+ Commissioners need to fix what’s broken
Dear Mayor Jim Brown:
Kudos to you for trying to bring the focus on the Whitney Plaza overlay district. I am remiss that I did not voice my objections at the May 7 commission meeting, but I was so upset that I was concerned I would shoot holes in the new civility badges. The negative vote, even after omitting the proposed height increase, was a disappointment in leadership. The race to civility overcame a sense of purpose and leadership, that is, to fix what is broken and to support a positive direction in both the north and south districts and to unify our island.
We suffered from a P&Z presentation that got all tangled up with detail and semantics instead of starting off with an overview or perhaps a comparison of the differences from the existing conditions. I am sure that did not go unnoticed by our new town manager. Unfortunately, that was followed by an English lesson in semantics and a commissioner who threw out the baby with the bath water!
Few residents know that the RTF requested a 3 over 1 elevation, which is the existing allowed elevation, maximum 40 feet, but was ignored by the P&Z Board and raised to 4 over 1; that was the crux of the problem. The owners of the plaza desperately need the overlay district’s advantages, with respect for the surrounding community.
The Village is a beautiful, tranquil, low-impact type environment that is unique and should retain and protect that style of living. That, by itself, will be a monumental task by the Village inhabitants. Longboat Key needs an area that is in contrast to the south end because that provides a balance for residents’ likes and dislikes. It’s like the old saying, “Whatever floats your boat”; but for the residents to dictate and control (by intimidation and nasty behavior) development outside their immediate surroundings is unjustified and should not be supported by the town leadership.
The Village accounts for approximately 20% of the population on the north end, defined by beginning at Harry’s at St. Judes Drive and extending to Longboat Pass Bridge. Support from the residents, guests and visitors in that area is a must for the Whitney Plaza to survive financially – their input is far more important than just the Village. I see absolutely no reason to not listen to the Village residents’ input. If they want to isolate themselves, development wise, from the rest of the island that is their privilege/option.
I also feel compelled to mention a malaise creeping into the requirement to manage when thrust into the position of leadership. I am beginning to see more and more attempts to influence/intimidate town managing functions by nasty talking naysayers at commission meetings. However, our volunteering leadership is not skilled sufficiently to avoid becoming intimidated. The town electorate expects the commissioners to make tough decisions to fix what is broken and change what is not effective on our island — as evident from the results of the last election. Fix what is ineffective or broken; it is expected of our commissioners. We want continuous improvement. Civility doesn’t mean not defending your position for what’s right and your vision for Longboat Key.