The Longboat Key Town Commission has given town staff direction to take the actions necessary to get its charter back on track.
The charter is currently off the rails in regard to future density increases because the Legislature approved at its spring session a two-page bill that nixes the referendum process statewide and also renders any referendum performed on or after June 1, 2011, moot.
That’s a problem, because the charter states: “Present density limitations provided in the existing Comprehensive Plan, as adopted on March 12, 1984, shall not be increased without the referendum approval of the electors of Longboat Key.”
So, the referendum approval process the town has used for more than 25 years is currently useless. And a referendum that the island’s registered voters approved Nov. 6 that allowed two properties to convert from commercial to residential use, allowing for a maximum of six dwelling units per acre, is now null and void.
Town Manager Dave Bullock and town attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale began working weeks ago to correct the issue.
They have been working with lawmakers who sponsored the bill to try and get the Legislature to reverse its course when it meets again early next year.
But, at a special meeting Aug. 14, Bullock asked commissioners if that’s what they wanted the town to do.
“We realized we needed direction to make sure we are headed down the right path,” Bullock said. “Do you want us to take these actions to preserve this density measure in the charter, or do you want us to take a different approach?”
After a back-and-forth discussion, it was agreed that staff should continue to explore if the action the Legislature took can be reversed through a “glitch bill” to fix Longboat Key’s problem. The town will also seek an opinion from a judge who will provide the town declatory relief. The legal move gives the town a legal opinion that can be used if any applicant comes forward in the meantime seeking to increase town density and is unable to do so because of the hindrance in the charter.
Legislature committees, meanwhile, start meeting this fall, and town officials are ready to discuss the issue with state officials at that time.
The town, at least, doesn’t have any problems with other past referendum approvals, which were all approved before the June 1, 2011, deadline. So, referendums such as the town’s beach project and the 250-tourism unit pool are safe.
But, although the town hopes for changes in Tallahassee, any plans for future density issues are on hold.
“There’s nothing we can do about it now except to try and get the Legislature to change its mind,” said Mayor Jim Brown. “We are confident it will get changed.”
The town of Longboat Key is the only municipality in the state that has a charter that is density-minded restrictive only to referenda.