+ What would happen if the Key Club did not redevelop?
First I would like to clarify that I am Tom Cail III and not my dad, Dr. Tom Cail, who lives on Longboat Key.
Although I am not a resident of the island, I have worked on Longboat for many years, have been a resident of Sarasota for more than 30 years, and my wife and I are members of the Longboat Key Club. My memories as a child vacationing on Longboat are fond ones, and I might add the reason my family moved here, but then I’m sure many of us can tell a similar story.
That being said, let’s look at what is happening here: The Colony is closed; Whitney Plaza is a ghost town and was operating as a flea market on weekends; Avenue of the Flowers shops are deserted; taxes may have to be raised; the town is contemplating layoffs, including police-and-fire personnel; property values are declining; and I think it is not off base to say that this island is losing some of its luster. It’s all pretty sad.
I believe the Longboat Key Club is integral to the vibrancy of this island, to its allure and, quite frankly, to its future as a world-class destination. But there is another side to this that nobody is talking about and that is the tremendous member of our community — Sarasota, Bradenton and Longboat Key — that the Key Club has been. Besides the obvious, the number of people it employs, the dollars spent in this community as a result of the guests who stay at the club, the new friends and neighbors we enjoy every year as a result of tourists’ exposure to Sarasota via the club, how about the impact that this club has had on the charitable organizations in this town?
Literally millions of dollars have been generated for those in our community who are sick, young, abused, neglected or in need due to the generosity of this group. As corporate neighbors go, this group is world-class.
And, speaking of world-class, how about building the Tennis Gardens, hosting a professional tennis tournament two months later and pulling it off without a hitch? Seems I remember a bunch of grumbling about traffic and parking prior to the tournament but none after. Not only did it do all this, but it was recognized by the United States Tennis Association as a facility of the year, unheard of for a brand-new facility. When the club does something, it does it well.
You have as your neighbor an organization that wants to build a world-class facility, has proven that it knows how to do it and is willing to do it in an economy such as this and is asking for no taxpayer money to do so. In addition, you have a member of the community that truly gives back, more so than perhaps any other in this region. I’m fairly certain there are communities all over the world who would relish the opportunity to have this group as a neighbor. On the other hand, you have an island that is losing resorts, businesses, hotel rooms, shops, amenities, doctors, dentists, property values and, let’s face it, some of its allure.
My questions to you are these: Have you given thought to the future of the island if this project is not approved? What will draw people to this island? Can an antiquated facility draw new visitors? At what point does functional obsolescence make remodeling of the existing facility, as it stands, fiscally irresponsible for the owner of the club? What happens then? You have a tremendous neighbor in Loeb (owner of the club), one who wants to create a world-class resort that will be a catalyst for a re-awakening of this island, who is a tremendous asset to our community as a whole and is asking for nothing from you in return other than the right to do so. Who might the next neighbor be?
With an aging and outdated facility such as this, it could very well be someone who will squeeze every last penny out of the facility as it stands and do the minimum needed to keep it up and running. ’Twas a wise man who said, “Be careful what you wish for.” You will have won your fight and then perhaps the only thing that will be asked of you is a name change: “Budget Inn on The Beach,” anyone?
Thomas W. Cail III
+ Islandside renewal: common sense and some nonsense
When the Longboat Key Club’s proposal for the Islandside redevelopment first surfaced last year, I was as skeptical as many. Then I put my bias aside and really looked into it. I read the original filing in its entirety. I read the letters on both sides of the issue in the local papers, met with club officials, played golf with opponents and ultimately decided that the opportunity to have $400 million invested in renewing a major facility on the island had numerous positives and few true negatives.
I use the word “true” deliberately, as there has been a great deal of misunderstanding, distortion and misrepresentation coming from those who oppose the redevelopment. They have hired lawyers to throw procedural roadblocks in the way of reaching the filing and public-hearing stage. The fog and confusion being sewn is intended to frighten fellow citizens and intimidate the commission into making decisions based upon the desires of a few and not upon legality or what is in the best interest of Longboat Key going forward. Let’s examine specifics:
The median age on Longboat Key in the 2000 census was 67-plus. Some of the condominiums on the beach are nearing 30 years. The golf membership at the Key Club has declined 33% since 2000, and, of those remaining, the majority appears to be more than 70 years old. Aging facilities do not improve without investment, and communities need to continually attract new people to carry on and revitalize.
Visitors can be a nuisance, but we need tourists to bolster our tax revenues and support the dwindling number of merchants that we, as residents, want to have available to us. Some tourists come here as meeting attendees. If other resorts and communities are perceived as more attractive, partly because Longboat has allowed itself to deteriorate or has inadequate facilities, we lose revenue and services. Or our taxes go up. Or both. And, if we (or our estates) want to sell our residences, we are better served by being located in a fresh, exciting community where values are rising rather than stagnating.
