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Longboat Key
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Letters to the Editor week of April 8, 2022

Ohana walkaround

To: Laurel Phillips

Hi Laurel.   I’m sure it has been considered but I don’t see why a set of big flat-topped rock couldn’t be placed just outside the Ohana seawall.  Picture of Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island is what has been done there.

Pete Rowan

Longboat Key

Van Wezel parking

To: Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Anne Snabes

An important issue does not show up in your story – how much parking and where is parking? The renderings only show lawn.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Van Wezel parking

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Thank you for reaching out to me. According to the Van Wezel Foundation’s website, it seems that there will be both in-site and off-site parking.

The website says, “A parking study commissioned by the city and conducted by Tindale Oliver recommended the need for 1,000 parking spaces to serve the future performing arts center. The Foundation is collaborating with the City and the Bay Park Conservancy to identify a variety of ways to meet this need through a combination of surface parking spaces within the Bay Park, a limited number of spaces beneath the performing arts center, and additional offsite parking locations within walking distance. Shuttle services would be provided to the performing arts center from any offsite parking areas during events and performances. In addition, valet parking and dedicated ride/share services will be available at the new performing arts center.”

Anne Snabes

City and county government reporter

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 

Van Wezel parking

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch

I was concerned when the story about the new Van Wezel showed no parking on the renderings. I wrote to the reporter and am concerned about this response. Does the City really think there is off-site parking and ride shares to deal with this?  Hope to see you soon.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

A new “Lo’Key” place to dine

To: Longboat Key Commission, Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board

Hello Longboat Key neighbors. As the busy season here on our sleepy little island is in full swing, I’m still reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place. Yet, at the same time, our little Longboat Key secret is clearly not a secret anymore as the traffic and challenge of getting on and off the island has become more challenging by the day, lines at the Publix checkout are often five to seven carts deep and getting a dinner reservation before 8:30 p.m. is like solving a rubrics cube. Never could solve the darn things.

I’m writing today to make a reasoned plea to my neighbors, friends and Longboat Key planning commission to support and allow the Lo’ Key restaurant and grill to proceed with what will be a new greatly modified design and plans.

While I fully appreciate and understand the argument and concern that some suggest exists around a new dining establishment on Longboat Key……mostly potential noise, additional traffic, parking issues etc., the new restaurant owners have taken and will continue to take all necessary steps to prevent those issues from ever happening or being disruptive or troublesome to any of their local neighbors.

The owners are thoughtful and invested in our community and in no way will allow this establishment to be disruptive to the peaceful area around them. They have enthusiastically engaged neighbors and adjusted their plans accordingly with the input of all those concerned. Moreover, they fully intend to continue to listen to any concerns that neighbors may have and make adjustments accordingly.

My wife and I have lived on Longboat Key for six years (visiting here for 6 years prior to that) and we dine out (or attempt to dine out) most evenings.  Unfortunately, however, the idea of dining out on Longboat Key has become increasingly difficult to almost impossible as the area as become much more crowded over the years. To get a dinner reservation before 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., you often must call weeks in advance or at least many days in advance. Sometimes advance planning just is not possible however and it leaves little to no quality dining options. It’s frustrating at a minimum and worse, it forces us and many other locals we know to travel off Longboat Key to find alternative dining options. And the notion of getting on and off the island as we all know can be a real trick and challenge in the busy season. Thus it makes our charming Longboat Key less desirable than it could be if there were more local quality dining options.

I do understand and appreciate the concerns expressed by some, but having known the operator of this planned “lo-key” dining option and reviewed the redesigned plans, I’m highly confident that this new establishment will not disappoint in creating a highly desirable enjoyable dining option on the island and one that will always be considerate of the neighbors and protective of our quiet (no-longer little well-kept secret island) here on Longboat Key.

Please join me in supporting a group of friends that want to create a fun new dining option for our not so sleepy little island in paradise…Lo’ Key Restaurant. Thanks for your consideration and being opened minded about this exciting new development.

