Where cars and community collide on north Longboat Key

Editor & Publisher

Both historically and to this day, there is a conflict that manifests most every evening in season in the Village of Longboat Key.

And that conflict arrives in the form of hundreds if not thousands of diners who descend on two of the island’s most popular eateries – The Mar Vista and The Shore.

The nexus of the conflict is born from the fact that the two restaurants are surrounded by the otherwise quiet residential Village.

The other fact is in the case of especially The Mar Vista, the on-site parking is not adequate to meet even a fraction of its nightly customers, and the town has allowed expansions in the seating and scale of the operation over the past years.

In the last two years, Village residents flooded town commission meetings demanding that various parking constraints be put in place so that their streets would not simply serve as an evening parking lot for the restaurants.

More specifically, residents requested that the town erect ‘No Parking’ signs on at least one side of the numerous roads surrounding the restaurants. The Town complied.

Another initiative, which the town also agreed to enact, was the reduction of the speed limit on Broadway from 30 mph to 20 mph.

As the 2020 busy season approaches, there has been an uptick in enforcement by Longboat Key Police of these recent initiatives. Last week, the town police department purchased its first-ever electronic speed radar trailer. The trailer displays the speed of oncoming traffic and flashes it to alert the driver. The trailer is being placed immediately on Broadway to help hold the line at the 20 mph speed limit.

Police Chief Pete Cumming says the increased patrols and enforcement in the Village is a direct result of resident complaints.

On the legislative front, the Town Commission will consider what staff refers to as a “surgically targeted amendment,” to also address concerns raised by Village residents.

In this case, the issue is residents say visitors are not complying with the 15-foot setback requirement from private driveways along the south side of Broadway. These areas are presently striped diagonally, and the complaint is that vehicles overhang the painted areas and enforcement has been lacking. Staff points out in a memo that the amendment the commission will consider on Monday will help rectify this situation.

The conundrum is the police department cannot ticket vehicles that have been encroaching into the diagonally striped setback areas because Town Code currently only prohibits encroachments that block a driveway.

The new language will codify a 15-foot setback from driveways along the south side of Broadway Street if the commission votes for adoption.

Another code amendment will fix what staff calls “an unintended mismatch” between existing No Parking signs on several Village streets that have no corresponding prohibition in Town Code. This simply means the Town cannot put up No Parking signs that are not backed up with a written code provision.

Between the additional enforcement, the blinking radar trailer, and the adoption of a 15-foot parking setback on Broadway, Village residents hope to experience a more manageable environment during the dinner hour.

One variable that will become clearer is how the parking situation with these new controls will evolve now that The Shore Restaurant is open, The Mar Vista has finished its expansion project and the busy season arrives.

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