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Editorial Letters – Week ending May 29, 2020

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 Longboat Key Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues as well as Sarasota City Hall that address Sarasota issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Bicycle safety on Gulf of Mexico Drive

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

As a frequent biker on GMD, I’d like to share some concerns and suggestions for my safety as well as other bicyclists. Unfortunately, the bike lanes on either side of GMD are too narrow and very few drivers bother to move over to give bikes a width berth….which is both unnerving and potentially dangerous. I’ve had way too many close calls with oblivious drivers. Thus, a few ideas, some easy, some more long term:

1. Post signs encouraging drivers to move over at least a few feet for bikers…even if it means crossing a double yellow

2. Prohibit (and fine) parked trucks, garbage cans and other obstructions on the bike lanes.

3. Remove grass where it encroaches on the bike lane (common on southbound GMD)

4. Replace double yellow with passing lines wherever possible…to encourage drivers to move over

All of these can be implemented quickly with minimal cost. In the long run, ideally, the bike lanes should be widened by a few feet, with some sort of buffer zone installed between traffic lanes and bike lane.

Jim Haft

Longboat Key

 

Bicycle safety on Gulf of Mexico Drive

To: James Haft

Mr. Haft,  thank you for your email. I will share it with our Public Works Director Isaac Brownman. His Department coordinates with the State of Florida on any maintenance issues and or proposed improvements.

As you may be aware Gulf of Mexico Drive is a State Road- State Road 789.  We will also  pass along your comments to the Florida Department of Transportation. You should expect to hear back from our Public Works Department on you input.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Bicycle safety on Gulf of Mexico Drive

To: Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman

In light of the accident yesterday on Gulf of Mexico Drive where two cyclists were injured (albeit by road debris), I thought I would respond to your last email with some photos.

Path Width/Choke Points: In many places the Gulf of Mexico Drive bike path is as narrow as two feet. Suffice it to say, having cars blast past, sometimes just inches away, is both unnerving and dangerous. The attached pics were all taken on the southbound lanes of Gulf of Mexico Drive from about the 6800 block to just past Bayfront park. These pics document just four choke points….many more exist.  By the way, the average bike is about two feet wide.

Garbage Cans:    Often times garbage and recycling containers are placed where they encroach onto the bike lines…. creating even more choke points. Cans should be left on the grass, not on the pavement. Whether this is done by homeowners or the garbage-men, I don’t know, but with public education, notices to Waste Management and, if necessary, citations to homeowners, this  should be easily avoided.

Gravel:   Properties owners with gravel driveways should be instructed to periodically sweep the gravel from the bike lanes.   Gravel presents a hazard, especially to road bikes with narrow tires. It may also force bikers to veer out into the traffic lane to avoid.

Foliage:  In some areas bushes extend over the bike path.  Homeowners should be required to trim back both bushes and grass.  However, in the attached picture (near the hardware store) I believe the village may own the land.

Signage:   In response to your concern about a “proliferation of signs”, I would suggest that public safety should trump that.   Moreover, what few bike warning signs there are all say “Right Turn Yield to Bikes”, with a “Bike Path” sign on top. The pictures show two of these Right Turn Yield  signs in a stretch where no right turns are possible…except into the ocean. Also, I’m not sure what the “Bike Path” sign on top is supposed to accomplish…. of course it’s a bike path. If the Village can’t or won’t add more signs,  then I would suggest that all of the “Bike Path”  signs be replaced by “Move Over five feet for Bikes”.   By the way, I have never had a car cut me off by turning right, but on every ride cars wiz past too close for comfort….often less than a foot away… a far more significant danger.

If you have not done so, I would suggest you personally take a bike ride up and down Gulf of Mexico Drive to experience these issues first hand. I would hope that the Village would address these issues before a fatality occurs.

James G. Haft

Longboat Key

 

Bicycle safety on Gulf of Mexico Drive

To: James Haft

Thank you for your email.  Here are some answers to your questions and responses to your suggestions:

The standard for bicycle lanes on state roads was four (4) feet wide for many years.  The bike lanes on Longboat Key are actually wider than 4-feet, in many cases, between 4-feet and 5-feet.  The State has since recognized that four (4) foot bike lanes may not be ideal for bicyclists, although it was the accepted standard.  The latest Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) standards for new construction include 7-foot wide “buffered” bike lanes.  For reconstruction projects, the bike lane can be anywhere from 4 to 7-feet wide depending on available space.  While neither the Town nor the state have a current project to retrofit the Gulf of Mexico Drive corridor, the Town’s long-term plan/vision for Gulf of Mexico Drive (“GMD”) does include wider bike lanes, trails on both sides and center medians.  It will just take time and money from both the Town and the state to implement.  The Town is working on smaller projects to start incorporating these elements.  For example, a roundabout at Broadway Street at Gulf of Mexico Drive and a turn-lane project at the south end are under design, both of which are intended to include enhanced safety elements.