Greg Brown

Longboat Key

 

Citizen Survey- open ended comments 2022

To: Longboat Key Commission

See the Excel spreadsheet with the open-ended question responses from our Citizen Survey.  There are separate tabs at the bottom of the sheet for each of the open-ended questions.  We have also shared the responses with each of the Departments so they can review any responses related to their area.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Citizen Survey- open ended comments 2022

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

As discussed, we received the spreadsheet from USF with the responses to the open-ended questions from the 2022 Citizen Survey.  It is in Excel format with tabs at the bottom for each question. You would click on the particular tab and then the question is highlighted at the top in blue. You would then scroll down for to read the various responses.

Dr. Neely mentioned, there were a number of instances where the same respondent answered multiple times with the same issue and he noted that the write-in responses are more anecdotal/informational then statistically part of the overall survey.  Some provided responses that may not have anything to do with the question.

We will be reviewing the responses as part of our follow-up to the Survey.

Carolyn Brown

Support Services Director

Town of Longboat Key

 

Citizen Survey

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

1) the town center outreach, held in the Temple so as to accomodate hundreds of interested residents, attracted only half a dozen people. That is a clear indicator or little to no interest in a town center.

2) as Ms. Brown notes, the “loaded questions”, along with a questionable survey design, may have produced inconclusive results.

There may be more beneficial ways to spend millions of tax dollars, such as reducing gas powered lawn equipment noise and pollution.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan keeps us well informed on all the hard work she is doing to try and get this issue resolved.  I am back and forth to Bradenton regularly and see the change on a weekly basis of the spit coming to your dock.  I will continue to communicate with staff on the priority this issue deserves.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

Thank you for your attention.  Would you like to meet at the dock house one day to discuss the situation?

Tom Mayers

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Tom Mayers

I would love that! Give me some days and times that work for you.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Commissioner BJ Bishop

At your pleasure, keep in touch and we will set a time for a visit.

Tom Mayers

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Tom Mayers

I have kids here this week. Once I finalize next week’s schedule I will touch base.

BJ Bishop

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Battery powered lawn equipment

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I have submitted to the town a basic business model that enables rapid adoption of battery powered lawn equipment.  As for construction site gas generators and compressors,  I thought that had been resolved by adding a construction site FPL temporary power pole as part of obtaining a building permit. As I have previously notes, not a single subcontractor has opted to use their gas powered equipment, since the temporary FPL power pole was installed at 660 Cedar Street.

The ethical and legal aspects of the town creating a PPP, a public private partnership, with local lawn care companies, is well defined both in Florida and county statutes.

By the town facilitating the conversion from gas to electric, the operating costs of the lawn maintenance companies will be reduced by 25 percent. A PPP will actually make things better, not worse for these small business operators.

I estimate that it with require one point five million dollars to supply enough lawn care companies with the best commercial lawn maintenance equipment to service the entire island.

I have previously submitted an arrangement where the subsidized companies remit to the town the money they would have had to spend on gasoline, which could be as much as $8,000 per mower per year. I believe my proposal is an optimal solution for both the lawn maintenance companies and our residents.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Battery powered mowers

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I am sending a link to a simple cost of doing business calculator to underline the feasibility of the town initially subsidizing the conversion to commercial battery powered lawn equipment.

The calculator shows that the average commercial mower consumes $5,000 in $3 gas for a 25-week mowing season. We now have $4 gas and a 45-week mowing season.

Here in Florida we have a much longer mowing season, so the annual fuel costs for a commercial mower most likely approach $8,000 or more.

Nothing I am proposing is mandatory.  Some companies may choose to finance their own new equipment just because of the greatly reduced operating costs.

I believe most residents want to be a part of lowering both greenhouse gas emissions and the high noise levels of gas equipment.

My proposed PPP public private partnership would receive the fuel cost savings, by converting to battery powered, as repayment for the town’s initial outlay to purchase the equipment.  The payback for a $16,000 top of the line battery powered mower would be less thirty months, while not increasing the cost of doing business.

After that time, the lawn maintenance companies would continue to reap fuel cost savings and our community would be much better off.

