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Editorial Letters – Week ending June 19, 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.

Village Parking

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Parking in the Longboat Key Village has been a continuing concern for many years. Many efforts to alleviate this issue, but problems remain. Thus far, the focus has been on the streets, but the steady reduction of on-street parking in some ways appears to have been detrimental to both the Villagers and the Restaurants.  The parking demand continues to exist, like a balloon full of air.  Squeeze it one way and it expands another.   It appears to be at the point where draconian steps may be considered and even implemented.  Some may love this.  Others will not.  Resident Only Parking appears to be the cause du jour, but the reality is that the streets are public property and publicly maintained, and its enactment may have unintended consequences.

Ideally, each Restaurant would have sufficient on-site parking to accommodate its customers, but they do not. Due to “grandfathering”, The Mar Vista and The Shore are required to comply only with woefully inadequate Codes existent at the time they sought occupancy, which they do.   If they had the space, they likely would gladly expand on-site parking, but they do not.  This leaves them with no alternative but to rely on off-site parking to meet their needs. Both Restaurants have taken or are taking steps in this direction.

The off-site spots are almost a mile from the Restaurants and will require valet shuttle or a long walk.  This inconvenience may have a dampening effect on their success.  Will customers choose to first venture down Broadway looking for a parking spot at or near the Restaurant before giving up and going to the remote sites? I suspect many, if not most, already do so and will continue to do so, thus adding to the traffic flow and keeping all street parking full anyway as a first choice.  I also suspect that on other occasions, customers may choose to dine elsewhere, because “eating at The Mar Vista or The Shore is too much of a hassle.” Although some may cherish the thought of the Restaurants ceasing to exist, I doubt that many, even in The Village, do.

Perhaps much of the solution for this situation lies with thinking “inside the box”.  The “box” being the Restaurant property itself, and Town controlled tangential property, notably adjacent required set-back areas. The Town controls the land adjacent to the streets and mandates a landscaped set-back for the businesses.  Such a landscaped setback is, however, not uniformly existent throughout the island.  Examples of business without a landscaping set-back appear to be:  Century 21 at the corner of Broadway and GMD, Cannon’s Marina, Harry’ Corner Store, Sandpiper Inn, The Trailer Parks, and The Michael Saunders/Swim City complex.

I absolutely do not advocate turning the Town controlled property abutting the Restaurants over to them, but it could be reconfigured as additional public parking, with limitations.

Per the Town Code, The Mar Vista is required to have 28 on-site parking spaces.  As counted on June 17, it has 30 spaces with 2 being Handicap spaces. There are 3 curbside public parking spaces on Broadway in front of The Mar Vista and 9 curbside spaces on Lois alongside it. The current parking arrangement at The Mar Vista is as depicted in Attachment 1.

As depicted in Attachment 2, reconfiguration nearby on-street parking could create 25 public parking spots abutting The Mar Vista.  Because of their location, these spots would naturally serve as overflow parking for the Restaurants, but they would also remain open to the public, with No Parking Allowed Between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am, like the rest of Broadway.  The 9 on-street spaces on Lois would be eliminated, which would open that road for better traffic flow, but 6 would be gained back by moving them to the north side of Broadway across the street from The Mar Vista along with the 3 on-street spots now on the south side of Broadway in front of The Mar Vista.  This would limit the net loss of nearby on-street parking to 5 spots, with an overall net gain of 27 nearby parking spots. This is almost as many as the approximately 29 public parking spots now on Broadway, west of Lois.  Although not strictly on-site, this virtual doubling of nearby parking spots would place The Mar Vista close to the level of current Parking Code for new facilities.

Attachment 3 depicts the latest map available for The Shore.  Because the map was created in 2019, an on-site parking layout is not shown. The Shore is supposed to have 47 parking spaces per the Town Code.  There are rumors that several spots under the building are being incorrectly used for storage. If The Shore is not abiding by the Code, it is up to The Town to enforce it.

Because of its arrangement and proximity to Broadway, there is much less opportunity for The Shore, but there is some.   Per Attachment 4, 5 of the 8 on-street parking spots on the south side of Broadway adjacent to The Shore could be moved a car’s width further south, encroaching into The Shore’s set-back area.  This would allow for 5 new sparking spots on the north side of Broadway, across from The Shore.  They would line up with the 7 relocated parking spots across from The Mar Vista.  The total Mar Vista/Shore adjacent parking would be 32 new spots, all clustered near the Restaurants.  These new spots, along with the existing 29 spots west of Lois on Broadway could greatly mitigate many, if not most of the parking issues currently existing.