Longboat Key strives to minimize the proliferation of signs along  GMD providing for an enhanced appearance.  The Town is careful about placing additional signage on GMD as this has been a topic of discussion in the past with the Town Commission.  Important factors to consider prior to adding additional signs include how often, proper spacing…and ultimately, are they effective?  There may be an opportunity to place a sign at each entry point of the island, but we would need to discuss such internally and then work with FDOT regarding this proposal.  There may be other options and we will pass along the concerns below to FDOT to seek their feedback.   

The double yellow line on the roadway is also to discourage drivers from unsafe passing, and were likely established when the roadway was designed based on engineering analysis

of safe stopping sight distance.  We would not recommend changing that without having FDOT reviewing the original design and perform an engineering study demonstrating safety is maintained for motorists as well.  Since the Town has recently asked FDOT to look for ways to increase safety on GMD, including motorists, the lane lines being modified from solid to skip is probably not likely.

For the maintenance of the bike lane, we will forward these concerns to FDOT; they have been very responsive in sending out maintenance crews to correct such issues.  On some segments of the road, we (Town) correct ourselves based on a mowing contract we maintain for portions of Gulf of Mexico Drive.  We will check our segments as well and make sure they are properly trimmed.

The collection of trash and recycling is a challenge.  By contract, our residents are expected to place carts at or near the curb line and that the service provider has unobstructed access from the street.  On Gulf of Mexico Drive, this typically means our provider also needs to pull into the bike lane to service.

I have copied our Town Police Chief regarding your question regarding bike lane enforcement for parking obstructions. Please let us know if you have additional questions; we will forward your email to FDOT as well.

Isaac Brownman

Director Public Works

Longboat Key

 

Blake Fleetwood’s article on Covid-19 deaths in Sarasota/Manatee

To: Editor

Bravo! This is what newspapers do, and often it is the weeklies that get the word out to the community.  Blake Fleetwood has covered the story that some are covering up.

The craven behavior of the “keepers of the statistics” is business as usual in a dictatorship, not in a democracy.  The fact that people are getting sick and dying, how many, where they lived, who they talked to and their names should be public information.

The beacon we all must follow is the truth. We need to know everything we can about how this disease is moving through our neighborhoods. That depends on government officials making information easily available, and when they don’t we need to go after them. Misrepresenting the pandemic statistics for any purpose, no less politics, will be devastating and singularly immoral.

Thanks for your good work, Blake. And rest in peace to our friends and neighbors who died of this dreadful disease.   

Randi Kreiss

Longboat Key

 

Hurricane Preparedness: Medically Dependent

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Commissioner Bishop, as requested, here is the information that the Fire Chief sent out for medically dependent citizens- see email below and attachment.  Please let me know if you have any further questions or if there is an individual that we should follow-up with.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Hurricane Preparedness: Medically Dependent

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

As we approach the Hurricane Season, I want to ensure information is being disseminated on all aspects of hurricane preparedness.

Attached is a pictures of shelter space for both the general population as well as those that are medically dependent.

It is very important for the Longboat Key Emergency Management Team to have the phone numbers of those residents that are dependent on a care giver, oxygen therapy, confined to a bed, etc.  If you know someone within your neighborhood or complex that fall within the medically dependent category, please make sure they contact 316-1944 and ask for Nick who will assist them.

I will be sending out a few more reminders as we move forward with preparation of a severe storm.

If you have any questions or concerns with preparedness, please contact the Fire Department at 316-1944. Thank you!

Paul Dezzi

Fire Chief

Longboat Key

 

Visit Sarasota update

To: Sarasota City Commission

I hope you have been exercising and dieting because the best two weeks in Sarasota County are about to begin.  Visit Sarasota County’s Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week is June 1-14 with dozens of area restaurants featuring multi-course lunch and dinner menus for just $16 and $32 per person.  Though #SavorSarasota is not exactly the same Restaurant Week, we can still eat local and savor while social distancing.  Be sure to check with participating restaurants about dining in or taking your savory meal to-go.

Sadly I do have to report our April visitor numbers.  Lets remember that we had the best February ever and now to the worst month for tourism we have ever endured.

April 2020 visitors were down 94.6% compared to April 2019 with only 7,200 all month

Their spending dropped by 93.8% to $8,139,199.

Lodging occupancy dropped by 87.8% to 9.2%.  On bright spot is that the average daily rate drop was not as steep as the occupancy – ADR dropped 53% to $94.92

Finally room nights sold dropped by 92.2% to 20,700 sold.

On behalf of the tourism industry, I want to express my thanks to Sarasota County leadership and Commission for quickly responding to the Governor’s call for a vacation rental plan and opening up this important segment of our market.  Thanks too to the County and our municipalities for acting so quickly to help our restaurants and retail businesses with creative solutions for more outdoor activities, signage etc.  You made a real difference for our small businesses.

Virginia J. Haley

President

Visit Sarasota County

 

Two new zoning changes

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I hope you are doing well and are healthy during this health crisis.

I understand that the P & Z Board approved 2 zoning changes which you will discuss at the next commission meeting. I wrote an email to the Planning and Zoning board in opposition to the changes, but I understand that it was not read or considered by the Board.

I am sharing the reason for Joanne’s and my opposition to the changes to Ordinances 2020-5 and 2020-7 which I hope will be a factor in deciding how you will vote on these changes.