The town has a win-win opportunity.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Verizon application

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

As a follow up to the Mayor’s question this afternoon regarding whether the appeal periods expired on the Verizon applications, I am pleased to confirm that the appeal period has expired.  The Orders of approval on Verizon’s applications were rendered on February 28, 2022 and expired on March 30, 2022.  To my knowledge, the Town has not received notice of any appeals.  Accordingly, both orders of approval should be deemed final Town Commission action.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding this update, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Maggie D. Mooney

Town Attorney

Longboat Key

 

Condominium reserves

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Debra Williams

In response to your question about how many condos fully fund their reserves, I went back to our annual survey for 2021-2022.  Of our 76 members, 28 (37 percent) reported fully funding their reserves.  Of course, this is a survey, not an audit and so it relies upon the person completing the questionnaire understanding the definition of fully funded.

Please let me know if I or the Federation can be of further assistance.

David Lapovsky

Longboat Key

 

Condominium reserves

To: David Lapovsky

Thank you sharing this information.   I agree that there is some level of misunderstanding regarding fully funded (vs fully funding or partially funded).

Debra Williams

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Electric lawn equipment

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Mayor, I see that the town center is a major effort by the commission, who have spent over four million so far on the project.

I want to alert you that the present UN IPCC climate report states that if greenhouse gas emissions do not peak by 2025, there is no going back.

Will the pollution and noise, produced by ten thousand lawn cuttings each month on Longboat, by gas powered lawn equipment, be less by 2025?

We may all wish we had taken much more aggressive measures to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, sooner than any of us wants.

Please form a Private Public Partnership, for one quarter what has been spent so far on the town center, to quickly transform our community to battery powered lawn maintenance.

The alternative is bleak.

Dolores Kelley

Longboat Key

 

Beach erosion

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Given that 93 percent of beach sand erosion ends up in coastal inlets, and that beach erosion is more or less constant, requiring periodic replenishment, the most effective and least costly remedy is continuous sand recycling between inlets and adjacent beaches, using an inexpensive quiet electric micro dredge in the inlet, and constructing an effective jetty/weir at the entrance of the pass. Hillsboro Inlet is an example of what can be done.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Beach update and Discussion

To: Longboat Key Commission

We were originally planning for a Beaches Update at the May 16th Workshop.  See note below.  We were just notified that Dr. Browder will not be able to personally attend that meeting.  Other associates are available to present, but we think it is important for Dr. Browder to be there personally to provide the update and help answer questions of the Commission. Based on his availability we are scheduling the beach update for the June 6th Regular Meeting a few weeks later.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

Beaches Update and Discussion

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Dr. Al Browder informed me that he has a conflict that has come up that would not accommodate him to be available for a Town beaches update on May 16th.  He offered another member of the Olsen Associates team who works closely with him on our Town projects that could be available in his stead, however, because of the nature of the discussion, I informed him that it would be best that he be available personally for the discussion.  Dr. Browder has confirmed that he will be available for the next available commission meeting date of June 6th.  Therefore, Dr. Browder will be available for the Town Commission Beaches update and discussion at the June 6th Regular Meeting.

Isaac Brownman

Director Public Works

Town of Longboat Key

 

Crosswalk at Bayport

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

I am an owner of a condominium at Bayport Beach and Tennis. Most of us, (136 owners) cross the Gulf of Mexico Drive (GOMD) one or more times each day especially during season. (Jan-April) The speed limit in front of Bayport is 45 mph.

Most owners are senior citizens, some of whom walk with the assistance of a cane. Many walk slower than they did when they were 30 or 40 or 50. Our judgement of distance and speed may not be as acute as it once was.

I would very much like to discuss with you the possibility of placing a crosswalk in front of our community. It is my understanding that the commission has been considering the possibility of adding additional crosswalks along the Key, so this seems the ideal time to discuss this matter. What would be a convenient time for you to discuss this matter with me?