A side issue exacerbating the parking problems appears to rampant use (abuse?) by both Restaurants of extra seats without tables, allegedly for customer use while waiting for a “table”.  Customers use these seats for drinks AND small “tapas” type of nibbles.  It is my opinion that if food of any type is being served, a cluster of 4 seats receiving such service should be deemed as a “virtual” table and subject to the Town Parking Code.  I believe that the Town Attorney should carefully weigh such an interpretation.

Phill Younger

Planning and Zoning Board, Longboat Key

 

LBK Police & Fire Department

To: Longboat Key Police Department

The recent controversy regarding over aggressive Police and defunding of Police Departments seems to never address the overwhelming number of officers that admirably perform their duties.   My wife, my dog and I feel safe and are pleased to be citizens of Longboat Key and have high regard for our Police!

LBK is our home and every day our decision is validated. The Town of LBK Police and Fire Departments are excellent.  When you read the Longboat Observer “Cops Corner” and the Longboat Key News “On Patrol”, you can’t help but be struck by the clear courtesy, patience and responsiveness of the Police. In addition, the Police and Fire patrol boats keep the waters around our island safe.  There are numerous news articles regarding notable services and accomplishments of our Police and Fire Departments.  I hear stories from snowbirds about the help they receive during their annual migration and how it is usually not expected and how pleasantly surprised they always are (I know).  I have never heard a complaint from a full time resident. We live on an Island that has low crime, excellent Police and Fire Departments, a Town Commission and City Manager, overseeing an excellent professional staff all showing professionalism and a desire to serve. I attended the LBK Civic Academy and it re-enforced my statement. Again, let me state, we are pleased to be citizens of Longboat Key and have high regard for our Police and Fire Departments.

Sadler L. James

Longboat Key

 

LBK Police & Fire Department

To: Sadler James

Sadler, thanks for copying me on your email and taking the time to share your feedback.

I agree- our public safety departments have a great community reputation and we receive a lot of positive feedback from our residents.

I will share your note with the two Chiefs and our police and fire department personnel.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village permit parking

To: Longboat Key Commissioner George Spoll

I have read your proposal for looking into a gated solution to the deluge of traffic in the village, precipitated by the uncontrolled expansion of the two village restaurants.

It seems reasonable that instituting RPP throughout the village will solve the parking problems that currently plague the neighborhood. But I doubt that RPP will appreciably decrease the heavy flow of traffic into the village of restaurant customers. A majority of restaurant customers appear to be tourists and from off the island, especially during the eight months of off-season. These people will be unaware that there is no longer any parking in the neighborhood, and will likely drive around village streets looking for parking, after their long trek to the island. If the Mar Vista contiues to refuse to use a reservation system, I suspect they will quickly become an unpopular destination for tourists and Longboat residents alike. “False expectations bring anger”.

I wonder how all the other island restaurant’s customers cope, with no public street parking adjacent to the restaurants?

Your gate idea would seemingly control traffic into the village.

1) restaurant reservation patrons would have a one-time gate code, being assured a valet parking place at the restaurants.

2) village residents would have a drive-thru sticker on their side window.

3) service vehicles would have pass codes.

4) quests and workers of residents would have a one-time code.

5) cyclists could pass through the gate.

George, what about all the cars denied access?

1) how would they easily turn around?

2) what about peak restaurant hours, when there could be a conglomeration of vehicles seeking access, many unaware of the access gate situation? How do they extricate their cars from the gate entrence, when there are cars lined up behind them?

3) is Broadway wide enough to accommodate a usable turn around?

I like the gate idea. I see no other way of controlling unwanted restaurant traffic in our soon to be quiet neighborhood. First time visitors will most likely not notice any resonable signage amidst the traffic and challenging turn into a congested entrance to the village. Is it possible to design a gate solution that will not cause backups at peak hours?

We in the village are so appreciative of the pro-solution vote at the workshop yesterday. Finally we get our neighborhood back.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Bayfront Park openings

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

As mentioned during this morning’s Special Meeting on COVID 19, the children playgrounds and pickleball, tennis, and basketball at Bayfront Park will be opening with certain restrictions starting June 22, 2020. At this time, the middle pickleball court would remain closed and Public Works will post rules on site. We will continue to monitor conditions and re-evaluate existing restrictions again between now and June 29th.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager, Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Tuned in now to this, one thing is for sure, as I see it, is the parking requirements we just voted in probably isn’t enough, business owners will need to determine if the parking rules are too stringent…if they are, then don’t build…it’s our responsibility to see our residents are protected not the profitability of a potential business.