We are full time residents of Longboat Key, Florida. We purchased our home in Country Club Shores in 2012 and did a complete renovation of the interior and made a substantial investment in the updating of our property. It is a single-story house which is what we wanted.

We are in opposition to proposed changes to the Single-Family Structure Height, including Daylight Plane Requirements of ordinance 2020-07. We believe that this change if enacted will have a material negative impact on both the marketability of our house and its fair market value.

The proposed change is unnecessary and will cause our property to be subject to greater shadows during the day and impact our property value. In addition, the proposed change will allow a newly constructed home to be closer to our home than the present site requirements. This again would be a substantial negative factor to the fair market value of our property and our privacy.

We believe that the existing code is reasonable, has proven to be effective to achieve the building requirements on Longboat key and has withstood the tests of time as the proper solution for new construction.

We are also opposed to the changes of ordinance 2020-05. The background and reason for this are contained in a document prepared by the Board of our country club shores association IV which I believe will be provided to all commissioners.

In summary, we hope that the commissioners will:

1.  Keep the 30 ft height limit; do not change the codes to allow more height

2.  Keep the current daylight plane codes

Thank you for your service to all of us who live in Longboat Key.

John and Joanne Forch

Longboat Key

 

Two new zoning changes

To: John Forch

Thanks, John.  We’re fine and hope and Joanne are doing well too.  Our only complaint is missing the Colorado grandchildren.

You are correct that both of these matters will come before the Town Commission, probably on July 1.  I am forwarding your note to Allen Parsons, our Director of Planning and Zoning so that he may consider it in preparing staff comments. Be well.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Flooding at Gulfside Road

To: Longboat Key Town Mayor Ken Schneier

I live at the corner of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Gulfside Rd. on the north end of Longboat Key where there is a dire need to us to have valves put in there as the street gets so flooded during any heavy rain and floods the bus stop beside the house, and we cannot get our cars out of the driveway. All the homes down this street are in dire need of the valves you are putting in to help cut down on flooding. There are always signs in the road about high water every time it rains. Please put us on the list to add those valves at this corner of Gulfside and Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Larry Gay Reagan and Joan Johnson

Longboat Key

 

Need for valves for flooding

To: Larry Gay Reagan

I have forwarded your note to Town Manager Tom Harmer and Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman.  I know there has been some success with the new Wastop valves at the North End, and Isaac can tell you whether your property is in the current plans or can be added.  Thanks.

Ken Schneier

Mayor, Longboat Key

 

Flooding at Gulfside Road

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Thank you very much. I have lived permanently on the Key for many years, and this problem of the flooding on this end is dire. Sometimes the water has come into my downstairs area just from normal rain. I would certainly like this corner of Gulfside Rd. north end put on the list to get those valves. It affects quite a few houses down this street and in the cul de sac.

Larry Gay Reagan

Longboat Key

 

Construction at Buttonwood

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Commissioner Bishop- Thanks for your questions regarding: 1) the citation within the Florida Building Code that regulates building permit timing and activity; and 2) the status of the under-construction homes at 500/550 Buttonwood Dr.

1. Florida Building Code Sections 105.4.1 and 105.4.1.3 govern the process of extending building permits after an inspection is approved. Every permit issued shall become invalid unless the work on the site authorized by such permit is commenced within 180 days after its issuance, or if the work authorized on the site by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days after the time the work is commenced. Failure to obtain an approved inspection within 180 days of the previous approved inspection constitutes suspension or abandonment. The building official is authorized to grant, in writing, one or more extensions of time, for periods not more than 180 days each. It isn’t unusual to extend permits as work proceeds through various activities starting with framing, through the interior completions and final inspections.

2. The latest information on the under-construction houses at 500/550 Buttonwood is that their permits could expire on 10/25/2020, without additional inspection approvals.

Allen Parsons

Director Planning, Zoning & Building Department

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Hi BJ.  The village parking topic was on the February workshop agenda where many folks spoke in support of addressing the parking issues. Since then many have sent emails.  Is another meeting really necessary to move forward with some remedy? As I recall, there was only one objection to resident permit parking, that was someone wanted to be able to park his vehicle and boat trailer on the village streets.   There is an easy fix for this. There are 5 boat ramp parking spots (if people park correctly) for vehicles with trailers. Instead of allowing the Mar Vista employees to park there just make 3 of the 5 spots for only vehicles with boat trailers.   After the 5 boat ramp spots become filled then the individual will need to go to Coquina Beach just a mile or so north to launch.  Coquina Beach has a modern boat ramp and plenty of parking that wouldn’t impact neighborhood streets. If Longboat residents need more ramps and trailer parking, then address this and build them.

We would certainly welcome another workshop and repeat explaining the problems and our recommended fix.   Please see the Commission and workshop videos of the past two years  and recent emails for what people are likely to say.

Pete Rowan

Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

In response to your letter of yesterday Wednesday, May 27,  replying to opinions and questions regarding the parking chaos existing in the Village neighborhood on Longboat Key, I notice the lingering idea that the issue is open to worldwide, islandwide vote. If that were the case, there would not be hundreds of RPP districts in this country and thousands worldwide.  It is not up for public vote.  It is up to Commission vote based on evidence and law.