Marc Pachtman

Philadelphia, PA

 

Roundabouts are dangerous for bicyclists

To: Longboat Key Commission

Good site: https://cyclingtips.com/2021/03/roundabouts-suck-for-cyclists-heres-why/

Points from the above article: A 2008 study of 91 roundabouts in Flanders, Belgium showed that the installation of roundabouts led to a 27 percent increase in “bicyclist injury collisions” and an increase of more than 40 percent in the number of fatal or serious injury crashes involving cyclists. Meanwhile, a 2013 study of more than 300 roundabouts in Denmark found that the installation of roundabouts led to a 65 percent increase in bike crashes and a 40 percent increase in injuries.

Multi-lane roundabouts, meanwhile, seem to lead to more frequent and more severe crashes, possibly because they allow for greater speeds and more potential conflict points for riders. It’s perhaps unsurprising that cyclists generally perceive these multi-lane roundabouts as more dangerous, more uncomfortable to ride, and as something to be avoided.

After reviewing the literature Poudel and Singleton explain that the most dangerous part of cycling through a roundabout is when the rider is in the intersection, and motorists are either entering or exiting the roundabout. Somewhere between 67-82 percent of cyclist-motorist crashes that occur in roundabouts are these so-called “entering-circulating” crashes.

To quote the authors: “Roundabouts do not improve safety for cyclists as much as for drivers, and may actually increase bicycle crashes, especially for roundabouts with on-roadway bike lanes or no bicycle facilities.”

As noted above, the most critical concern at roundabouts with no separated bike facilities is entering-circulating crashes. The “look but fail to see” phenomenon is all too common – motorists are used to looking out for other motor vehicles before entering or exiting the roundabout; they’re less concerned with (and/or accustomed to) keeping an eye out for cyclists.

Howard Tessler

Sarasota

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan

Joani Bergstrom, here. All our blessed dead are turning over in their graves. Our family has been on this little property for over a hundred years.

The Town’s beach renourishment policy has destroyed our life as we knew it at Lands End. It is not Natural Accretion there it is Millions and Millions of dollars of Longboat Key dredged and filled sand. It has created a completely untenable situation for our family.

The Town attempted to get by with a little signage but they were removed and now it had reached the proportions of being overrun by the hoards.

Today ,one boat decided it was a great idea to plug the channel and he anchored where the inside boats could not leave.

These  boating people have no logical sensibility, which is a problem. They do not use their good sense.

Instead of crying, I laughed, as it looked like Lands End was hosting a big motor boat party at the end of our dock  with 7or 8 big motor boats on top of each  other right there where there is no water and plugging the channel.

It seriously needs to be signage that says only a paddle board and kayak and swim park there, down the little channel past the end of the Lands End Dock and up to the point and with a large and posted sign ‘No motor boats allowed, by order of the Town of LBK.’

Where the point there falls back toward the Pass it can be the motorboat mooring section. With a sign ‘Motorboat mooring’ here. Moore at your own risk.  It really can be that simple.

It is a true taking of the peaceful enjoyment of our property. Which is a warranty in each of our Deeds. I and my family own the parcel just adjoining Lands End and it affects all of us greatly. I know that you are actively trying to help, Maureen and we all appreciate you more than you know. Please do share my letter with the other Commissioners.

Joan Bergstrom

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Joan Bergstrom

I waited to respond until I met with Town staff, which I did this morning.

Here is the update on what the Town is doing to address the discourteous boaters that block access to the canal/cove and trespass on your docks, the need for a designated kayak/swim zone, and clear signage.

The good news, as you know, is we finally have the support of the neighbors, kayakers, LBK Commission and Manatee County Commissioner for our area to make that section a kayak and swim area.  The bad news is because doing this involves practically every bureaucratic body imaginable (FWC, Army Corp, County, Town, etc.) and because, it appears, we have a handful of boaters who are challenging these efforts – we have to get ordinances / laws officially in place to actually enforce and place signage.  This all takes a lot of work, public notices, applications, permits and time (which is frustrating to north end residents, especially because it seems like such a simple issue).  The challenge from these few boaters and lack of official ordinance/ FWC approval is why, we were informed, Manatee County removed all the recently installed “kayak landing only” signage.

The expansion of Greer from the ongoing beach re-nourishments requires engineering solutions.

So here is what is happening now:

The Town attorney is working on the legal side.

Our Planning and Zoning is working with FWC on a vessel exclusion area that would still allow for egress and ingress to N. Shore docks.