Gary Coffin

Longboat Key

 

Restaurant employees not parking in parking lot

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Please find these photos to be a help in determining once again that the Mar Vista employees do not and will not park in their offsite employee lot. They were taken at 1:40 p.m. on Sunday 6/14/20. Broadway and Lois and the surrounding streets were full with plenty of room in their two lots. Also, the last photo is of the beach parking on the west end Broadway.

Robert Lopez

Longboat Key

 

Thank you to police department

To: Longboat Key Police Department

Gentlemen, we just wanted to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your Police team for your able service to our community.  We are just sick to see how police around the country are being so wrongly disrespected and violently treated due to a few tragic but isolated policing events.

There is no excuse for that response to police overall.

We took a few moments to go to the Town web site to look at your Mission Statement:

“To safeguard life and property,  preserve the peace, prevent and deter crime and enforce the law while protecting the rights of all.”  Perfectly said.

Please pass along our appreciation to your colleagues in the Sarasota and Bradenton Police Departments as well. Again, Thank You for your service to our community and please know that your community is behind our police.  Without you, there is no community.

Bob and Shannon Gault

Longboat Key

 

Thank you to police department

To: Bob and Shannon Gault

Your kind words of support are enormously appreciated, particularly during this time of unrest and uncertainty.  I’m proud every day of the men and women who serve our community with pride and sincerity.  My years in law Enforcement have been spent in various places around the state, serving at every level. Nowhere have I felt the support, respect, and appreciation from those I’ve served as I have here on Longboat Key.  I’ll pass your message on to my staff and officers, who live our mission statement every day.  Thank you again for your support.

Pete Cumming

Police Chief

Longboat Key

 

Resident parking permits

To: Longboat Key Commission

I am a resident of Longbeach Village having bought a house on Linley Street relatively recently.  I am writing to urge you to vote for Resident Parking Permits.  The parking & speeding issues don’t affect me as much as others because there is no street parking allowed on Linley.  But I empathize with those who are directly affected & have been impressed with the research they have done on finding the best solution to be resident permit parking.  This was also confirmed to be the overwhelming choice of a resident survey that was conducted.  Tax paying residents should feel that their safety & quality of life supersedes all other considerations.

The time for study is over. The time for action is here. Please vote in favor of resident permit parking. Thank you for your consideration.

Marcy Mackin

Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Commission

The duty of elected municipal officials is to seek actions that serve the greatest public good. Allowing parking on Broadway, for the convenience of a few restaurant customers, who do not wish to use valet parking, at the universally acknowledged expense of an entire residential neighborhood, does not seem to me to fulfil that duty.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Village life, safety and quality of life issues

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Thanks so much for your public service to our Town as Mayor and Commissioner.

Thanks also for scheduling the upcoming virtual Workshop to address the topic of the critical life and safety issues, and the significant degradation of quality of life, being experienced by the Village.

We studied Town staff’s Memo and PowerPoint on this topic, and we very much appreciate staff’s recommendation for Resident Permit Parking.  RPP on the non-excepted streets will certainly restore most of the quality of life aspects that have been significantly degraded on those streets and will resolve some of the life and safety issues on those streets.

However, exempting Broadway and a portion of Lois from the RPP requirement will only exacerbate the critical — and very dangerous — life and safety issues on Broadway and Lois.

Those exemptions also will ensure that the poor residents of Broadway and Lois will face a degradation of their quality of life and property values because of:

-a perpetual loss of street parking for their vehicles and those of their guests and service providers;

-a perpetual loss of access to their mailboxes;

-perpetual difficulties and danger in entering and exiting their driveways;

-a perpetual parade of vehicles speeding up and down their streets searching and waiting for parking; and

-a perpetual need to call Dispatch to report the already-proven and incessant violations of the intersection and driveway setback requirements along Broadway and Lois.

(We want to acknowledge our gratitude to the three restaurants for all of the steps they have taken and the expenses they have incurred to ensure that all of their staff members and patrons can easily fit on their on-site and off-site lots, a fact we observed carefully — and reported to the Town repeatedly — during peak season in 2020 before the pandemic.  We also are grateful for the restaurants’ acknowledgement, including in an open forum held in the Village, that without RPP throughout the Village they are powerless to cause staff and patrons to utilize the lots they have gone to the trouble to provide rather than overwhelm our residential neighborhood.  This phenomenon is now being compounded by the significant overflow of beach parking in our residential neighborhood.)

Finally, and as you may know, the Town is on actual notice — from the many, many first-hand reports by residents over many months and under many conditions — of the near-certainty of a serious traffic injury or death on Broadway if RPP is not instituted.  This exposes the Town and its taxpayers to potentially crippling punitive and exemplary damages when the inevitable injury or death occurs because of the failure to implement RPP.  (A number of these reports, including some from us, were of “near misses” caused by the current very dangerous situation on Broadway.)

