Everyone has his own vision of what the town of Longboat Key should aspire to be over the next 20 years.
But there is one common thread among the Town Commission, Key residents and business owners: They want to see Whitney Beach Plaza and Avenue of the Flowers revitalized.
Approximately 40 Key residents and business owners made suggestions on how to renovate and/or rebuild everything from Whitney Beach Plaza to The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort at a Vision Plan meeting Thursday, Nov. 11, at Town Hall.
Longboat Key dentist Lawrence Kassouf started the discussion.
“The most critical thing we must do is put out a redevelopment plan because commerce is the lifeblood of this island,” Kassouf said.
Spanish Main Yacht Club resident Tom Freiwald said the town needs more activities and recreation and noted that the Key’s first triathlon last month was a huge success that highlighted the Key for many visitors.
“If we don’t have more activities and recreation, I can see the average age on this island creeping up to an age none of us will be comfortable with,” Freiwald said.
Harbourside resident Madelyn Spoll urged residents to realize all that the Key has lost over the years.
“When I first came here, we had three gas stations, two of which had mechanics on site,” Spoll said. “And I didn’t have to go to St. Armands Circle or downtown Sarasota to get clothes.”
Vision Plan Subcommittee Chairwoman Pat Zunz said that the committee worked to include statements in the plan that urges developers to look at parcels such as the former Longbeach Chevron gas station and Whitney Beach Plaza as one large development parcel.
Lands End resident Ed Zunz said the town needs to consider creating a town center near Bay Isles Road that incorporates Avenue of the Flowers, the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center, the Longboat Library and Town Hall.
“Longboat has no downtown center,” Ed Zunz said. “It has no heart. I would love to see this entire area all integrated into a park-like atmosphere that will draw people here.”
Pat Zunz told those in attendance that the work done on the Vision Plan is to maintain the Key’s historical balance of tourism and commercial uses.
“It’s not true we are looking to expand tourism and commercial uses,” Pat Zunz said.
The Town Commission will hold future discussions on the Vision Plan, including a discussion on whether it should adopt the revised plan as proposed. Commissioner Robert Siekmann also proposed a future Town Hall meeting to further discuss the Vision Plan and get more citizen input.
Any discussion on the town’s future vision leads Key residents and business owners to wonder when Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. officials will redevelop Avenue of the Flowers.
Commissioner David Brenner alerted those in attendance at a Nov. 11 Vision Plan meeting that Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson has been working to address any questions or concerns Publix has with its pending redevelopment.
But Simpson said there is nothing to report on the project and no application has been filed with her department.
Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten also said there is nothing new to report.
“We are still evaluating plans and exploring our options for the plaza,” Patten said.
Vice Mayor Jim Brown, however, maintains Publix officials are open to any suggestions the town has for the plaza.
On Tuesday, several ideas were offered, including a suggestion by Tom Freiwald that a proposed recreation center be built within the Avenue of the Flowers redevelopment site to draw more people to a new downtown center.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].