+ Commercial facet would hurt the Key
As the debate goes back and forth about the Longboat Key Club’s plans for expansion, what stands out to me is the club’s insistence that this is an all-or-nothing deal. There are components of their plan that are perfectly reasonable and would neither change the character of Longboat Key nor dramatically impact traffic. Certainly the redevelopment of the Islandside golf facility with a new pro shop would be accepted as would, I believe, the construction of the condominium buildings and town houses. It is these units that the club owners look to for generating the revenue to do the redevelopment work. This is understandable.
It is their desire for a large convention facility and a convention hotel and the accompanying catering facility that is a concern. This segment of the development plan would generate substantial amounts of additional traffic during the high season when the roadways are already filled to capacity. The large volume of commercial visitors will change the character of the Key and dramatically add to the congestion in the area. It seems that if the club’s plan did not include this commercial facet it would have a greater chance of being accepted by the residents.
+ We came to Longboat Key for specific reasons
Some last words about the demise of real-estate business activity that will allegedly be solved by a new club: There is nothing wrong with the current one that a good go-over would not cure.
I, and many like me, came here years ago (34 for me). We came for peace and restful relaxation. Our concentration was never on “making deals.” We “working-class stiffs” did well. We came here for the arts and to bring our talents to the area — free! We joined boards, supported students, the arts and more. We never gave a thought to our real-estate values; we stopped chasing a buck years back.
The commerce of Longboat Key has failed for simple reasons. The restaurants that failed just were not up to their prices and service. Would you pay $.35 more for a gallon of gas? Why?
Can you imagine cement trucks and trailers full of steel and bricks pouring onto our spectacular Key? We can hardly move now in season.
My country has become more and more money-oriented, right? We came here for a non-commercial exposure. Help us keep it that way.
Harold R. Ronson
+ Our vote is no for the Key Club project
We are extremely concerned about the Longboat Key Club proposal for expansion. As I have written before, it will change the whole situation of a neighborhood vacation and retirement community to a resort community. The traffic, which is difficult now, will be worse. The convention center will add numerous people and turnover of people and additional traffic. It will no longer be what we purchased and the implied assurance that the complex would remain with the same objectives.
We understand some upgrading could be necessary, but not nearly to the extent of their proposal.
For any vote, ours is no.
Joan and Alan Stone
+ Key Club development is the right thing to do
I am writing in support of the Longboat Key Club’s proposed development project.
As a property owner on the island — and as the president of a luxury condo association (note that I’m only expressing my personal opinion) — I’m concerned about the economic viability of Longboat Key. Clearly, the status quo isn’t satisfactory. Just look at the number of stores and businesses closing and the lack of proposals for new hotel/motel rooms. Longboat risks fading — both in perception and reality — as a desirable, upscale location. The consequences of this, in terms of property values and our Longboat Key lifestyle, are frightening. Things are starting to get seedy.
The proposed development will be a major stimulus to the Key’s economy and bring the kind of visitors onto the island that we need. They will spend money, they will purchase property and they’ll tell their friends that Longboat is the place to be. And these visitors will come throughout the year, not just in season.
I have studied objections to the development and concluded that although there are some discussable points (that to my mind have been adequately addressed), the real agenda of most protestors should be identified for what it is: classic “not in my backyard” griping.
I’m sympathetic to owners who may lose part of their views or experience more traffic — the original project has been reduced as an accommodation — but the fact remains that we need this development for the overall good of Longboat Key. Just like the then-controversial new Ringling Bridge, this new development will someday be seen as so obviously having been the right thing to do.
On other issues
+ How to fix the town pension issues
Missing from Sandy Gilbert’s otherwise good My View last week on the town’s pension plans was the excess promise made by the pension board to our unionized and non-unionized employees.
A defined-benefit plan is certainly one of the draws for an employee to work for government rather than the private sector. But the Longboat Key defined-benefit plan has overpromised benefits, which have resulted in the under funding.
Not only that, the assumptions used to fund that defined-benefit plan are highly unrealistic: 8% net of fees hurdle rate. That is aggressive and inconsistent with history for any liability-driven, defined-benefit plan.
Rather, the hurdle rate, net of fees, should not exceed 6%. Otherwise, too many risks are assumed by the plan sponsors (taxpayers), with concomitant poor performance, cash-flow problems, actuary disconnect, employee dissatisfaction and retiree anxiety.
That the town is considering a switch to a defined-contribution plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b) only shifts some of the burden onto the employee, but the town is still the fiduciary. So, the taxpayer, again, will bear the costs of poor performance.
The only alternative is to:
• Reduce existing and future promised benefits. It matters not whether there is a defined-benefit or defined-contribution plan.
• Shift to market-based expected returns from structured, low-cost institutional funds, with proper asset allocations, diversification and universal access. These returns can be accomplished consistently, reliably and predictably.
• Complete transparency and full disclosure of all and any relationships and reduction of fees (explicit and hidden).
• Fourth, avoid like the plague the “alpha seeking” of stretching for excess returns. The taxpayers and the beneficiaries cannot afford the risks.
• Do not engage in any market timing — ever.
Mitch Levin, MD,
+ Our beaches are a national treasure
Our beautiful beaches, a magnet for Americans and foreigners, a national treasure like our national parks, must continue to be protected. The thought that drilling could occur within 10 miles offshore, or even 45 miles offshore, is chilling. To compare oil revenues that could accrue over time, compared to the billions the Florida tourism industry now brings in, is ludicrous.
I am horrified that our state legislators could even consider oil-and-gas drilling off Florida’s West Coast. They are myopic if they think that this will adequately reduce our energy dependence on foreign oil or improve Florida’s
The focus, instead, should be on energy conservation and the development of alternate energy sources through state incentives. They are sending the wrong message. Gentlemen, do not let industry interests influence you over public interests. Leave our beaches alone.
+ No on oil wells, yes on cell-phone towers
You might relay this to the Town Commission: No on oil wells inside 100 miles, let alone 10. (I thought that the Legislature was kidding; then I remembered the clowns in residence in the House).
Yes on cell towers on Longboat Key. I thought surely at this umpteenth meeting on the subject you would figure out how to do it without losing 12 votes in your next election. There is no question about our lousy service, particularly on the north end. So nobody showed up for the discussion ... do we have to be there to tell you what your job is?
+ Protests against oil drilling are not valid
Slightly over a century ago, self-appointed protectors from progress urged a ban on automobiles from our streets. They claimed that automobiles would “frighten horses and delicate women.” If we had listened to them, our children and grandchildren would be cleaning horse manure from our garages.
Now, we find that the descendants of those who want to block progress are protesting drilling for oil three-to-five miles off our local coastline. Their reasoning generally points in two directions. First, “the oil platforms are unsightly.” This ploy is obviously wrong, because the many liners and tankers that leave Tampa Bay are far larger than any platform and go unnoticed by all. If you can see a platform from the distance discussed, they are actually specks on the horizon and quite interesting.
The second protest is that they are unsafe. This is total nonsense. Modern drilling methods are safer than filling your tank at the local gas station. Multiple wells are accessed from a single drill site. Regarding leakage, more oil seeps out naturally from undrilled areas than from drill sites.
If the reasons to ban drilling have no validity, the advantages are obvious. These include income for the state and local governments, new jobs in the area and a positive impact on our national balance of trade.
Protests against drilling are, pardon the expression, horse manure.
Stuart R. Scheyer