I am convinced the town will bankrupt itself if it continues, unfettered, to play Big Brother to our beach. Our body politic, it seems, is committed to forget costs and move forward at the complaints of a few.
And these escalating costs and continued degradation of what Mother Nature had created for us deeply concerns me.
Consider this: A year ago, the Longboat Observer sugar-coated the subject with: “Once the structures are in, sand from Longboat Pass will still need to be placed on the north end every four to eight years. During a 20-year period, sand placement will cost the town anywhere from $4 million to $7.5 million.”
That should have read: $4 million to $7.5 million per renourishment. And if conditions continue as they have in the past, the total costs for 20 years should be estimated at $40 million to $75 million.
When voters were presented with a beach referendum in 1992, the original rallying cry that passed by just three votes on the third go-round was: “sand or seawalls?” Now we are faced with: “gray hard sand and seawalls.”
And, in the future, as suitable sands become more scarce, the cost of satisfying the demands of our Gulf-side land owners will go, logarithmically, off the charts.
For the further edification of us taxpayers, please understand that the original vote to tax us for beach renourishment was specific, in that all costs, not just those of the bonds, were to be borne proportionately by the two beach districts on an 80%/20% basis. It now appears the town has ignored this and paid directly for all of these beach-related extraneous expenses directly out of ad valorem taxes.
In summary, Aug. 6, 1992, the Longboat Key Town Commission passed two important ordinances, 92-24 and 92-26, setting up Longboat Key Beach Erosion Control District A (all Gulf-side and non-residential properties) and Longboat Key Beach Erosion Control District B (all bay-side residential properties).
As stated in Section 6 of the ordinance, the purposes and powers of the District A “shall be to provide for the planning, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of Gulf beach restoration and Gulf beach maintenance projects on the island of Longboat Key, which benefit the area within Longboat Key beach Control District A, whether such projects are physically located within or outside the district, and other related beach projects.”
Section 7 says the districts shall have the powers “to conduct studies and adopt plans related to beach restoration and maintenance, maintain the beach, purchase and sell property, enter into contracts with both public and private entities, issue bonds and other obligations, levy taxes, levy special assessments and appropriate and spend public funds, provided, however, that the power to issue bonds or other obligations or the levy of special assessments shall require the approval of a majority of the electors of the district voting on the proposed bond issue or special assessment.”
Unequivocally, these districts, and not the town, are responsible for all expenses and matters dealing with the beach.
The reason for setting these two districts was due to the fact that the town’s electorate would not approve levying residents with non-beachfront property similarly to the assessment for beachfront residents.
In addition, in splitting beach costs 80%/20%, there was the caveat that District A would assume all costs if District B opted out. Then, and only then, did voters finally approve the proposition.
This has been patently unfair to those of us who are in District B and especially onerous on those of us who have been paying directly for the maintenance of our own seawalls and breakwaters.
To compound the matter, the town has been expending 100% of funds derived from our share of tourist taxation on the beach Please understand, our canals are also an attraction to tourism, and our seawalls also contribute to holding our fragile barrier island in its present location!
As a barrier island, Longboat Key is held in place by the beach and its pertinent maintenance and construction on the Gulf of Mexico and the vegetative growth and seawalls on Sarasota Bay. The 80%/20% arrangement made sense — the beach mattered more for some than for all.
After the first renourishment project, this clear arrangement was ignored with respect to the myriad of costs of maintenance and engineering. This citizen has tried in vain to ascertain how much has been spent without resorting to borrowing through bonds and from the use of ad valorem taxes without apportioning the costs as previously agreed. Consideration could be given to reimbursing the property owners in District B for their rightful portion of these costs.
It is patently unfair to have, for the past 20 years, burdened the entire community for beautifying the beach and building fixed structures, solely to benefit beachfront properties. If this is to be continued, then the town must assume stewardship of and maintenance of our seawalls, as well!
People have bandied around the total of what the beach has cost us since the 1992 vote. Taxpayers should be provided with the actual costs.
This subject begs detailed consideration and resolution.
Brad Saivetz is a Longboat Key resident and former member of the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board.