Longboat Key commissioners plan to get what they pay for if they sign off on a $125,000 contract with a consultant to provide input on which direction the town is headed.
The Washington, D.C.,-based Urban Land Institute (ULI) has asked for a list of no more than 12 questions it should ask when its officials meet with panels of residents to seek what they want for the direction of the town.
At a special meeting held Monday, June 3, commissioners reviewed a list of 19 questions town staff offered, but commissioners were not happy with the questions or the way they read.
“I have taken a close look at the 19 questions and have found them to really be four or five questions disguised in different words,” Commissioner Phill Younger said. “Are we asking the right questions? I don’t think we are to get value for the tremendous amount of money we are paying for this.”
Commissioner Jack Duncan said the questions “miss the mark completely.”
“The questions need to be more strategic and much less leading in nature,” Duncan said. “I’m fearful we will wind up with a $125,000 book that will end up sitting on a shelf and collecting dust if we don’t ask the right questions. What we need is an independent guide of where we go and how we need to get there.”
Staff based the questions, which include background on how the town got to where it is today, off of the town’s Vision Plan, mission statement and core values.
“These (questions) were designed to try and highlight important issues that may need to be resolved as we move into the detailed code work,” Town Manager Dave Bullock said.
But several commissioners thought the questions were leading in nature.
“I caution the commission in leading the professionals in the direction we want to go,” Duncan said. “Each question must not push an answer so we get an independent analysis of our island.”
Mayor Jim Brown agreed, explaining the study should “help us figure out how to make this town work well in the future.”
“For instance, I want to know how many full-time residents ULI thinks this town should have and if we should be attracting families,” Brown said.
Vice Mayor David Brenner proposed another question.
“What would you do to help us maintain our residential community and how do we attract people to Longboat Key?” Brenner asked.
Commissioners, though, chose not to decide on the questions during Monday’s meeting, opting, instead, to form a committee that will meet at 1 p.m. Monday, June 10, at Town Hall to review a revised list of questions town staff will work on this week.
The commission could approve its contract with ULI Monday, June 17, after finalizing the questions.
ULI is willing to work together with the town to form five-day panels with eight to 10 participants on each panel that would consist of a broad range of Key residents and community stakeholders.
The town is hoping ULI can help the town through an analysis and an objective review of existing and future town conditions.
ULI will look at all aspects of the community and hold no less than 10 community meetings to discuss everything about the island, including its residential and tourism aspects.
The five main areas of concern are residential, tourism, commercial, marketing and zoning.
The town will then hold follow-up meetings to discuss findings.
ULI will also attend and assist staff with the future public hearings required to adopt any of the plans or policies that come from the public meetings.
Tom Eitler, vice president of advisory services for ULI, told the commission in February, “If you ask us specific questions, we have the right people who can help answer the questions.”
That’s why commissioners are being exacting with the questions they provide.
Eitler also said ULI can help the town assess what is the right balance of residential, tourism and commercial for the Key.
“If we ask the right questions, we’re hoping they can tell us whether we are right or wrong and help us find an appropriate balance,” Commissioner Pat Zunz said.
Urban Land Institute Mission
The mission of the Urban Land Institute is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.