Larry Grossman feels compelled to help.
A planner for more than 30 years for the city of Alexandria, Va., Grossman believes as a Longboat Key commissioner he can assist the town now more than ever.
Grossman, who is challenging Mayor Jim Brown for his District 4 seat in March, says he has the planning skillset the town needs to navigate its code change and Comprehensive Plan process.
For starters, Grossman calls the current town codes a “mess” and believes the town needs to change its way of thinking.
He doesn’t believe a planning consultant should be hired prematurely to help assist the town with its code changes.
“I don’t think the town has a vision yet of what it wants,” Grossman said.
Hiring an economic development consultant to assess the town’s current business climate, followed by an assessment of tourism and residential components, Grossman said, should come first.
“I think I can change the way things are done here and get better results,” Grossman said. “One of the top qualities of this island is its diversity, and we don’t want to lose that.”
To keep its diversity, Grossman believes the Planning, Zoning and Building Department is in need of more comprehensive demographic data to help zone the Key.
“Instead of treating the island as a whole, we should break it down into sections, or neighborhoods, and look at the relationship of nearby properties to those neighborhoods,” Grossman said. “It’s about being proactive and creating neighborhood plans that preserve character while also promoting change.”
According to Grossman, the town could be more proactive by promoting the sale and rejuvenation of properties such as Whitney Beach Plaza and the vacant gas station parcel on the north end of the Key.
Grossman was so frustrated that the town and the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force didn’t do more to try and convince Publix Super Markets Inc. to help create a town center with the outlying parcels near Bay Isles Road that he left the task force as a member in what he called “a mutual decision.”
“If I’m going to keep living here, some things have to change and ways of thinking have to change,” Grossman said. “The town should be telling applicants, through its codes, as well, what it wants for certain properties.”
Grossman plans to use some of the traits he used as a planner in Alexandria to help the town move forward.
In 1992, he helped the historic seaport city grow by engaging with residents to help revamp the city’s Comp Plan. He also oversaw a sculpture program for the city’s transit program. In addition, he helped garner federal funding for a historic train station; reviewed the installation of underground utilities; helped acquire land for parks; and tailored development districts that enticed developers to bring projects to fruition.
“We need something similar here,” Grossman said. “We need to show developers what we want done so they can submit a concept plan that could lead to approval. We need to think outside the box.”
Grossman has lived on St. Judes Drive since 2008 and frequently rides his bicycle the length of the Key. He takes mental pictures of what he sees and how the Key could be improved.
“As a planner, I lived and submersed myself in the community I planned for,” Grossman said. “I’m ready to help plan this community’s future.”
Occupation: Retired city planner, former commercial real-estate agent
Family: Wife, Patricia; son, Aaron
Hobbies: Yoga, bicycling and exercising
Passion: Planning and visiting walkable cities
Interesting fact: Grossman has an affinity for jazz music and singing international folk songs. He can sing in Italian, French, German, Hebrew and Arabic.