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Editorial Letters – Week ending December 4, 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.

Bay Access – East end of Russell Street

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

I am not sure who to write to about this problem, so I am writing to you, copying Commissioner Zunz and Mr. Parsons and hoping that one of you will be able to pass this on to the appropriate person at the Town for me.

My wife and I own a house at Russell Street.  For the past 10 years, we and many of our neighbours have used the Bay Access at the east end of Russell Street to launch our kayaks.  I went down there yesterday and found several things that greatly disturbed me.

Firstly, The owner of the house at the corner of Bayside Drive and Russell Street, who has been placing fill on his property between Bayside Drive and the Bay for the past week or more, seems to have recently placed fill on the Bay Access property at the end of Russell Street, adjacent to his land.  I presume that he was entitled to place the fill on his property, but I am surprised that he would be permitted to place fill on the Bay Access property.

Secondly, the blue sign that identifies the location of the Bay Access and the hours that it is open has been pulled out of the ground and is lying there, with the sign itself broken.

Thirdly, the large black plastic stormwater pipe that is supposed to drain Russell Street into the Bay is disconnected from the structure in the water and is arching up several feet in the air, making it impossible for it to fulfill its function of draining stormwater.  It is also now blocking the access to the bay, making it very difficult, if not impossible to launch a kayak there.

I spoke to one of my neighbours about these issues and he advised me that he has recently been told by the owner of the Bayside Drive property that he is the owner of the Bay Access and can do what he wants with it and that he is only allowing the Town to use it.

None of this seems right to me. Certainly the stormwater pipe needs to be fixed.  Can you please have someone check out what is going on there and let me know if the situation of public ownership of this Bay Access from Russell Street has changed?

I appreciate that you are busy, but if you could take a moment to pass this on to the appropriate person, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help.

Stephen Garrod

Longboat Key

 

Bay Access – East end of Russell Street

To: Stephen Garrod

Mr. Garrod, thank you for the email and bringing the issue to my attention.  I talked briefly with Mr. Parsons this evening.  He will look into the issue tomorrow and update me on his findings and what action the Town will be taking. I will also ask him to reach out directly to you with an update as part of his follow-up.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Roundabout meeting

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One will conduct a virtual public meeting regarding a roundabout construction project at the intersection of US 41 at Gulfstream Avenue in Sarasota, Florida. The meeting will include a brief presentation followed by comments and questions from the public. Information on how to participate in the meeting can be found below.

To join the GoToWebinar, please use the following link or scan the QR Code.

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5509486051509451791

Call in to listen to the webinar at one of the following numbers:

1-213-929-4231 or toll free at 1-866-901-6455 and enter code: 671-872-151# Please forward this invitation to anyone you think should be a part of this meeting. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Alice Ramos

Tampa

 

Ridiculous!

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

So many times I brought this to Code Enforcement’s attention, and the merchants don’t care, because nobody ever gets a citation (Fri 4:30 p.m.). There will be hundreds of people squeezed on the sidewalk this evening.

Jim Lampl

Sarasota

 

To: Sarasota City CommissionerJen Ahearn-Koch

I’m take care of it.  I live nearby and I’ll walk over and speak with the shopkeeper today.  Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Ridiculous!

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Could you please have code enforcement look into this? Let me know when you can.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

IT needed

To: Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs

Can we please have IT back down to upload my signature in docusign?  Also still consistently getting security popups.  Not correct on my computer.  Thanks.

Hagen Brody

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

IT needed

To: Sarasota City Mayor Hagen Brody

Thank you, Mayor. We will discuss this matter further because I believe purchasing has implemented this to be their practice. I will have staff contact you.

Shayla Griggs

City Auditor and Clerk

City of Sarasota

 

Downtown Sarasota Christmas lights sad display

To: Sarasota City Commission

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  However, I have a frustration that I must air:

I have been trying to improve our holiday downtown decorations for 3 years now.  While unsuccessful my first two years in office, the third holiday season of my term, thanks to some of you, we improved our ambiance with the addition of tree lights. Vast improvement and clearly a step in the right direction but unfortunately not where we should be.

