+ Burglars hit five businesses
located in the Centre Shops plaza
Ciao, Italia!, Blue Dolphin Café, Longboat Resort Wear, Exit Art and Blue Dolphin Café, all in the Centre Shops, were burglarized the morning of May 11.
Officer Dean Greathouse pulled into the Centre Shops, located at 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive, just before 1 a.m. May 11, for a routine patrol of the plaza. As Greathouse pulled into the shopping center, he saw two males take off running toward the back of the complex, and, upon exiting the vehicle, noticed the broken storefront windows. After an investigation, the Longboat Key Police Department linked two suspected burglars who were apprehended breaking into the Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria May 19 to the Centre Shops burglaries.
+ Town sign code irks
Longboat business owners
Business owners pleaded with the Planning and Zoning Board to revise a sign code at a special meeting held May 11.
Rob Ball told the board he has placed the same portable sign that displays the day’s specials on the sidewalk outside of his Blue Dolphin Café restaurant every morning for five years.
But on May 11, Ball was told the sign, which the restaurant industry refers to as a sandwich board, is not allowed, per the town’s sign code.
“I’m in agreement to keep our sign culture and our upscale environment intact,” Ball said. “But unless you want a community with large iron gates on both ends of the island, let businesses do business here.”
+ Town’s three pension boards approve fix
The town’s three pension boards approved 2008 valuation reports at special meetings May 7, which agreed with a proposal to pay back $21 million in unfunded liabilities over a 20-year period.
The first installment for the current budget year, which includes pension enhancements and a payback of losses, is estimated at $2.1 million.
However, the town only has $1.7 million set aside in the current budget year to fund the town’s police, fire and general-employee plans, far more than the $943,000 that funded the plans in fiscal year 2007-08.
So, the town must account for an additional $400,000 in future budget deliberations to pay back the state for its previous budget year.
+ Spanish Main Yacht Club pet rules debated
Spanish Main Yacht Club’s six-member pet committee sent surveys to each owner at the 212-unit condominium asking them 10 questions, including if certain breeds should be banned, whether the weight limit should remain and whether pets should be banned outright.
The committee sent the surveys to owners with the minutes of the May 7 board meeting and asked that they be completed anonymously and returned by June 19.
The controversy began brewing in late December, when a resident spotted Velvet, a 38-pound border collie mix in her owner’s unit. Her owners, Victor and Eileen Mingal, said they initially planned to leave the dog with a pet-sitter during their time at Spanish Main, which has a 25-pound weight limit for dogs. However, as their dog’s medical problems worsened, the Mingals brought Velvet with them on the advice of their veterinarian.
Later this fall, the community could vote on pet-related issues.
+ Bayfront Park Recreation Center project sees hurdles
The Town Commission has already given support for the new concept plan at Bayfront Park Recreation Center, which includes a new community center on the park’s most northern parcel.
But the commission reviewed a lengthy list of items from Town Attorney David Persson at its May 21 regular workshop that needs to be addressed before construction can begin.
The park cannot become a reality unless changes are made to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
+ Additional mailboxes create GMD confusion
Forty-one Longboat Key residents who live on Gulf of Mexico Drive were confused, frustrated and annoyed to discover new mailboxes had been placed near their existing mailboxes May 29 after a repaving project.
The Florida Department of Transportation explained that 41 mailboxes along Gulf of Mexico Drive were either unsafe or non-compliant with regard to setback requirements for placement on a state highway.
The state ended up removing the additional mailboxes after residents complained.
+ LLSA Chamber elects
Aposporos as president
The Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce board voted to elect Acting President Tom Aposporos as the organization’s official president June 11.
Aposporos became acting president of the chamber in February, following the resignation of Gail Loefgren, former executive director.
+ Town officials will fight
U.S. 41 roundabouts
The majority of the Longboat Key Town Commission is willing to fight the city of Sarasota’s proposed five roundabouts along U.S. 41 near the bayfront, even if it has to dispute its consultant’s findings dollar for dollar.
