette Dipino

Below is a letter I just emailed to Mr. Alan Maio about the situation at Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue.  I am also posing a question to you. Why can we not get more of a police presence on weekends and holidays?  Statistically, most of the accidents occur after midnight, which I suspect is when the bars begin to close.  We continue to hear and see a huge problem with impaired drivers leaving Siesta key on weekends and holiday nights.  Since we have purchased our home, in 2008, we have never once seen any type police presence. I ask the same question of you. How many more crashes and fatalities do we need to see before some action is taken?

Jon Tomares

Sarasota

 

Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue

To: Mayor Liz Alpert

I am writing this letter out of frustration and desperation.  I own a home at La Paloma Avenue on Siesta Key.  The back of my home sits on both Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue.  We have a privacy wall that extends from one end of the property to the other end. We just recently had our fourth automobile hit our wall in less than a two year period.  Because this is our vacation home we can only suspect that it was due to high rates of speed and possibly some impairment. The bend, which I am sure you are aware, is extremely sharp and extremely dangerous, especially at night.  We were staying at the house, in April 2017, when we heard a car hit a tree with such force it shook our house.  Unfortunately, one of the passengers died.  June 14th 2017, four people injured, Sept 28th 2017 a car drove through the park and yet again on February, of this year, a motorcyclist died.  Not to mention the numerous other crashes not reported nor the 4 crashes into our wall that were never reported and has cost us well over $20,000.  This past weekend alone, one on Friday night and one on Saturday night, we heard two automobiles screech to a halt right before the bend.  Thankfully no one was hurt and no one hit our wall again.  I am certain, despite my wife and I not living full time at our place, that this is a common occurrence.  How many more crashes and possible fatalities will it take before you and others take this situation seriously do something about it? The time is now!

I have written to both the Sherriff of Sarasota, The chief of police of Sarasota.  All attached below.  I also sent this letter to Commissioner Maio. How can we get everyone to work together to get something done about this situation?

Jonathan D. Tomares

Sarasota

 

Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue

To: Jon Tomares

I am sorry that this has been your experience. It was my understanding that some steps were being taken to alleviate this dangerous situation. Therefore, I am copying the city managers and police chief for their response.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Hiring opportunities

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I hope all is well since the last time we spoke! I recently returned to Sarasota after spending five months working in Costa Rica. After a lot of thought, I have decided that I want to settle down in Sarasota and start my career. Last time I ran into you (outside of Publix), I remember you suggested working within the city. I was hoping you might have some sort of guidance in terms of job opportunities. My degrees are in Economics and Sustainability Studies and I have a Business Management minor as well. Do you know if there are any positions opening within the city’s  sustainability department? Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Sophia Sanchez

Sarasota

 

Hiring opportunities

To: Sophia Sanchez

Thanks for getting in touch again! So glad you returned to Sarasota but I have heard amazing things about Costa Rica.

I have copied the City Manager, HR Director, Sustainability Manager and City staff in this email as I have nothing to do with hiring and have no idea where opportunities exist, but they do. I am confident someone will get back to you with the information you request. Hope to see you soon!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Parking meter question

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I have a City question for you. I heard on the news that to date, the paid parking has generated almost $100,000. Do you know how much of that amount is from tickets?

Lori Liggett

Sarasota

 

Parking meter question

To: Lori Liggett

Thanks for contacting me regarding parking meter revenue reports. I have copied the parking director, Mr. Mark Lyons, on this email and he will be able to respond with a full breakdown on the revenue.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Open Space Zoning

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Disappointed that the Staff believes that zoning the parks for a POS zone is low priority. It would clarify a question that arose yesterday about what passive uses are. As I said yesterday G -government is not a land use category it just describes who the owner is not its uses. Consistency can be a virtue is the designation of a zone is clear in intent. But one can be consistently wrong and therefore consistency becomes a vice and not a virtue.

Sarasota, as an urban center, can do nuanced zoning which reflects complexity of urban places. An institutional zone could be created for public facilities and churches, temples etc. Then a POS zone for public open space – a POSRF – public space and recreation facilities zone  perhaps to describe active recreational services like ball fields and playgrounds? Just some thoughts.

Larry Grossman

Sarasota

 

Open Space Zoning

To: Larry Grossman

Thanks Larry.

I have copied the City Manager and staff on this email. Hopefully we will continue this discussion.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Wall art

To: Sarasota Commission

The enclosed is meant to ask you to give thought to a similar project on the east-facing wall of the downtown Embassy Suites. That prison-like white facade might give way to an artistic gem of a mural, perhaps becoming an iconic image for the city of Sarasota. If not a contemporary piece, perhaps even a Robert Wyland-type work, featuring manatees rather than his signature whales. Maybe Embassy Suites might be persuaded to sponsor it, as penance for the crime of forcing the citizenry to look out at that stark white blank wall. Thanks for giving this idea a look.  Recall the popularity of the 3D Chalk Festival works. Let me know what you think.