Following the success of our modest improvements the DID sought commission approval to keep them up all year.  Staff and I had trouble with this for two reasons. One, our holiday decorations should be special and not lose the wow factor that attracts diners and shoppers to our downtown over several other districts that also have great holiday ambiance.   Secondly, my main concern was that leaving them up all year in the elements would damage them and we would not be able to keep up with the maintenance.  My concerns were ignored.

Fast forward to present, and while I appreciate the effort and expense that went into where we are and am severely disappointed in the appearance and have heard the same from constituents, one who used the term “depressing” to describe the condition to me.

Last weekend which was Thanksgiving weekend and one of the busiest and most important weekends for local shopping so I took a stroll down main street to see for myself.

I agree the condition of our holiday display on Main Street is sad. (Not my original choice of words). There are dozens of trees with nonfunctional lights wrapped around them, some are large portions of one side of the street where one side is lit and the other is not. There are trees half lit and many of the winter designs atop and adoring our street lights are not functional (Also who wraps 5 feet of lights on a palm tree trunk and thinks all done?). Attached are some photos I snapped for examples, but I suggest you go see for yourself. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if many shoppers and diners don’t return this year in favor of the experience UTC provides.

I’m not interested in excuses or who’s responsible right now — we can deal with that after the holidays. I just want to make it better.

At a time when our merchants and restaurants are literally competing for their survival with the other commercial districts in our region, we are failing them. It may sound trivial to some but a beautiful holiday displays on main street is as American as apple pie, it would lift spirits in these tough times and attract commerce to our struggling downtown businesses — and we are failing them big time.

The pitiful reality is that the City of Sarasota cannot, up to this point, put together a functional and festive ambiance comparable to the other commercial downtowns and shopping districts in our region and I am sick of swimming upstream on this.

I will do what I can to salvage this year but this will never ever happen again in the City of Sarasota. Our residents, visitors, and businesses deserve so much better.

Commissioners please do not reply all to this email as we may have something on our Dec 7 to address this even at this late hour.

Hagen Brody

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch

I’m trying to get accurate information on current (and any pending changes) AirBnb laws within the City of Sarasota.

I live in Arlington Park and the home next to me is currently on the market and is being promoted as a turnkey AirBnb. It’s my understanding that AirBnBs are restricted and can only be rented for a period no less than 7 nights.  Is this accurate?  And, if so, who would I contact when they violate this policy? I’ve attached their Zillow listing marketing it as a AirBnb. Appreciate your time and all you’re doing for Sarasota!

Kim Murphy

Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Kim Murphy

Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I have copied the City Manager, City Attorney, and Staff and eagerly await their response. In the meantime, please call code enforcement at 941.263.6417

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Kim Murphy

Good afternoon, Ms. Murphy.  The City has not changed regulations on AirBnbs or the minimum tenancy in residential dwellings.   You are correct that residential dwellings can only be rented out for longer than a week.  I will ask Code Compliance to take a look at this property to make sure they come into compliance.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Lucia Panica

Director Department of Development Services

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Sarasota Director Department of Development Services Lucia Panica

Thank you Ms Panica for looking into this and updating us on the situation, I look forward to feedback from Code Compliance.

Also, I received another concern today from a St Armands Circle resident about the potential construction of a Hotel House on 225 John Ringling Blvd. A single family home is being demolished and there is a request to apparently construct a Hotel House-style over-sized structure in its place. Mr. Fournier: where are we on this and what can we do?

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner At-Large

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch

The home located at 2181 Hillview St is currently listed as a rental on Airbnb for a minimum stay of 30 nights. Please see attached Airbnb ad for reference.

Rentals are allowed as governed by Section II-304(b)(1) of the Zoning Code. In accordance with this section of the Zoning Code, Household Living is characterized by the residential occupancy of a dwelling unit by a family and tenancy is arranged for periods longer than one week. (7) full days, (7) full nights, and not less than 168 hours. Uses where tenancy may be arranged for a shorter period are not considered residential. They are considered to be a form of transient lodging. At this time, the property does not appear to be in violation as it relates to short term rentals.