We implore you to adopt RPP for all Village streets and blocks in order to put evidence

while simultaneously restoring much of the quality of life and lost property values in the Village (including for the taxpayers whose homes are on Broadway and Lois).

Thanks again for your service to our Town.

Henry and Donna Rae Smith

Longboat Key

 

Village life, safety and quality of life

To: Henry Smith

Other Commissioners and I have spent a tremendous amount of time with Town staff and with the Rowans and other Village representatives to try and find a solution to the parking and traffic issues in the Village.  It is my hope that we are able to give specific direction to staff at Monday’s workshop to prepare an ordinance that will address everyone’s concerns. We appreciate the constructive engagement of you and your neighbors in this effort.

Ken Schneier

Mayor, Longboat Key

 

Body-worn cameras

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Regarding the July 15th Sarasota City Commission meeting: I would like to extend my thanks to Vice-Mayor Freeland Eddie and Chief DiPino for including a discussion of the use of body-worn cameras for police officers in the agenda.

As a citizen of Sarasota and Manatee county I would like to express my wholehearted support for the purchase and use of body-worn cameras for our police department. Looking forward to seeing positive change.

Megan Hasse

Sarasota

 

Body-worn cameras

To: Megan Hasse

Excellent article, Megan Hasse, thanks for sharing. I have copied the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, and Police Chief on this email so they may also read and share this information.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Forced unsafe and health risk

To: Sarasota City Commission

Good morning commissioners I’m disturbed to find out that Utilities Director Bill Riby is forcing utilities staff under his supervision to clean and sanitize common used areas because he terminated the cleaning staff, instead of having a replacement cleaning company ready to fill the void created, most people have general knowledge about cleaning, however to sanitize a building and especially high use common areas requires a better understanding of cleaning methods, procedures and products to protect life and safety especially in the current environment we live in. In an effort to help protect the health and lives of City of Sarasota staff within the utilities department which I have many friends and co-workers. I don’t think that the City of Sarasota should willing put their staff in and unsafe life and health situations daily, it appears that the standards and tolerance has been lower by putting employees and their families in unsafe and unnecessary situations, most of your employees are being forced into this situation and do not want to lose their jobs by speaking out,  this is not what I would want to see from you all whom have been working hard to keep the public and employees safe at all times. I very interested to receive your thoughts and any feedback, thanking you in advance for your consideration.

Jesse Hubbard, Jr.

Sarasota

 

Bird Key park

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I wanted to bring to your attention that the numerous trash cans around Bird Key Park are overflowing and have been for the last week. Also, some graffiti has been sprayed on the wall facing Bird Key Subdivision. It’s a slur about our police. I would really like both of these concerns addressed promptly. Thank you.

Kim Trulaske

Sarasota

 

Bird Key park

To: Kim Trulaske

Thank you KimTrulaske for your email and letting me know about the graffiti and trash at Bird Key Park. I have copied the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, and Parks Director on this email and they will respond with an update.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Bird Key park

To: Kim Trulaske

I hope your day is going well.  Thanks for the email!  I visited the park earlier today.  I didn’t see any trash on the ground, however, the trash cans were pretty full.  They were emptied today.  Due to the heavy usage of the park, we may need additional pickups from our Solid Waste division.

I forwarded your email to FDOT.  They maintain the bridge.  There is two spray painted areas.  I didn’t know what it meant, so I looked it up and it’s definitely derogatory towards the police.  I asked FDOT to address as soon as possible.

Ms. Trulaske, please don’t hesitate to contact me if there are any issues or suggestions for Bird Key Park at (941) 263-6563. Thanks and enjoy your day!

Jerry Fogle

Director Parks and Recreation

City of Sarasota

 

Public gathering permit

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

My names Valentina I believe you spoke to one of my friends—Gwen or Gabe- at the first protest a few of us organized a few weeks ago in the memory of George Floyd.  We’d like to now host a public conversation in one of the local parks (MLK Dr. park possibly) on the 4th of July; where we further discuss the issues going on and also will be catering with local businesses to help with the effect of Covid. Masks will be required of course. We would also love for there to be a voting registration booth for new voters. Please let me know if and how we could make this possible. Thank you very much.

Val Rodriguez

Sarasota

 

Public gathering permit

To: Valentina Rodriguez

Thanks so much for reaching out to me about your event idea. I have copied the City Manager and Deputy City Manager as well as Ron Turner (Supervisor of Elections) on this email so they can guide you further.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Public gathering permit

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Hello again! I’m sorry if it’s of inconvenience to reach out again l’m sure you’re busy; I’ve yet to receive information from either City manager or City Deputy, on how to further our community goal to host the informational public gathering with a permit on the upcoming 4th. We can come to city hall to acquire anything needed to go through with this very important event.