Our coastal engineering firm and Public Works team is working to secure new permits to allow for another (hopefully wider) dredge in that area and, longer term, to address the large amounts of sand coming east from the ongoing re-nourishment projects which is creating an expanding Greer Island.

Near term, our Town Manager is looking to at least get signage requesting boaters to keep access to the cove/canal open (which should move these big boats back from the dock.)

This is an enormous amount of effort and am sorry it is taking so long – but we WILL get there. Don’t hesitate to call me or Town Staff if you want to discuss further or need more information.

Maureen Merrigan

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan

We are so happy to finally have a champion for our cause, in you. We heartily, thank you!

We appreciate, all of your efforts in bringing this problem before the proper authorities, who have the power to act. I am sure that everyone will feel good when a good solution is put in place for this ongoing, dilatory problem that is impacting all of us who live at the North End of Longboat.

I speak only for myself but I am sure that the family joins me in our frustration of daily watching the constant and slow progression of a problem that worsens with each passing month. It has been presented to the Town over the years. Their beach renourishment policy has needed to be redesigned and reconsidered with a new approach for years. The by-flow of sand, carried by the tidal currents through the two Passes and the sand flow into our bays, is slowing  destroying the sea life and the vital  grass flats of our beautiful Sarasota Bay. It is shallow now and warmer.

Little did we know the extent of the problem, at that time, that our peaceful enjoyment of our old homestead would be so greatly affected.  Right at our doorstep in the form of small, moving mountain of sand pressing up against our dock where the whole boating community would like to recreate. They love to play jarring music as well.

Longboat Pass is one of the most beautiful Passes in the world where every boater wants to recreate.

Thank you Maureen, you are just great to take interest and help. With your representation perhaps we will see some positive action.

If I can help write a letter or do something to assist in your effort, please let me know.

Joani Bergstrom

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan

Photos from today at the Lands End dock meets the public beach.  I have been asked to photograph this area when we have a busy day.  The Police were here today but it is difficult to explain the situation to the public with no signs on the beach since you removed them last month.  There are boats on the beach with no entrance possible to the bay.  There are also dogs on the beach.  Please show these photos to the other Commissioners, both Town and County, and the Police Dept.  It seems difficult to do anything when there is no signage for the public to see.

Tom Mayers

Longboat Key

 

Lands End dock

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

The situation at the end of the Lands End dock is a mess with the encroaching sand and boats.  Glad the police were present to address the dogs on the beach. The Town needs to move on getting the vessel exclusion zone in place. Your note, by copy to me, has been sent to all Commissioners.

Maureen Merrigan

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

Public awareness

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

In regard to gas/diesel power generators, as well as lawn equipment:

I’m writing to let you know that this is one of those times when I think Mr. Jaleski may be on to something, particularly regarding the noise from lawnmowers and leaf blowers.

My wife Deborah has authorized me to quote her in this regard.

Often have I heard her shout above the din: “Longboat Key is the noisiest place I’ve ever lived!”

It’s my understanding that Ms. Brown is actively working to explore policy initiatives for the town in these “green” areas.

It would seem that this would be “fertile ground” in that effort, as well as being considered as a “goal and objective.”

And I’m not persuaded that we should not move on this just because no one else around here has done it yet; we should consider taking the lead on this issue!

I have a feeling that others would be likely to follow such a lead. Thanks for listening.  Above the din.

Dr. Jim Whitman

Longboat Key

 

Public awareness

Dr. Jim Whitman

Thanks for your note.  The issue of gas/diesel generators and lawn equipment will get a serious look.  The benefits of shifting to electric are clear; to my mind, the question will be the ability of contractors to convert, especially in light of the recent economic pressures on small business.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Electric powered lawn equipment

To: Gene Jaleski

I received several messages from you today.  As for lawn equipment, I have told you we are looking at the issue, both in terms of equipment operated  by the Town as well as the feasibility of requiring private landscapers to shift to electric devices.  It is my understanding that other neighboring communities do not prohibit gas-operated equipment at this time.  Beyond that, I do not feel it is appropriate for the Town to lecture our residents or vendors on their environmental responsibilities, but of course you may continue to do so.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Beach access on Longboat Key

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan, Mayor Ken Schneier

The response below to my recent letter mentions federal funding for beach rehab, so passing along.