Our (the Residents of the 100+ year old Longbeach Village) request to our government for protection, via Resident Permit Parking, is exactly the same as that made by every community or segment of community worldwide that has found itself overrun by public intrusion: traffic, speeding, parking, trash, noise day and into the night, confrontation from too many people wanting to use this community for whatever reason. Without a doubt, the greater public doing the intruding will cry out “No; we have rights!  We pay taxes! We need! We want!” Of course they will!  Absolutely!

In these United States, this exact scenario was taken all the way to the US Supreme Court. The ruling was and is:   permit parking is legal under certain conditions.  This village is suffering nearly every one of those conditions:  the ‘whereases’ found in ordinances such as the one we seek.   Neighborhoods can be and should be protected from the abuses of the great big world by way of local governments creating ordinances to restore peace.  I have submitted documents and half a dozen sample ordinances to the Commission for your review to make the task easier.

This issue is not, and should not be, up for public vote. One of the neighborhoods you are pledged to protect is in trouble and cannot regain its stollen quality of ordinary daily life without your help. We’ve provided proof of our atrocious circumstances.  The law to fix the problem exists. Nearly 100% of the residents in this residential neighborhood are willing to live with Permit Parking.  It’s all you need! The rest of the world, State, county, Longboat Key will adjust.   

Please just start the process.

Thank you  for your consideration,

Carla Rowan

Longboat Key

 

Village parking issue

To: Carla Rowan

I’m not sure where the idea arose that any Village parking proposals would involve an islandwide vote. To my knowledge there is no such requirement, and the only related suggestion I have seen was Mr. Jaleski’s recent proposal of a neighborhood-sponsored, islandwide referendum on the subject.  Even were a referendum held, I believe these decisions should ultimately rest with the island’s elected representatives.  We are not passing the buck.

As for legality, it seems clear that RPP’s are legal in some locations under some circumstances.  It also is clear that no one is suggesting that Village roads be restricted to resident traffic. The narrow question is whether non-residents of the Village, including other Longboat Key taxpayers, Village restaurant customers, Linley boat ramp patrons and beachgoers, should be forbidden from parking anywhere on Village public streets at any time.

This is a big step and involves the balancing of legitimate rights on both sides of the question.  It also requires that we deal with facts as they now exist and not as they existed in the past.  What should have been done or not done by prior Commissions provides context but cannot dictate the right answer now.  That the Commission takes the Village’s complaints seriously is demonstrated by the many steps short of an RPP taken so far to try to fix the problem, including off-site parking requirements that have not yet been fully implemented.  Other such steps, such as restricted parking hours, may be considered as well.

As has been said, we are committed to a public meeting before Summer recess to discuss all these issues in open forum.  I look forward to “seeing” you and Pete there.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Village Parking

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

I received emails from each of you today regarding Village parking and the proposed RPP; many preceded yours and I know there will be more.  I apologize that we have been unable to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.  It’s easy to blame everything on the pandemic, but we have thought it important to try to discuss this controversial matter in a physical meeting where residents and Commissioners can get all views on the table in person and in an open forum.

It is still my hope that we can do this soon, but if a physical meeting can’t be held safely, we do plan to schedule a discussion of Village parking by Zoom or otherwise before Summer recess.  I hope that everyone involved understands that it is never easy to resolve issues concerning competing rights to the use of public property and that we will continue to do our best to reach a fair solution.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Lighting issue on Longboat Club Road

To: Dorothy O’Brien

The lights on LBC Rd. seem to be functioning in accordance with the turtle designations. They came on promptly at 8:30 this evening. Thank you all for your help and cooperation. David, a special thank

The lights on Longboat Club Road seem to be functioning in accordance with the turtle designations.  They came on promptly at 8:30 this evening. Thank you all for your help and cooperation.  David, a special thanks to you for acting with such alacrity.

Sherry Dominick

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Lighting issue on Longboat Club Road

To: Dorothy O’Brien

Tom Harmer and Alan Parsons have been working  diligently with FPL to address the lighting issue on Longboat Club Road. Yesterday David Heiser, Customer Advisor, Major and Government Accounts from FPL, was on the Longboat Club Road and reviewing the attached sheet which I had provided to the Town (inventorying the current light status).  He stopped by and said that FPL will be dispatched to correct the turtle lighting situation promptly but did not have a specific date yet. Thank you for your continued patience.

Sherry Dominick

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Lighting issue on Longboat Club Road

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Sherry Dominick

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ll pass this on to the Board.

Dorothy O’Brien

Longboat Key

 

Dave Bullock meeting

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Mike Haycock

Last week you said that you were available to have the call with Dave Bullock this Thursday, May 28 at 1pm.  My apologies  that you have not received the calendar invite yet.  We would like to ask if next Tuesday, June 2 at 10am works as well for you.  Some of the documents are being updated on our end and I won’t know until tomorrow if they’d be ready by this Thursday at 1pm.

Please let me know if both dates would work for you and tomorrow by 11 a.m. I’ll have a calendar invite in your in-box for one of the dates.

Again, we know that you are available Thursday, May 28 at 1 p.m., the question is if  you could possibly be available on Tuesday, June 2 at 10 a.m. if the date needed to change.

