The debate continued last week on how specific the town should be when referring to future revitalization of the island in town documents that shape the future of Longboat Key.
At the latest Vision Plan Subcommittee meeting Aug. 11, Chairwoman Pat Zunz and subcommittee member George Symanski Jr. continued to be baffled that other subcommittee participants take issue with putting statements in both the Vision Plan and the town’s Comprehensive Plan that give developers specific examples on what the town would like to see happen to certain parcels in the future.
For instance, Zunz and Symanski support including language in the documents that tells developers whether a hotel and/or a mixed-use commercial plaza would be a worthwhile endeavor for them to pursue for a parcel like Whitney Beach Plaza.
But at Wednesday’s meeting, both Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson and assistant town attorney Kelly Martinson warned that being too specific, especially in regard to the Comprehensive Plan, could be detrimental.
“Putting that kind of language in comprehensive plans is not normally done,” said Martinson, who warned that any changes to the Comprehensive Plan could take a minimum of six months to be completed in Tallahassee. “There is no issue with you saying redevelopment with a hotel and new shopping center is not wrong. But what I generally don’t see is specificity parcel by parcel regarding what you want to happen.”
Martinson also suggested the subcommittee look at how other Florida towns similar in size have crafted their Comprehensive Plans.
“The reason why Comprehensive Plans aren’t as detailed as you like is because if one of those details hinders a development in the future, you have to go back and make more changes to the plan,” Martinson said.
Simpson also warned the subcommittee to be careful.
“Master planning is much different than vision planning,” Simpson said. “It’s very, very detailed. If you want to be specific, you must craft the language very carefully.”
The warnings didn’t seem to deter the majority of the subcommittee members, who agreed that the town should include statements in its Vision Plan and Comprehensive Plan about what the town would suggest be done with certain sites on the Key.
“We have to include potential possibilities for properties,” Zunz said. “We are passing the football if we don’t do that.”
“These warnings don’t bother me,” Symanski said. “The town just has to be careful when crafting its amendments.”
And Zunz expressed a need for the revised 20-year Vision Plan to be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan.
“If it’s not incorporated, the Vision Plan will end up collecting dust on a shelf again like it has been since 2007,” Zunz said.
Commissioner Phillip Younger, who attended the subcommittee as a member of the public, wondered if incorporating the Vision Plan into the Comprehensive Plan would hinder flexibility for a developer, who might need to make changes to the Comprehensive Plan to create a viable project.
“We’re not going to do this in a vacuum,” Zunz said. “It will be revised and done in a manner that’s legally viable.”
The majority of the subcommittee agreed they wanted more specificity in the Vision Plan; subcommittee members David Miller and Dick Pelton agreed with Zunz and Symanski.
“I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to put specific examples in there,” Pelton said. “It’s a meaty, permanent document. We are pussyfooting around if we don’t do it.”
A consensus was eventually reached that the Vision Plan would include specific examples for potential development sites, with the hopes the specificity would make its way into the Comprehensive Plan when the Planning and Zoning Board reviews the document in September.
The subcommittee will make the suggestions to the Town Commission in the fall.
Vision Plan subcommittee member and Commissioner David Brenner suggested Wednesday, Aug. 11 that the group should consider re-examining the 30-day rental use requirement for Key condominiums and single-family homes.
But committee Chairwoman Pat Zunz was against the idea.
“No one has been able to tell me that short-term rentals right now are fully used,” Zunz said. “It’s a mistake to change the policy, and it’s zoning going backwards.”
Public attendee Michael Welly, general manager of the Longboat Key Club and Resort, suggested the rental policy should be changed to two weeks because most people don’t take a month-long vacation now.
Zunz disagreed again.
“No one has shown me a demand to start turning condos and houses into shorter–term rentals,” Zunz said.
Welly, however, argued the island’s reputation would have to change before demand could be created.
Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce President Tom Aposporos agreed.
“There is a perception from folks overseas that the Key went off the radar screen five years ago for them,” Aposporos said. “That suggests why our rentals aren’t being rented.”
Zunz, however, argued the town shouldn’t change its zoning based on perceptions.
No agreement could be made on the issue, so the subcommittee agreed to move on.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson later distributed data via e-mail from the chamber showing that a visitors guide from 2003 listed 38 places offering short-term rentals. The 2010 guide lists 25 places offering short-term rental, which is a 34% decrease from the 2003 guide.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].