Valentina Rodriguez

Sarasota

 

Public gathering permit

To: Valentina Rodriguez

Thank you for the follow up. We are all busy but this is very important, so I am copying the City Manager and staff again to reach out to you. We have a City Commission meeting tomorrow and we are all busy preparing for it. But if you don’t hear anything by early afternoon on Tuesday, please call me.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

An opportunity for discussion

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

This is your old acquaintance Andrew Glasgow, Thomas’ guitar student from Booker High School ‘04-’08. I’m contacting you today in light of recent events transpiring in our country. I believe that this is a particularly special time for us as politically activated citizens to be holding our local governments more accountable for ensuring the health, safety, and financial security of its communities of color and citizens in general. This also happens to be an interesting intersection of my recent involvement with the Manasota chapter of Black Lives Matter and your role as Mayor of Sarasota. I’m sure you’re well aware of our peaceful marches and demonstrations in the last weeks. We would like to start a dialogue with you in re-imagining the way our city approaches justice, public safety, budgeting, and education. My aim here is to facilitate a private meeting between you, BLM leaders, and their allies with the intention of moving toward public discourse and action. There are great minds and caring people in this group and I hope that you may be interested in being involved in these discussions. Let us know you’re listening and that Sarasota can be a city that shines bright for social justice and equality.

Andrew Glasgow

Sarasota

 

An opportunity for discussion

To: Andrew Glasgow

Great hearing from you! I would be more than happy to meet with you all (via zoom for now please) and have copied the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, and Diane Taylor our Administrative Assistant to set up a meeting.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

An opportunity for discussion

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Wonderful! I am grateful for your willingness and enthusiasm. Looking forward to talking with you.

Andrew Glasgow

Sarasota

 

An opportunity for discussion

To: Andrew Glasgow

I am looking forward to this as well. In fact, I spoke to the City Manager about this this morning and ask if he could get in touch.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Road closure

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We would like to better understand the process of how a lane closure and a road closure permit is/are procured.  We recently received one yesterday that all of Gulfstream Ave and one lane of Palm Ave. would be closed due to construction beginning, Monday, June 15th 2020.

The Essex House is located on Gulfstream with entry points from Palm and at Essex House from both Gulfstream and Palm. The road and lane closures on these two roads are rampant, confusing, poorly notified, and more than excessive.

Who grants these, Wesley Stuckey only? I, as a Condominium Manager have had numerous conversations with residents who say, “they have no idea how to get home”. This is being given way too much leniency. There is an apparent lack of consideration for those residing on these two streets, We, who live here, have visitors, service workers, deliveries, landscapers with trailers and god forbid an actual emergency which with the current lane and road closures, see attached pic, would be impossible for our visitors, service vehicles, and EMS to navigate. Imagine if your mother or father or child needed emergency medical attention where minutes or seconds count and the first responders could not get to your loved one(s) because a crane had to hoist some material up to a building that no one lives in.

Furthermore, I feel that the City of Sarasota MOT and ROW engineers have not looked at the existing conditions and how these roads are daily taken advantage of. We know of weeks of closures, not permitted in the mornings, where Palm avenue is blocked and manned with flagmen. Alderman, and Elder regularly have construction vehicles parked in them, thus creating lane closures there too. This has to be monitored, reevaluated and enforced more reasonably and immediately. Thank you.

Bruce Eberlin, President

Cindy Lang, Manager

Essex House

 

Road closure

To: Cindy Lang

I responded to Rick Havard, so I don’t think you probably saw the response. I did see staff responded to your questions. Were both entrances to Essex House blocked or was the street just closed to through traffic?

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Road closure

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert

Both blocked. Liz, I live at RSA and work at Essex. If they do what the City is allowing, even a garbage truck will not be able to get through. I can take pictures on Monday if you would like if you need more explanation.  Even if they block one lane, they still take over the second with flag man. Epoch has been abusing the system for some time now and not being held accountable.  I had to make a police report on Thursday because they were working (loudly) until 9:45 p.m. Plywood came flying down on RSA last Sunday and also landed on Bayfront drive.  Again, not against development, I am sure Epoch will be beautiful when it is completed but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to follow city rules.  I have heard from Lenny and will include you on my response.  They are not giving 3 business day notices. Thanks for responding to Richard Havard. Have a nice weekend.