Gerry Shaikun

Sarasota

 

Wall art

To: Laurie Smith

I was driving by the other day and was thinking the same thing.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Wall art

To: Mayor Liz Alpert, Laurie Smith

A mural will soon be placed on this wall. I will forward the suggestions to the property owner, Jim Bridges. Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Deny gas station on dog track property

To: Sarasota City Commission

We want to let you all know, that we are against the building of a gas station on the corner of University and Old Bradenton. We have enough traffic and crime in this area. There is no need for this here. Please do not allow it to go forward.

Ron and Karen Strickland

Sarasota

 

Info regarding dog track site

To: Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

Nothing has been submitted for the dog track site. The convenience store request has been withdrawn.

The affordable housing project was proposing 233 units with 15 percent, or 35 units. They held a Community Workshop, but have nor formally submitted anything yet.

Steven R. Cover

Planning Director

City of Sarasota

 

Question about MURT on Bath & Raquet site plan

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I recently read an email exchange among City officials in the “Sarasota City News” entitled “Bath and Raquet review” In it you  requested “. . .the MURT map (Exhibit B p. 93) larger or at least legible please.”

It’s not clear to me where to find any reference to a MURT adjacent to that project (there are only 81pp in the Application Materials for the DRC meeting of Sept. 4) and I am interested in knowing where a MURT is being considered in that area.

Could you please send me some explanation? I would also appreciate info about where the current southern City limits are. My map is old, and Google doesn’t seem to help. Thank you very much!

Carol Conrad

Sarasota

 

Question about MURT on Bath & Raquet site plan

To: Carol Conrad

Thanks for contacting me. The MURT map request was pertaining to the Auteur project on Boulevard of the Arts and the Auteur’s request to vacate a right-of-way off of Boulevard of the Arts. There are two MURTs planned, one Scenic and one Bayfront and the map I had in my backup material was too small to read. I was provided a much better copy after my request.

I have not seen the updated Bath and Racquet application. The last version I saw was about a year ago, maybe a little less, but not in September 2019.

I have copied the City Manager along with planning staff in case I am incorrect on any of this and to also address your other map request. The City limit line down south in that area is a little funny, so a map will help. I know we have one on the website under GIS, but staff will be able better direct you.

I am confident staff will respond in a timely manner (and copy me as well, please).

Thanks again and I wish you a lovely weekend.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Question about MURT on Bath & Raquet site plan

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Thanks so much! I’m afraid I may have opened a can of worms. It sounds like that newspaper mixed up the context of some of the emails they printed. . .but I didn’t know any MURTs were planned near Blvd. of the Arts. So now I’d like to know more about that. Any chance you could send me the good map you received?

Carol Conrad

Sarasota

 

Question about MURT on Bath & Raquet site plan

To: Carol Conrad

I don’t have a digital copy of the map but have copied staff so they can provide you with the MURT map and any other information you need.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

City of Sarasota 21 & up ordinance

To: Mayor Liz Alpert

Years ago, when minors were creating a crisis by drinking at both City and County bars, I went before both Commissions requesting an Ordinance be passed that barred minors under 21 from any City or County Bar, Club, Lounge, Entertainment Venue, that served 10 percent or less food.

Now, “McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre” which is a very well run, and enjoys an excellent reputation venue, is featuring “Louis C.K.” inviting those 18 and up to attend.

This is in clear violation of the City of Sarasota’s Ordinance.

Minors can’t drink liquor or wine or beer at McCurdy’s, yet they are going to pay $40 to supposedly sit there and watch this Comedian, when in fact, it is in violation of the City’s Ordinance to even allow these minors in.

Would you please take a moment to contact local law enforcement to enforce this ordinance?

When a number of bars on Main Street attempted to invite 18 and up in for bands they were featuring, the City PD immediately notified them, it was in violation of the City’s law. Please protect our youth and let this Comedy Venue appeal to 21 and up per the law.

I had the County of Manatee pass the same Ordinance as well  as the City and County of Sarasota.

Rich Unger

Sarasota

 

City of Sarasota 21 & up ordinance

To: Rich Unger

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am copying the city managers and the city attorney for their response.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

City of Sarasota 21 & up ordinance

To: Mayor Liz Alpert

The last time this occurred downtown, the Mayor at the time sent the SPD to the establishment to order them, cease and stop.

Sending emails may be slow to respond to, thus allowing this event to happen with minors allowed in? They may drink liquor?

What I don’t understand, is why you didn’t send my email to the Chief Of Police?

Rich Unger

Sarasota

 

City of Sarasota 21 & up ordinance

To: Rich Unger

Thanks for the compliment. It’s nice to get them once in awhile.

I am copying the police chief and deputy police chief with this email, so that any appropriate action can be taken.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Downtown Core

To: Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

By copy I am requesting that Planning staff provide an update as to where we are on this direction from the CC that occurred at the discussion about the Palsar zoning request and the issue of the non-implementing zone.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Downtown Core

To: Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

This is a reminder from an earlier conversation to follow up on the request of Staff to look into the Downtown Core land use / zoning issue. As it stands, if a property has a land use of Downtown Core and a non-implementing zoning of, Downtown Edge for example, the only zoning option is Downtown Core. The Commission previously expressed concern over this, asked staff to look into this, and report back. I am respectfully requesting an update on this please, including a timeline.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

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