Our apologies for this possible change (it might not change at all). Thank you for your patience.

Liliana Zindler

Assistant to the President

Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

 

Board meeting

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

I hope that you enjoyed the Board meeting this morning. I am here to hopefully set up a call with Dave Bullock to go over the new Board member orientation.  There are a series of documents to go through and we would like to ask if you are most comfortable with electronic files, that we can e-mail to you or if you prefer for us to put all the documents in a binder that you can keep at your fingertips. Please share your preference for the document delivery so we can get it to you.

Please also let me know if you are available next Thursday, May 28 after 1 p.m. (if so, what is the best hour after 1 p.m.?). Looking forward to hearing from you.

Liliana Zindler

Assistant to the President

Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

 

Neighbors helping neighbors

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Greetings all. Hope this email finds you well. I am the North Captain for the Longboat Key Neighbors Helping Neighbors.  I wanted to provide an update on this week’s conference call which took place yesterday morning. Please share this information with your neighbors.

While the State is going through mixed phase of reopening, Longboat Key is taking a much more incremental approach with more to follow in the next 2-4 weeks. The Town’s latest order expires on May 31st. Meetings are occurring this week to determine next town order.  They are considering items such as town internal operations and meetings. The next order issued will take the town through mid-June.

Vacation rentals are reopened.  The Fire Dept. is getting calls about this. If you return from a “hot spot” state, you need to self-quarantine for two weeks. You are still allowed to do essentials such as grocery shopping and outdoor exercising.    

Again, if there are any concerns or questions about short-term rentals or use of the beach, please call the non-emergency number 941-316-1201.    

Longboat Key has had ambassador/beach patrols for the last two weeks to monitor social distancing on the beach. Everyone is doing a good job of following social distancing guidelines.   

The question was asked about open houses resuming which has been approved in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Chief Dezzi advised he would get back with some direction from LBK on that issue.

The Chamber of Commerce is still closed to  visitors. If someone wants brochures, they will gather them and place them on a table for retrieval by visitor.

Pam Anderson

Longboat Key

 

Village parking issues

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Thanks for the update.

I believe the village parking solution bring put forth does not restrict access to village streets and they would remain open to thru traffic as they are in other communities with permit parking codes. This does not appear to be a legal problem.

The two restaurants in the village already have adequate off street parking per town code, just like the two restaurants on St. Judes, so that should not be an issue legally.

As the commission has already restricted parking in the village, like most communities restrict parking, I do not understand your repeated assertion that there are some sort of public access rights to be considered.

No one is asking the commission to turn the village streets into private thoroughfares,  and the town already restricts parking island-wide. For example, St. Jude’s Streets have no parking at all, just like the village is requesting, and there are two restaurants on St. Jude’s just like the village.

The permit parking issue has been found both legal and viable by the town staff, the commission tasked to evaluate permit parking as a solution to over-commercialization of the village.

Please, if you have specific legally substantiated problems with permit parking in the village, please inform us of those objections so that we may respond without dragging this process out further.

Our community wants a specific response from the commission before summer recess, unless there are specific legal issues still unresolved, though the staff report said there were none.

The town staff report appears to be an adequate and comprehensive analysis, with guidence. Now the commission needs to take action. This process has been dragging on for too many years.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Village Parking

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

The Village on Longboat Key continues to be a parking lot for all the restaurants, beach goers and boat trailers and I am dismayed on why?

The three restaurants have their own parking lots, there is public parking for the beach and boat trailers have parking by the boat ramp. The parking lots are more than ample for each of the above if used properly. However, the streets of the Village will continue to be inundated with parked cars and boat trailers until street parking is no longer an option for them.

The Village, like many other places here and around the country are experiencing conditions similar to ours.  However, their governing body has implemented residential parking to help these neighborhoods regain some sort of normality.  The Village residents are asking for the same consideration.   

So I ask you, what do we (residents, town and commissioners)  need to do to implement residential permit parking?

Becky Parrish

Longboat Key

 

Village Parking

To: Becky Parrish

I received emails from each of you today regarding Village parking and the proposed RPP; many preceded yours and I know there will be more.  I apologize that we have been unable to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.  It’s easy to blame everything on the pandemic, but we have thought it important to try to discuss this controversial matter in a physical meeting where residents and Commissioners can get all views on the table in person and in an open forum.

It is still my hope that we can do this soon, but if a physical meeting can’t be held safely, we do plan to schedule a discussion of Village parking by Zoom or otherwise before Summer recess.  I hope that everyone involved understands that it is never easy to resolve issues concerning competing rights to the use of public property and that we will continue to do our best to reach a fair solution.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Ban neighborhood commercialization

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

https://pamplinmedia.com/lor/49-opinion/406844-304837-ban-neighborhood-commercialization

There is absolutely no difference between AirB&B party houses and over-developed busy restaurants in any residential neighborhood. The impact on the surrounding community is the same – greatly increased traffic, noise, strangers walking the streets, parking congestion, crime and decreased safety.

No residential property owner benefits from hyper-commercialism.

The reasoning expressed in this article closely resembles the sentiments of Longboat residents I talk to. We are a beautiful residential community.