There has been considerable noise coming from residents of L’Ambiance, The Pierre and Sanctuary that two eight-story buildings 900 feet away in the direction of Gulf of Mexico Drive will spoil their view. Not that the right to any view is a fundamental right under law. Their desire to assert their wishes as a few individuals to something not assured in their condominium covenants, even if it causes future harm to the rest of the island, is not something to admire.
It’s so big it defies description
Longboat Key currently has 6,058 condominium units. The club’s proposal adds two buildings totaling 132 units, two town-house-style condos totaling 10 units and 34 condo residences as a part of a new hotel.
Something in the order of 3% of total Longboat Key condos. Yep, seems huge to me.
Opponents have tried to turn a new meeting center into a convention center simply by calling it that over and over. This semantic trick doesn’t fly. I don’t know what conventions they have attended, but it is doubtful they were housed in 17,000 square feet spread over two floors. This is a meeting center with improved flexibility for the business functions the club is fighting to attract.
If we reject this, “someone” will buy the club and we’ll get a better deal.
And if we believe really hard, Tinkerbell will come back to life. Let’s live in the real world, people. We have been given a $400 million gift horse that some are urging we not only look in the mouth but kick in the teeth.
Rather than gambling on a hypothetical devil we do not know, let’s work together to make promises into commitments and commitments into reality.
Watch out! The club may trick us
Some have expressed the belief that if the club gets the approval to build the residences and hotel, they will, then, not improve the golf course. The plan includes a staging schedule, with the golf course being the first element to be implemented. The commission, through the approval and permitting process, can give this legal force.
A brief word about the Colony
The tragic possible loss of this widely renowned resort makes seizing the Key Club proposal for redevelopment and renewal even more urgent.
Let’s have an honest discussion
Exaggerations and distortions are not a positive path to progress.
Nor is threatening businesses with retribution if they support one side or another. Nor is pressuring businesses to advertise only with certain media perceived to oppose the redevelopment.
The Town Commission’s responsibility
• Is the density the club has requested a permitted use?
• Is the proposed redevelopment positive for Longboat Key and all its citizens now and for the next decades?
• Is there a positive impact upon the tax base?
The town itself independently studied the density issue in 2002 (the Pomeroy Report) and concluded it had the legal authority to approve up to 696 additional units at this property. The commission should not let itself be distracted by lawyers’ dizzying barrage of code citations, outdated memoranda, etc., and should keep focused on the underlying legality. And, it should remain focused on what is right for the entire length and breadth of Longboat Key, not upon the limited desires of a handful.
Our beautiful island has a golden opportunity to renew and revitalize. Let’s not let it pass us by.
+ Americans should employ offshore drilling methods, too
Let’s see if I got this straight. China is helping Cuba drill for oil off the coast of Florida, and the current administration is giving money to Brazil to drill for oil off of its shores. But it’s not OK for Americans to drill off of ours. If the environmentalists, “greens” and tree-huggers are against drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, then I’m all for it. Drill, drill, drill!
Milan V. Adrian
*Disclaimer: Please let it be known that my husband, Milan Adrian’s, comments in past, current or future letters to the editor do not reflect my own views or attitude.
+ We are opposed to offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
We are adamantly opposed to any offshore oil and/or gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. All efforts should be focused on developing alternative sources of fuel and not on prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels.
The placement of oil-and-gas rigs three-to-nine miles offshore will be visible from shore. No offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pat and Ed Zunz
+ Key needs to be receptive to cell-phone ordinance
I have lived on Longboat Key for many years and think it is a wonderful place to live, but it better start living in the present or things will only change for the worse as time goes by.
We have fewer restaurants, an almost empty shopping center at Publix, only one service station with no mechanic on the island (we had three stations in the past, one of which had a mechanic on duty) and now we have an ongoing battle over a cell-phone tower, which is sorely needed to bring cell-phone performance on the island to a normal level. The cell phone has become an integral part of our ability to communicate.
What will happen the first time there is an accident or other emergency on the island and people trying to report it to authorities cannot get through to the police or fire department to respond? I bet the powers that be hope they, a friend or relative are never a victim in a case like that. Let’s get with it, commissioners, and let Longboat Key get in sync with the world. Either find another method of making transmission possible or put up a tower and join the 21st century.
I found it almost humorous to read the article on the following page, “Town feels pressure of federal demands,” which stated that there is criticism of the “Welcome to Longboat Key” signs being developed as they have been likened to choices “that belong in a cemetery.” Maybe if our attitudes don’t change that would be appropriate.