Laurel Gilbert Phillips

Longboat Key

 

Beach access on Longboat Key

To: Laurel Gilbert Phillips

Thank you for contacting Congressman Buchanan regarding beach access on Longboat Key.

Beach access is a state and local issue over which Congressman Buchanan has no jurisdiction.  I recommend that you contact your state lawmakers regarding Florida beach access.

Federal funding is sometimes available for beach renourishment projects. I recommend that you reach out to the town of Longboat Key and Manatee County.  We would be happy to work with them at the federal level if they decide to pursue a project. I hope this information is helpful.

Sally Shely

District Director

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

 

LBK North

Monthly update below from our Town Manager, Tom Harmer.

Please share with your communities and thanks to all residents who completed the Citizens Survey.

Maureen Merrigan

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

LBK North

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan

We actually get this from our Lighthouse Property Manager and Assistant Manager. It is sent to each owner at Beach Walk. Appreciate you passing it along to LBK North reps.

Cyndi Seamon

Longboat Key

 

Pizza and Brew noise

To: Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown

Pizza and Brew on Main Street has become a source for late night/early morning noise and other disturbance issues. Last night three police cruisers and EMS were call to the establishment around 2:30 a.m. for fighting. It is a surprise that the police are not continually called in the early morning hours given the boisterous crowd on the sidewalk and street. Why can Pizza and Brew stay open on Friday and Saturday nights until 3 a.m. when all others close at 2 a.m. (Still a ridiculous closing hour)? This is resulting in drunk persons and parties moving to Pizza and Brew for the additional alcohol they do not need. The scene is loud, out of control and people are out in the street yelling, mostly ‘F-this’ and other obscenities. I doubt any resident wants this image of downtown Sarasota.

The establishment has windows that open to the street from which music is blasted. They could at least be told to keep the windows closed after 10 p.m. They have tables on the sidewalk. I would like confirmation Pizza and Brew has applied for and received a sidewalk permit. If not, those tables should be removed.

I am not a lawyer but I believe Pizza and Brew is allowed to operate a bar so long as their food receipts exceed 50 percent of their revenue. Has that ever been confirmed by the city?

I am not against Sarasota having entertainment, but it must reasonable for residents in the area. This situation is not reasonable. I believe the police will confirm my concerns. If anyone needs first hand experience just visit between 12 p.m. to 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night.

Thank you for listening and we will look forward to your response

Don Costantino

Sarasota

 

Pizza and Brew noise

To: Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown

Staff advises that they do have a sidewalk café permit.

Doug Jeffcoat

Public Works Director

City of Sarasota

 

Dunlap Comments on SPAC Financing

To: Sarasota City Commission

In my reading of the Mayor’s comments about “non-recourse” revenue bonds as it relates to the Sarasota Performing Arts Center (the “SPAC”) the Mayor appears to be willing to support a “non-recourse bond”.  The City has tentatively agreed to share in the construction costs of the Performing Arts Center up to an amount of $150 million, with the other $150 million coming from the SPAC in the form of donations and other revenues contributed to the SPAC.  The City is being asked to donate the land, various utility infrastructure improvements, a Parking Garage, certain future local Sales Tax Revenues and a transfer of operating reserve assets from the Van Wezel accounts to SPAC accounts upon the opening of the Performing Arts Center (the “PAC”).  The Mayor appears to want those City contributions to count towards the $150 million obligation.