The restaurants existed peacefully within the village for decades just because they were small and complimented the surrounding community.  The town failed to competently manage the  growth of the restaurants, and that lead to the present untenable situation,  where the interests of two business owners appears to have more gravitas at town hall, than the wellbeing of hundreds of village residents.

Now that things have reached a breaking point,  it is doubtful that the village will stop trying to reclaim their community.

That property values are being affected by over commercialization in the village will most likely become a component in the ongoing  struggle to once again have peace and quiet in the village.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Traffic petition

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

We sent the petition off to the leadership with about 1,400 signatures on it. Unfortunately we forget about this critical problem when many of our neighbors go North.

One of the things confusing about the vision and mission, (I use those terms loosely), of traffic “planning” in Sarasota is the apparent lack of consideration of our area age demographics, tourist mix and weather.

We have an older average age population, many who cannot walk around or ride bikes in 90 weather, dodging frequent thunderstorms five or six months a year.  Also, older drivers aren’t as aggressive and are higher rated by insurance companies due to risk.

Tourists, many unfamiliar with our area, sometimes exhibit understandably confused driving, to be kind. Again, the weather is not conducive to riding bikes or taking a stroll downtown in late Spring, Summer and early Fall. It is hot, humid and wet!

In addition, the shocking lack of growth planning and consideration of the impact of and on Sarasota barrier islands makes no sense!

As an aside, we went through the 10th street and 41 partially opened roundabout this afternoon and no one was yielding to 10th street traffic. US 41 traffic was just powering on and people on Tenth had to gut it up and jump in where there was a slight opening.

Should be “fun” in season!

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Mayor, thanks for the email. Look forward to discussing when we meet tomorrow afternoon. Based on my discussion with Pete and Carla, I included the issue of scheduling the Village Parking workshop discussion as part of my COVID-19 Update on the 6/1 meeting. We will review the meeting schedule through 7/1.  I plan to ask the Commission if they would like to discuss this issue before the July/August recess. If so, I think it will need to be in a virtual format.

We obviously paused the original follow-up discussion due to COVID-19 and concerns about scheduling an item with significant public interest. At the time we had not scheduled our first virtual meeting and future agenda items in a virtual format were very limited on purpose. We are still under a declared emergency and have not yet scheduled any Commission items that are expected to generate a lot of public participation.

The staff still has some practical concerns about conducting a virtual meeting with a large number of public wanting to participate but the Rowan’s offered to help coordinate and limit the number speakers from the Village. There are a couple options in a virtual format before recess and obviously an opportunity right after recess that may be in a more traditional meeting format depending on the status of the pandemic.  Will review those options with the Commission on Monday.

For Pete’s benefit I wanted to clarify a couple of his comments.

Here are the approved minutes from the February workshop when the Commission last discussed this issue. There was no direction from the Commission to prepare a resident only parking program ordinance.

February 18, 2020 Workshop Minutes:

“Following comments, there was consensus to direct Staff to evaluate the legality of resident parking only and to inventory actual use of existing spaces.”

“There was consensus to evaluate legality to require employees to park off site. There was consensus to seek feedback from the Village residents on the utilization of speed tables.”

The staff completed their follow up as did the Town Attorney and we provided that report to the Commission even though the workshop meeting was cancelled.

Pete also mentioned Town progress on a home lightning rod initiative. I just wanted to clarify that is not a Town initiative. It is a privately initiated text amendment and has not yet come before the Commission.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Village Parking Situation

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Hi Ken. With the cancellation of the commission workshops, we are disappointed that progress on the Longbeach Village parking situation appears to be stalled. We expected that the Covid situation would impact progress. However, with the state, counties, and towns moving forward on reopening, we anticipated that through virtual meetings via Zoom, or just email communications, that the work on the parking ordinance, or at least a detailed outline, would be further along.

In the February workshop we believe we heard the commission agree to the following important actions:

1. Request Town attorney to review the Commission’s legal authority to implement and execute an RPP program. The detailed assessment has been completed by Town Attorney and it has been determined that there are no legal barriers for the Commission to proceed, implement , and execute an RPP program (our layman’s paraphrase of her summary)

2. Request town staff to proceed with the creation of a RPP ordinance – specific to the issues impacting the residents of Longbeach Village. Stated at the workshop:

You said you were “not opposed … critical situation … we should not wait to do these things and they should not be done Indian file”.

Randy Clair asked for a draft RPP ordinance.

George Spoll indicated he thought that a draft ordinance was already included in the first (the legality topic) consensus.

3. In parallel with the above, assess the impact of the restaurant off-site parking plans.   (The Shore shuttle is operational, the Mar Vista lot hasn’t had any work done lately)

As a result, we thought we would be getting a draft ordinance that could be voted on fairly quickly.

In a May 20 conference call with Tom Harmer and Allen Parsons it was discovered that no action has been taken to create an RPP ordinance, and no follow-on work, since early March. The staff report, in preparation for the since canceled March Workshop, is the last thing we have seen from the town regarding this issue. Yet we do see town progress on other initiatives (e.g. home lightning rods).