Lucia Panica

Director Department of Development Services

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Sarasota Director Department of Development Services Lucia Panica

I’m confused because I saw your attached photos stating minimum of 30 days but when I pull it up it says minimum 5 days. It will not allow bookings less than 5 days but it does allow 5 days?    It looks like they may have the same property listed twice – yours says “entire house hosted by Rob” and is priced at $2,000.  The one I just pulled up says “entire house hosted by Joseph and it’s $950?

Here’s a link to the info I just pulled up: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/43564952?source_impression_id=p3_1605641322_SLAx8rfnCE2cLUN%2B&guests=1&adults=1&check_in=2021-01-01&check_out=2021-01-06

Kim Murphy

Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Kim Murphy

I agree this is very confusing.  Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I’m going to have staff look into this tomorrow and I will be in touch.

Lucia Panica

Director Department of Development Services

City of Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Kim Murphy

We have opened a Code Compliance Complaint Case for this property due to the second ad that was brought to our attention and we have prepared a short-term rental notice to be sent via certified mail today. The notice gives the owner three (3) business days from receipt of the letter to comply. Should the violation remain after that time period, we will move forward with the issuance of a Code Compliance Order, which may result in fines being imposed.  I will keep everyone updated on this issue.

Lucia Panica

Director Department of Development Services

Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Kim Murphy

An Official Code Compliance Order for the short-term rental violation was sent via certified mail yesterday.  The property owner was sent a short-term rental notice on 11/18 giving them 3 business days from receipt of the letter to comply but compliance was not reached.   We hope to easily reach compliance with the Official Code Compliance Order.

Lucia Panica

Director Department of Development Services

Sarasota

 

AirBnB Arlington Park

To: Sarasota Director Department of Development Services Lucia Panica

Thank you.

Please keep us all up to date on the situation.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Roundabout construction

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown, City Manager Tom Barwin

During our Roundabout Meeting (10th and 14th Street) this morning, it was brought to my attention that night work was being conducted on North Tamiami Trail which had nothing to do with the Roundabout projects. Not only is this work is very loud and disruptive to the surrounding neighbors and businesses but there was no notification issued to at least warn them.

I called Jim Bridges this morning and explained the problem. He, too, was unaware of the work and looked into it immediately and responded within the hour. Thank you Mr. Bridges.

Apparently, the work is required by FDOT and will continue until next Friday, Dec 11. The loud concrete banging noise will diminish over time, but the backup alarms will not diminish, of course.

To the neighborhood and business leaders on this email: please relay this information to the community surrounding the project i.e., IBSSA, Bayou Oaks, Central Cocoanut, Tahiti Park, NTRP, CCNA, and anyone I have mistakenly left out.

To FDOT, City Manager, City Staff, Contractors, Developers: there must be a way we can put in place a required community notification for this work especially if it is night work.

It is unclear how this is not required communication on the part of someone and I would appreciate understanding and rectifying the situation now and going forward. I am happy to help facilitate a conversation. Let’s work together immediately so we can get this information disseminated to those affected parties.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Maritime Museum – No

To: Sarasota City Commission

I strongly oppose your consideration to build anything on the Bobby Jones Golf Course that contradicts the decision, which has been passed and approved by the citizens of Sarasota, to become a park for all residents and visitors. The fact that you’re entertaining a proposal without any input from the public is criminal and needs to be put to an end immediately.  The original approval to make this a park was approved and you do not have the authority to accept any further proposals without expressed voter and/or public permission and approval.

It’s quite obvious that one of you must have a personal and financial interest in this proposal to even consider sneaking this through without public discussion and approval.

