Residents in the low-lying bayfront community known as Buttonwood on Longboat Key agree on one thing—flooding can often make roadways impassible, and a solution is necessary.
But the pace of implementing a solution and whether to support a public referendum that will ask all voters on Nov. 2 whether to allow two residential units on land abutting Buttonwood is dividing neighbors.
The issue has grown tense ever since four parcels in front of the Buttonwood development that run along Gulf of Mexico Drive were bought by Mark Ursani. Ursani now owns a total of 2.18 acres and wishes to build two residences abutting the Buttonwood land and wants to rezone the property and voters will decide whether to allow him the two residential units of density in the Nov. 2 referendum.
Ursani also wants to build an office for his homebuilding company, as well as his wife and some room for storage, which is allowed in the zoning category on a remaining parcel. He also wishes to build a small office building on the northernmost parcel.
Ursani has since had the land stripped of all of the Australian pines and exotic species, which town code exempts from the tree ordinance and deems a “nuisance species.” Ursani’s contractor has removed about 30 truckloads of mulched trees from the 2-acre site.
The issue of flooding and the referendum request has added a political twist to the community imbroglio. Some homeowners refuse to support the referendum saying there should be no additional development in such a horribly flooded zone until the town fixes the problem.
The Longboat Key Commission last month said it would undertake a “high level review” of the situation and that it was part of its upcoming and known projects. Additionally, funding would be determined after a scope of work is realized and then sources of funding could be identified.
For some Buttonwood residents this verbal commitment from the commission was enough. But for others, they feel the proverbial “can” is being kicked. They wish to see a plan of action with specific times and funding and perhaps immediate measures, or at least additional community engagement. They feel that adding any development will only exacerbate an already untenable situation.
Buttonwood Harbor Association President Dave Bishop said Hurricane Eta last year, produced the worst flooding he has seen in his decade he has lived in the community. Even then, he says, water came in the garage but did not flood his home.
The worst flooding occurs at the intersection of Winslow and Buttonwood Drive. Additionally, Longview Drive floods. The worst case scenario is that residents can be trapped by the flooding.
But Bishop says that he understands some folks want action right away, but, “That’s not the way government works.”
The Buttonwood community of about 50 homes forms a basin where water from the Triton Cove community to the south and property abutting Gulf of Mexico Drive and all the way to the commercial buildings, the water all flows toward drainage pipes and ditches that are often clogged or simply have filled with silt and no longer flow in the right direction. Other drainage sections have collapsed.
Longboat Key Public Works has been tasked with evaluating and planning to replace numerous sections of aged infrastructure throughout Longboat Key, much of which was installed in the 1970s.
Sea level rise as well as the possibility of increasingly more severe and storm events is adding pressure for the town to address flooding, erosion and shoreline policy throughout Longboat Key.