Ken could you please:

1. Ensure that this topic is included on the agenda for the June 1 commission meeting

2. Proceed with the June 15 Commission Workshop. While we would appreciate an actual meeting, we understand that an alternative forum maybe necessary, i.e. a virtual meeting, so that this topic can be discussed.

3. Direct staff to develop and prepare a town RPP ordinance for the Longbeach Village district that outlines the specific scope, requirements and provisions. This document should enable the required discussion and should enable a path for a commission consensus and vote.

As always we, and many folks in the Longbeach Village, are available to discuss this topic in whatever format, given the present advised social distancing.

Pete and Carla Rowan

Longboat Key

 

Would you please protect the 30-foot height limit for our residential area?

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I watched as Planning and Zoning Board essentially let a salesman rewrite our code. I would have expected the Planning and Zoning Board to have asked for real data as regards the functional difference between lightning rods and lightning “prohibitors.” The Planning and Zoning Board just believed without data. Please uphold the aesthetics of our neighborhood against what looks like flying saucers that look as bad as electrical wires. Thanks.

Lynn Cook

Longboat Key

 

Would you please protect the 30-foot height limit for our residential area?

To: Lynn Cook

Thanks for your note.  Please attend the Commission meeting addressing this matter if you can.  I believe it will be on July 1.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Longboat Key Beaches

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

I apologize for interrupting your long weekend, but it appears we need some clarity on the current restrictions for our town beaches. It was our impression, as confirmed by current info on the town website, that beaches are only open to residents. If this is incorrect, I apologize  in advance for being uninformed.

However, at 10:45 as we left the Whitney Beach there was a large gathering of people on the beach to the north side of the access, with literally a dozen or more people approaching the beach access. When I called the number we had been given to report issues, the dispatcher I spoke to insisted our beaches were open to anyone. She did take my information and my complaint and said she would notify Longboat Key Police Department but they were busy with an incident on Gulf of Mexico Drive, which was completely understandable. On entering the Village  and being appalled at the parking situation (which answered the question of where all these people had parked!) we had the opportunity to speak to an Longboat Key officer who also insisted the beaches were open to other than town residents.

Could you please clarify the situation? We are already dealing with major parking issues and holiday weekends always make it worse. It would be helpful if we were all on the same page at least as to who is allowed on the beach. At the very least, those on the beach were in large groups, with no separation between them. Thank you so much for your time and service to our town.

Jill Nemeth

Longboat Key

 

Longboat Key Beaches

To: Jill Nemeth

Ms. Nemeth, thank you for your email. As you mention, this holiday weekend is going to be a busy weekend on the island.  In addition to visitors driving to or through the area both Counties have reduced the restrictions on vacation rentals as of yesterday as part of the re-openings that are occurring around the State.

The Town never closed the beaches. We only closed the closest public parking to our beach access points to try and reduce the total number of people on the beach. Those parking areas remain closed this holiday weekend.

The Town will have someone out on the beaches monitoring the activity and are in touch with the police in case there is any inappropriate behavior.

We also have extra officers on patrol throughout the weekend. I copied our Police Chief so he is aware of your concerns.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Rich McGrath

Any opportunities for the Friends of Tennis? Have a great holiday weekend.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

I am meeting today with Kay and another TC member to discuss funding for TC employees.  I will keep you posted.

Rich McGrath

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Rich McGrath

Thank you Rich.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

I met with Kay and Joe Meth today. We discussed Friends of Tennis funding Tennis Center employees but nothing decided yet. I am going to get with Dave Gutridge, who is president of the Key Club’s Tennis Association to see how they handle the funding of their employees.

Also Kay does not want us to use the Tennis Center’s membership list which I understand. We discussed the web sites of “Go Fund Me” as an alternative as well as individual email lists that I have, Joe has, and anyone else who put together tennis groups, etc.

We also discussed the USTA Recovery Grant and all agreed that those funds should not go towards any employee supplement but is designed for the “TC Facility” only. That is how Kay and I see it. Your thoughts?

Rich McGrath

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Rich McGrath

My thought is, on behalf of the Friends of Tennis, to solicit funds informally as done periodically in the past, and as you commented, including from tennis groups regularly enjoying the Tennis Center facilities . In any event, count me in personally for financial support. Again, thanks for all your efforts in support of the Tennis Center employees.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

Ok, I will get back to you as things develop.

Rich McGrath

Longboat Key

 

Parking in the Village

To: Jim Brown

Hi Jim. We thank you very much for your many years of service to the town. Your contributions have been greatly appreciated. We would like to clarify a few points in your recent email regarding the parking problems in the Longbeach Village

Your statement that the town has “(not) allowed increase to the restaurants over the years“ is completely incorrect. This statement is totally untrue in 2 significant ways:

1. Dining Seats have increased

a) The Mar Vista has increased from 52 seats to 169 over the years. When the Mar Vista outside deck was built we were promised that no food would ever be served out there.

b) The Shore, formerly Moore’s, has also increase the number of seats from 150 to 185. But while Moore’s was not operating at full capacity when sold, the new Shore is running at full capacity. More capacity = more cars.