I agree with the Memo from Bond Counsel on the definition of “non-recourse” revenue bonds.  Any SPAC debt issued by the City for the benefit of this Project will be secured by certain Tax Increment Revenues received from the City and County during the life of the TIF District.  I believe that the TIF District has a sunset date of 2049.  Any debt issued will have a final amortization date of 2049.  I also believe that this would be non-rated debt and would carry a higher rate of interest.  The SPAC debt will also be secured by other revenues received from the PAC.  Those revenues could include ticket revenues, fees associated with food and beverage revenues, parking surcharges, other rental income, naming rights revenues, and advertising revenues.  The City’s financial obligation to pay debt service on the SPAC bonds would be limited to these sources of revenue and would not include any other legally available non-ad-valorem revenues within the General Fund.  In order to determine the bonding capacity of these sources of revenue, we would need to have a projection of these various sources of revenues prepared by an independent Feasibility Consultant with expertise in doing such work, however, my initial opinion is that these sources of revenue would not be sufficient to support the remaining amount of debt needed after adjusting for the other City contributions mentioned in the paragraph above.

On the other hand, “recourse” debt could be issued but this would entail the City pledging legally available non ad-valorem revenues on an annual basis to make up the difference in the annual debt service on the SPAC Bonds and the “non-recourse” revenues mentioned in the second paragraph.  Pledging this additional security would result in a highly rated transaction and in turn a lower borrowing cost.  Legally available non-ad-valorem revenues are currently used to pay a portion of the City’s General Fund Operating Expenses.  To the extent that those legally available non-ad-valorem revenues are used to pay a portion of the SPAC annual debt service those dollars used would not be available to pay the Operating Expenses within the General Fund. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you have.

Craig Dunlap

President, Dunlap and Associates, Inc

Financial Advisor to the City of Sarasota

 

We need a safe, walkable Sarasota

To: Sarasota City Deputy City Manager Pat Robinson

For your further information and files, I am sending you a few photos of today’s walking experience.  I write to you, as I know of no one on City Staff who is responsible for ensuring the safety and comfort of pedestrians on our City sidewalks/MURTS.

If you wish to respond, that would be appreciated; but clearly from my 12 years’ experience living downtown, the City Administration continues to ignore these obstacles that are making the City of Sarasota less “Walkable.”

This morning we first encountered a large Royal Palm frond blocking half of the public sidewalk on the south side of Blvd of the Arts.  The City just planted dozens more of the large tall Royal Palms on BOTA that provide little shade and drop large fronds (up to 15 feet) from their height (up to 80 feet).  This occurs frequently anywhere we have these Royal Palms planted along sidewalks/MURTS.

A nice walk into Rosemary District was thwarted when we saw that crossing US 41 west-to-east was again blocked by north-south vehicles blocking the intersection and the east-west pedestrian crosswalk.  We felt unsafe walking in-between moving cars and large trucks blocking the crosswalk.

So, walking south to Golden Gate Pointe and Ringling Bridge was selected, walking down Quay Commons (too noisy to walk along US 41) and the Bayfront MURT (still under construction zone).  While the US 41 construction south of Fruitville on the south-bound lanes has closed most of the Bayfront MURT, plastic barriers have finally been erected to direct the pedestrian/bicycle traffic around the construction.  While walking in in the designated pathway, my wife was struck on the head by a falling Royal Palm frond.  Fortunately, she was not injured.

For many athletic people, these can be considered “minor inconveniences” to living in a “vibrant” downtown.  But they clearly are obstacles for many people less able to maneuver thru these unsafe conditions, who don’t see actions that the City of Sarasota cares about “Walkability for All.”

The one action I am requesting from you or Mr. Brown, is to please advise the thousands of downtown residents living on the west side of US41: where can we safely walk?

Does anyone on City Staff walk our public realm sidewalks and MURTS when there is construction nearby to ensure the safety of pedestrians?

City Staff have consistently ignored the Downtown Green Space Policies (2011) to allow the planting of Royal Palms (instead of canopy trees that provide shade for walkers) on public and private property adjacent to our sidewalks/MURTS.  So, does any City Staff walk our public realm sidewalks and MURTS to ensure that these Royal Palms don’t drop their large fronds on the public?  Do City Staff walk these sidewalks and MURTS during our 6 months of summer heat to experience the increasing heat-island effect caused by the lack of natural shade and more tall buildings abutting our public sidewalks?

How much longer do the citizens of downtown Sarasota have endure these unsafe conditions in order to walk for our health and wellbeing?

Patrick Gannon

Sarasota

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