Cindy Lang

Sarasota

 

Road closure

To: Cindy Lang

I am copying city staff for a response. Both entrances should not be blocked.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Sarasota’s Future, a Changing Landscape

To: Sarasota City Commission

Live-work-play is a phrase that experts use to describe the future of vibrant growing communities.  It is a phrase that means a rich quality of life for residents without the need to drive a car.  It is a trend that started with the expense and inconvenience of life in the old commuter metropolis, a trend that developers say is rapidly transforming the development landscape.  It is a trend that will likely increase with recent Coronavirus lockdowns and now civil instability.

What we don’t see yet is the accelerated change coming from the race to dominate the virtual office. The emerging work environment is referred to as hybrid, telework with diminishing physical presence.  Zoom has grown to 300 million daily users.  Microsoft and Google are pouring resources into competing video conferencing platforms.  Companies such as Eventbrite are racing to fill the niches.  Employees can soon choose to live in Sarasota and work in New York, increasingly with minimal travel.

Downtown Sarasota has done a masterful job as a center for tourism and entertainment.  But the experts say our future is in providing a better place to live, work, and play.  We have the physical assets with the mid-rise condominiums increasing in number every year.  But a change is required for city planning, a different balance of priorities.  Quality of life means many things: the shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues where we excel.  It also means subtle things: character and atmosphere, walkable pathways, green spaces, an environment that is not only fun, but is livable.

That is the problem: will Sarasota be livable?  We held a springtime festival on State Street outside the entrance of several residential buildings with stadium-sized speakers broadcasting a cacophony well over 100 decibels until 2 a.m.  A recent article in the Herald-Tribune described plans of The Tavern on Main Brewery for a roof-top bar, live music, a “speakeasy” exactly twenty feet from The Mark, twenty feet from the balconies of 157 new residents.  Everybody understands the importance of bars providing music inside for their particular venue, but we allow them to place loudspeakers on the street to broadcast the party a block away.  At 12 a.m., once these venues resume, residents a block in any direction will likely say, ‘this is not livable’.

Downtown Sarasota is changing from a tourism and entertainment venue into an entertainment and residential district.  Our success depends on our ability to shift emphasis from just tourism and entertainment to balanced priorities that build a harmonious and thriving community, where people will want to live and work as well as to play.  Perhaps this emphasis should be adopted as one of the Commission’s Legislative Priorities.

David Sebring

Sarasota

 

Sarasota’s Future, a Changing Landscape

To: David Sebring

I am copying city staff with this for any appropriate response. The design of the downtown is a result of a downtown master plan put into place in the early 2000’s by urban planner Andres Duany and his firm. The ultimate design was a result of much public input. As you stated, we have been successful in tourism and entertainment, but we have also been successful in the creation of housing in the downtown. That was all part of the plan. It was not designed only for tourism and entertainment.

One of the things I hope you were aware of when you purchased your property in The Mark was that we designed the Lemon Avenue Streetscape so that it could be accommodate events in our downtown. We advised the developer to make sure that anyone purchasing a unit would be aware they were moving into an urban environment where there would be noise. The special events permits currently allow the bands to play at 100 dBs until midnight then up to 65 dBs until 2 a.m.

As far as the Tavern on Main Brewery, staff has advised me that they will not have a rooftop bar, but are allowed to have rooftop seating according to our zoning codes. They are not planning live music outside. As far as the alley entrance, they are required to have one per the fire code, so they are not restricted from allowing people to use that entrance if they want.

All that being said, the City attorney and staff are bringing back for discussion the noise ordinance, nightclubs, and related issue for Commission discussion and/or action. Let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

4COP License for TOMB

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert

I’m a full-time resident of Downtown, as are most of those copied on this e-mail. Last week we read a disturbing article in the Herald-Tribune.  The Tavern on Main Brewery (TOMB), at 1468 Main St., plans to acquire a 4COP liquor license, have a roof top bar, play live music, and have a private “speakeasy” with a separate entrance from the alley between it and The Mark condo.  FYI, TOMB is exactly 20 feet from The Mark.  We are no longer a surface parking lot, rather 157 residential units.  I’m not sure the City has come to that realization yet.  Our experience is that music in these venues becomes louder than anybody intended, especially late at night.  Now we face the prospect of this commotion going on just feet away from the balconies of your constituents.  Downtown Sarasota is changing from mostly a late-night entertainment venue into an entertainment and residential district.  It is important that both groups of your constituents coexist if we are to maintain a quality of life that assures continued growth.   

The Mark residents pay over $2 million annually in property tax to the City of Sarasota.  TOMB may ultimately be required to be granted a Conditional Use Permit, to be approved by the City Commission.  Before the election in August, the 157 units at The Mark, and the 52 units at 50 Central would like to know your position on granting a 4COP License to TOMB.