2. Restaurant Size and Capacity have increased

a) The Mar Vista was originally contained entirely indoors. By allowing the expansion to first the deck and then the lawn, the amount of people milling around, getting drinks, admiring the view, waiting for a dining table has dramatically increased the number of people that can be accommodated. It can, and does, host customers way beyond the 169 seat dining limit on the property.

b) The Shore has also significantly increased its footprint. While Moore’s had a small bar area and no milling space, the Shore now has 2 bars, many benches and sitting areas, a large clothing retail space, and a much larger dock area. The customer capacity has been greatly expanded way past the 185 dining seats. Nobody in the Village understands how the footprint was allowed to expand to such an extent, and nobody understands the rationale that the town commission had in arbitrarily overturning the referendum vote of the Longboat residents and rezoning the property from residential to commercial. Remember, the residents voted, in an election, for the property to be residential, yet the commission decided the property should be commercial. Wow! Twice the capacity for people on the properties = twice the number of cars.

3. Town Codes

The intent of the town codes is for all customer parking to be able to be accommodated on site and not spill to public areas. However, we all know that the assumption that there are 4 people to a car, no requirement for employee parking, and that boat slips and bike racks count as parking spaces, is totally inadequate. In season, and at night, there will be no bikes and only 1-2 boats visiting the restaurants. As a result the parking needs of the restaurants far exceeds the on-site capacity. The village has become a massive parking lot for the restaurants.

Would the commissioners allow what has happened in the Longbeach Village to occur in their neighborhoods? Denying the circumstances will not fix the problem. While we appreciate the small incremental steps that have been taken, we really need to fix the problem once and for all. The recorded path to how this condition was created should be in the Longboat town records. We would be happy to discuss this topic with you further at any time.

Pete and Carla Rowan

Longboat Key

 

Parking in the Village

To: Pete Rowan

What I am trying to say is that the restaurants have not been allowed any seats above what is legal under the town’s codes. Besides my thoughts that people are using these restaurants more in recent years, I believe that both restaurant are taking advantage of letting people come in without a reservation and having drinks and snacks while waiting for a table. They sit on a bench or walk around outside or sit at small table that aren’t being counted as official seating. This is wrong and is causing a lot of the problems. These people are not officially using a required seat so the actual interpretation of the codes are being violated. I believe they should not be able to serve anyone a drink or food until they are in an approved seat. This would stop a lot of people from coming early. This is the way it used to work.

Jim Brown

Longboat Key

 

Parking in the Village

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Good morning Mayor, I hope you are doing well under the conditions we are experiencing. I just wanted to discuss with you my opinion about all of the input that I have read in the Town emails. As you know, I have spent close to 20 years living on Longboat Key and have served on the Town’s Planning and Zoning board or the Town commission for most of that time. I have been listening to the residents of the Village about parking issue for most of those years.

I keep hearing people writing letters saying  that the town(commission) as continued to allow increases to the restaurants over the years. The reality is that this is not true. I can think of many times the restaurants have filed requests for expansions but they were denied. The Mar Visa in particular has made several modifications to the restaurant but has not been allowed additional seating. There are many reasons that I believe that parking has become an issue, but most of them are not new. One reason that is being overlooked, is that there are more people living in the Village. Small homes have been torn down and larger homes have been built. In my years living here I have observed that more and more people are going out to eat than in the early years. There are many other reasons for the parking problems but it’s not that the restaurants have been granted additional seating.

I’d be happy to discuss my experiences at any time. Thanks for the job you’re doing. Hopefully you’ll get a break soon.

Jim Brown

Longboat Key

 

Parking in the Village

To: Jim Brown

Thanks, Jim.  I always appreciate your historical perspective. In addition to increased population and patronage at the North end, we’ve had more seepage from the growing tourist base on Anna Maria.  We hope the restaurants’ new parking arrangements will help.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

USTA Grant- Tennis Center Recovery Grant

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

The staff pursued a Facility Recovery Grant offered through the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for the re-opening of Tennis Centers as part of the COVID 19 impacts.  We received notice this week that our grant application has been accepted.  We qualified for $3,500 and have been awarded that amount.  The grant is designed to help defray some of the expenses associated with re-opening the facility.  Special thanks to Kay for pursuing this opportunity.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning application

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

I had some questions about the Planning and Zoning boards input and processes in regard’s to the Grants gardens request for special exception.  Is it possible that we could chat about it?   

Gary Coffin

Longboat Key

 

Planning and Zoning application

To: Gary Coffin

Good Afternoon, as you can well understand, I have been extremely busy taking office during this unusual time in the World’s history. While I have served in public office for some time in my native Commonwealth of VA, the COVID-19 Virus is a daunting task for our community and we are on numerous calls and receiving a plethora of materials to absorb.

Saying all that, I had hoped to have some time to discuss your interest in the Planning and Zoning Board.  I have served on the Board for over 15 years, much of that as Chair and I can say the Board serving today is the best group I have had the pleasure to work with.

If there is anything you would like to share with me that you feel did not come through on your application for this Board please share it with me via email.  The Town has received a large group of applicants.  If you are not selected at this time, I encourage you to stay involved in our community. We need everyone to be engaged at this time and always in LBK.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

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