• No opportunity for public input on the proposal

• Give away of valuable city park land now owned by Sarasota’s citizens

• Loss of important conservation land

• Negative impact on the Bobby Jones/Phillippi Creek watershed

• Potential obstacle to a conservation easement agreement with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast

• Very bad lease agreement ($1 per year for 30 to 50 years)

• Inappropriate location for a “maritime” museum

• Harmful precedent for future use of protected public land

Tammy McKay

Sarasota

 

Maritime Museum – No

To: Tammy McKay

Thanks for your email about the proposed Maritime Museum at Bobby Jones. I want to make it clear that this is a presentation only and the Commission cannot take any action on this item on Dec 7, 2020. The most we can do is to ask that it be added to a future agenda for public discussion. Should this occur, then I would encourage you to get in touch with the City Auditor and Clerk to be able to provide citizen’s input during the meeting. You can still provide citizen’s input for this item as well. I have copied the City. Auditor on this email.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to me, I do appreciate it. Feel free to reach out to Alexya Alvarenga, the City Commission’s admin, to schedule a zoom with me if you feel that is necessary to discuss this or any other City business.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Bobby Jones Golf Course as Maritime Museum

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch

I was extremely disappointed to learn of the request from the Gulf Coast Maritime Museum of a proposal that is on the agenda for the December 7, 2020 meeting of the Commission. Where is the opportunity for public input on the proposal to occur?  There are many reasons that this use of Bobby Jones land would be very unwise, and they would be given by public input.

As a 30-year resident of the City of Sarasota and a resident of Glen Oaks Estates I am appalled at this request. I do not own a boat, however, if I did, I would not suggest a Maritime Museum be built on public property so far from the water. It belongs somewhere on the waterfront. Any maritime museums I have visited around the country were all by the waterfront, that is what made them so appealing.

My understanding was that the commission had agreed to take the Bobby Jones Golf Course and redo the course for golfing and then a portion of the land granted as an easement agreement with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. These are wonderful uses for a piece of land that is a jewel for the citizens of Sarasota. Since the course is closed and walking or biking is permitted on the golf trails, I have seen a lot of nature as I have availed myself of the opportunity given. Please keep this “jewel” a green space for the citizens of Sarasota.

Nancy Morris

Sarasota

 

Bobby Jones Golf Course as Maritime Museum

To: Nancy Morris

Thanks for your email about the proposed Maritime Museum at Bobby Jones.

I want to make it clear that this is a presentation only and the Commission cannot take any action on this item on Dec 7, 2020. The most we can do is to ask that it be added to a future agenda for public discussion. Should this occur, then I would encourage you to get in touch with the City Auditor and Clerk to be able to provide citizen’s input during the meeting. You can still provide citizen’s input for this item as well. I have copied the City. Auditor on this email. Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to me, I do appreciate it.

Feel free to reach out to Alexya Alvarenga, the City Commission’s admin, to schedule a zoom with me if you feel that is necessary to discuss this or any other City business.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Maritime Museum

To: Sarasota City Commission

Good morning. The proposed Maritime Museum is a wonderful concept for Sarasota. I wholeheartedly support the effort.

However, I am extremely upset and vehemently opposed to the plan to locate it at Bobby Jones Golf Course. Since the closing of the course for renewal and with the impact of Covid, I have enjoyed many days walking and biking through the course, birding and just enjoying the open space. I understood that it was agreed that BJCG would be renewed as one 18-hole golf course and the rest would be a conservancy for public use. I’ve been thrilled about that decision.

Besides that, BJGC, landlocked in the city, surrounded by private residences, is not the right venue for a Maritime Museum.

More likely would be Benderson Park, just west of I-75 or even on the east side of I-75. There is plenty of open space there, close to I-75 and near water sports and the new proposed Mote Marine.

I urge you to consider other options. Conservancy space is needed within the city. Place the museum in a location easily accessible to tourists and closer to watersport activity for relevance. Do not use BJGC for the Maritime Museum.

Donna Gannon

Sarasota

 

Maritime Museum

To: Donna Gannon

Thanks for your email about the proposed Maritime Museum at Bobby Jones.

I want to make it clear that this is a presentation only and the Commission cannot take any action on this item on Dec 7, 2020. The most we can do is to ask that it be added to a future agenda for public discussion. Should this occur, then I would encourage you to get in touch with the City Auditor and Clerk to be able to provide citizen’s input during the meeting. You can still provide citizen’s input for this item as well. I have copied the City. Auditor on this email.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to me, I do appreciate it. Feel free to reach out to Alexya Alvarenga, the City Commission’s admin, to schedule a zoom with me if you feel that is necessary to discuss this or any other City business.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Gulf Coast Maritime Museum

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch

I would like to know what two acres this would involve. I would like to know if this is a new organization or one that has been established, and for how long. I would like to know what the additional traffic impact would be.