John Bordeaux

Sarasota

 

4COP License for TOMB

To: John Bordeaux

I am copying city staff with this for any appropriate response. And I am copying an email that I sent to Mr. Sebring regarding this same topic.

The design of the downtown is a result of a downtown master plan put into place in the early 2000’s by urban planner Andres Duany and his firm. The ultimate design was a result of much public input. As you stated, we have been successful in tourism and entertainment, but we have also been successful in the creation of housing in the downtown. That was all part of the plan. It was not designed only for tourism and entertainment.

One of the things I hope you were aware of when you purchased your property in The Mark was that we designed the Lemon Avenue Streetscape so that it could be accommodate events in our downtown. We advised the developer to make sure that anyone purchasing a unit would be aware they were moving into an urban environment where there would be noise. The special events permits currently allow the bands to play at 100 dBs until midnight then up to 65 dBs until 2 a.m.

As far as the Tavern on Main Brewery, staff has advised me that they will not have a rooftop bar, but are allowed to have rooftop seating according to our zoning codes. They are not planning live music outside. As far as the alley entrance, they are required to have one per the fire code, so they are not restricted from allowing people to use that entrance if they want.

It is also my understanding that they are not asking for a 4COP nightclub-type license, but a 4COP restaurant-type license that requires 51% of their sales to be from food.

All that being said, the City attorney and staff are bringing back for discussion the noise ordinance, nightclubs, and related issue for Commission discussion and/or action in July or August. Let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Elections

To: Sarasota City Commission

I am 100 percent behind Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch in her stance and approach to looking at city issues through an anti-racist lens. I’d like to know if you share her vision, what work or training you’ve done in anti-racism education and awareness, and please provide examples from the work that you’re doing on the commission. I look forward to your reply.

Amy LeMon

Sarasota

 

Elections

To: Amy LeMon

Good evening, I have waited before answering you and would love to have a conversation with you if you would contact our administrative assistant Diane Taylor for an appointment.

Willie Shaw

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Police Body Cams

To: Sarasota City Commission

FYI, below, Heather Robison has provided some additional updated information regarding area police agencies who are at various stages of experimenting with and implementing police department body cameras. Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager, City of Sarasota

 

Agencies Using Body Cameras

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

FYI – Please see email below about St. Petersburg PD and body cameras: “SPPD is field testing the camera now –   The chief is wearing one along with 8 other officers at this time.”

My 2019 research on body cameras found the following agencies in the area:

Cape Coral (179,804): In April 2015, Cape Coral police officers started wearing body cameras.

City of Tampa (population: 377,165): Implemented a body-worn camera program in 2015. Currently have 60 body cams.

Fort Myers (population: 77,146): Fort Myers first approved the purchase of 40 body cams in 2014 and began using them in 2015. In 2017, the Fort Myers PD upgraded to 142 wireless body cams and tasers. All uniformed officers and sergeants wear a body camera.

Gulfport (population: 12,402): Gulfport has been using body-worn cameras since 2009. Cmdr. Stone stated that body cams were more cost effective for their agency compared to the more expensive dash-cam devices (email).  The Gulfport PD is now using both in-car cameras and body-worn cameras. Body-worn cameras are, however, optional.

North Port (population: 64,274): The City Commission unanimously approved a budget for body cams in March 2019, signing a 5-year contract with Axon Enterprises. Axon provided two cameras for each of North Port’s 109 sworn officers and each officer received a new taser.

Pasco County (population: 525,643): Purchased 415 body cams and a five-year subscription in December 2014 and began using them in February 2015.

Punta Gorda* (population: 18,796): Will be conducting a trial run in October 2019, hoping to equip its 37 sworn officers with body-worn cameras in 2020.

St. Petersburg* (population: 260,999): Conducted a field test with 10 BWC/officers. Had software issues and therefore, they are currently waiting for software technical difficulties to be fixed by the manufacturer. St. Petersburg Police Department is moving toward the implementation of BWC.

Temple Terrace** (population: 26,515): News outlets report Temple Terrace as using body cams, however, while they implemented a program in July 2016, they have since suspended the program in April 2018. Capt. Pridemore of the Temple Terrace PD cited a server crash and then subsequent software issues with the vendor as the reason for the suspension (email).

Heather J. Robison

Police Advisory Panels Administrator

City of Sarasota

 

Body Cams

To: City of St. Petersburg ADA Coordinator Lendel Bright

Any news on St. Pete PD and body cams? We are having a discussion here on Monday at the City Commission meeting.