Bernadette Murphy

Sarasota

 

Gulf Coast Maritime Museum

To: Bernadette Murphy

Thanks for your email about the proposed Maritime Museum at Bobby Jones.

I want to make it clear that this is a presentation only and the Commission cannot take any action on this item on Dec 7, 2020. The most we can do is to ask that it be added to a future agenda for public discussion. Should this occur, then I would encourage you to get in touch with the City Auditor and Clerk to be able to provide citizen’s input during the meeting. You can still provide citizen’s input for this item as well. I have copied the City. Auditor on this email.

Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to me, I do appreciate it. Feel free to reach out to Alexya Alvarenga, the City Commission’s admin, to schedule a zoom with me if you feel that is necessary to discuss this or any other City business.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

City Commissioner, City of Sarasota

 

Gulf Coast Maritime Museum

To: Sarasota City Officials

Unfortunately, no public input shall be permitted on this item. Please see the below guidelines per our Rules of Procedure.

Rules of procedure state:

A. Additionally, no public input shall be permitted under the following agenda categories:

1.   Approval of Minutes

2.   Scheduled Presentations

3.   Remarks of Commissioners, Announcements and Items for next agenda.

4.   Other Matters/Administrative Officers

5.   Public input may be prohibited at the request of the City Attorney on matters relating to pending or potential litigation or on matters about which the City Attorney is providing a legal opinion to the City Commission.

If you have any questions or if I can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Shayla Griggs

City Auditor and Clerk

City of Sarasota

 

Public Information Meeting – US 41/Gulfstream Ave. Roundabout Construction Project

To: Sarasota City Officials and Staff

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) invites you to join us online or by phone for a virtual public meeting to inform participants about the upcoming roundabout construction project on US 41 at Gulfstream Avenue in Sarasota, Florida. The virtual public meeting will be held from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16, 2020.

The primary purpose of this project will consist of converting the existing signalized intersection at US 41 at Gulfstream Avenue to a roundabout to improve non-motorized connectivity and access, as well as vehicular traffic flow and operations, between the City of Sarasota’s Downtown Central Business District (CBD) and the Bayfront area.

Please register for the US 41 at Gulfstream Avenue virtual public meeting by following the link below.

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5509486051509451791

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Those who prefer to listen to the webinar, you may call in and listen on one of the following numbers, 1-213-929-4232 or the toll-free at 1-866-901-6455 and enter Access Code 671-872-151# to join at the time of the meeting.

Comments and questions will be taken during the meeting, by email, through the project website, and by mail through January 6, 2021.  All correspondence will be posted to the project website after this deadline. If you would like to call in by telephone, all materials will be available for download from the project website at www.swflroads.com/gulfstreamroundabout/. If you do not have internet access and would like materials mailed to you, or if you require further information, please contact Alice Ramos at 941-217-7772 or via e-mail at Alice.Ramos@dot.state.fl.us.

Persons who require accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact James Nichols, FDOT Construction Manager, by phone at 941-708-4429 or via e-mail at James.Nichols@dot.state.fl.us. If you are hearing or speech impaired, please contact us by using the Florida Relay Service, 1-800-955-8771 (TDD) or 1-800-955-8770 (Voice).   

Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, or family status. Persons wishing to express their concerns relative to FDOT compliance with Title VI may do so by contacting Cynthia Sykes, FDOT District One Title VI Coordinator by email at Cynthia.Sykes@dot.state.fl.us.

For more information about the project, please contact James Nichols, Construction Manager, Florida Department of Transportation at 941-708-4429 or James.Nichols@dot.state.fl.us or visit the project website at www.swflroads.com/gulfstreamroundabout/.

We look forward to your attendance at the virtual public meeting on December 16, 2020.

Keith Slater

Director of Transportation Operations

Florida Department of Transportation

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