Heather Robinson

Administrator Police Department

City of Sarasota

 

Body Cams

To: Sarasota Police Administrator Heather Robinson

St. Pete Police Department is field testing the camera now – The chief is wearing one along with eight other officers at this time. Chief Holloway has asked that members of my CPRC and CART team members provide review and recommendations on the draft Body Camera Policy- I just received it today- sent out to our members of both committees — they been asked to return their comments by Month June 15.

Lendel Bright

ADA Coordinator

City of St. Petersburg

 

Mandatory mask order

To: Sarasota City Commission, City Attorney Robert Fournier, and City Manager Tom Barwin

Well, if St. Pete can do it, so can we!  I recognize that St. Pete may have a strong mayor form of government, but I suspect that would give our city manager the power to act. Maybe Mr. Barwin and/or Mr. Fournier can consult with Mayor Kriseman to inquire about his thinking. Let’s do this! In fact, let’s take it one step further and require everyone to wear a mask when they might encounter someone in public. It’s the right thing to do and would enable the economy to continue to open up while providing reasonable protection for our citizens. If more people felt safer to go out, that would itself be a driver for the economy. Win, win!! Thank you for your continued interest in this issue.

Steve Novick

Sarasota

 

Food truck park

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Liz Alpert

I would love to have a discussion regarding food trucks in Sarasota. Born and raised here in Sarasota, there has been many changes.

My wife and I are starting a mobile Brick oven pizza business, fully self-sustainable from a trailer. I don’t like the idea of food trailers, and trucks park on every corner like street vendors. However, there are a few cities in Florida who have authorized food truck parks. They are well designed, with good locations, and classy.

I’m interested in an odd shaped piece of property across from Sarasota Memorial. It’s almost useless for most business but would work well for a food truck park. This is a high foot traffic area and would benefit the employees and visitors of SMH.

I’m an orthopedic Trauma PA that retired from the Army in 2017. The business my wife is starting will be out golden years employment. I look forward to speaking with you or a representative about the future of an upscale Food truck park.

Bill Ives

Sarasota

 

Food truck park

To: Bill Ives

Thanks for your email. I don’t know if it is something that can be done, but I am copying city staff to get a response.

Liz Alpert

City Commissioner

Sarasota

 

Fiber Optic Cable and 5G

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Could you direct me to a person or document describing the plan for laying of fiber optic cable in the city (specifically in my neighborhood of Avondale, but interested in total scope)?  Is this Verizon/Frontier?  Will 5G antennas be connected to this?  Is there a map of current and future plans? Thanks much.  I’m a proponent, just couldn’t get much out of the crew digging outside my home.

George Reid

Sarasota

 

Fiber Optic Cable and 5G

To: City of Sarasota Planning Director Steve Cover

Could you please direct Mr. Reid (copied on this email) with regard to his question below?

Kathryn (Kathy) King

Executive Assistant

City of Sarasota

 

Fiber Optic Cable and 5G

To: George Reid

I think it would be best for you to contact these utilities directly (Verizon and Frontier), as the City’s involvement is only approving the ROW use permit.  If you wish to talk to someone at the City, I would suggest Alexandrea Davis-Shaw, the City Engineer who is responsible for City streets and rights-of-way.  She can be reached at 941-263-6465. I hope this will help answer your questions.

Steven Cover

Planning Director

City of Sarasota

 

Technology Infrastructure and 5G

To: Sarasota City Mayor Ahearn-Koch

I can’t believe the City’s only interest in this project is Right-of-Way permitting.  This seems to be part of a major technology infrastructure improvement related to Internet connectivity for the entire city (maybe county).  Is there not a plan or vision that has come to the Commission’s attention?  I see 5G towers nearby and supposedly these fiber cables will connect to those and our homes, if we so choose.  I’m not looking to push any buttons, just want to see the plan for technical interest.  If we can get some competition for Comcast, I am happy.

George Reid

Sarasota

 

Technology Infrastructure and 5G

To: George Reid

Thanks for the email. It is my understanding that the City has little to no authority in this matter and was preempted but the State. We have no authority for placement of poles, the boxes on the poles, requiring collocation of equipment on the poles, and much more. In fact, I think the only decision the City was authorized to take was the decision to charge up to a maximum of $150 per permit (or less). There is also a processing timeline requirement as well, I think.

I have copied the City Engineer and City Attorney to fill in the details and correct me if I am wrong and look forward to their email.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Technology Infrastructure and 5G

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Thanks for responding. I am suddenly naïve about local governments’ involvement in such an important matter impacting residents, businesses, government, education, on-and-on.  Look forward to learning more.

George Reid

Sarasota

 

Technology Infrastructure and 5G

To: George Reid

It is complicated. In the meantime, here is a link with more information.

https://www.floridaleagueofcities.com/wireless-deployment-(5g)

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

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