At the June 18 regular workshop, four of the six commissioners in attendance gave Town Manager Bruce St. Denis permission to spend up to $25,000 in commission contingency funds to hire its own traffic consultant.
The commission hopes that a study done by its own consultant could dispute the city’s consultant’s claims that roundabouts will work well in that area.
+ Building official steps down after 33 years
Longboat Key Building Official Randy Fowler resigned June 18, citing frustration over recent layoffs and how the building department’s finances were handled in recent years.
The town, Fowler said, has charged the department too much for administrative costs. He also believes that the building department’s losses in the past couple of years could have been avoided if the town had not decreased its permit fees years ago.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis disputed Fowler’s claims.
“Randy’s expertise is in the building department only,” St. Denis said. “Randy was not a department director. Our finance director and finance consultants advise us on how to properly run the department.”
+ Dry Dock owner seeks
outdoor dining roof
After several years of meetings and discussion, Dry Dock Waterfront Grill owner Eric Hammersand finally received approval from the Planning and Zoning Board to build his long coveted outdoor dining roof.
The planning board approved a 1,239-square-foot roof structure over the restaurant’s previously approved outdoor dining area at its June 18 special meeting.
+ Who owns Beer
The town of Longboat Key patrols Beer Can Island, picks up excessive trash on its sand and even has a new emergency plan in place to rescue people in need from its shores.
But town officials say they don’t own the island.
Even though a sign is posted in the middle of it, noting two ordinances banning both dogs and alcohol on its beach, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said the island doesn’t belong to Longboat Key.
Earlier this year, St. Denis told Manatee County Commissioners that Beer Can Island isn’t a town asset.
But Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County’s director of conservation lands management, said Beer Can Island is under the political jurisdiction and control of the town.
+ Town adds boat slip
owners to business-tax roll
The town added boat slip owners to the list of property owners who are assessed a business-tax receipt by the town.
Deputy Town Clerk Jo Ann Mixon said any boat slips that are used for rental purposes must be assessed a business-tax receipt.
In particular, 194 boat slip owners at the Boathouse Marina, 408 Gulf of Mexico Drive, and the 270 boat slip owners of Longboat Key Club Moorings Marina, 2800 Harbourside Drive, received letters and invoices.
The receipt is required for all Key business owners and must be renewed annually Oct. 1.
Mixon said that slip owners who don’t respond to the letter to confirm that their slip is not used for rental purposes would be added to the business-tax-receipt roll and are required to pay an annual business tax of $103.95.
+ Key property values drop again, 10% on average
The release of certified tax rolls in Manatee and Sarasota confirmed another 10% average drop in taxable values Key-wide.
Town staff confirmed a 10.5% drop in property values town-wide July 6.
The town’s taxable values dropped approximately $621,409,263, marking the second time year-to-year taxable values dropped on the island since 1988. Last year, the town’s taxable values dropped $648,787,520.
Based on the town’s current millage rate of 1.5 mills, the estimated tax-roll loss resulted in a budget revenue reduction of approximately $908,967.
+ Tampa bankruptcy judge
rules against the Colony
Federal bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May confirmed a reorganization plan for The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s association Friday, July 31, while ruling the association’s board does not have to assess unit owners $14.1 million in resort repair costs.
The issuance of the pending reorganization plan and the judge’s decision essentially ended a legal dispute that began in April 2007.
The judge’s ruling was a significant blow to resort Chairman and owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber and Colony President and General Manager Katie Moulton, who have been paying resort operating costs for more than two years in the hopes its association would eventually assess its 234 unit owners.
And while legal proceedings have progressed over the past two years, Bank of America filed a foreclosure suit against Klauber and seven of his resort corporations, alleging they have defaulted on three loans whose outstanding amounts total $8.02 million.
Colony attorney Charles Bartlett said that in light of the judge’s ruling, “the landscape of the Colony resort as we know it is going to change.”
+ Hilton submits application for additional tourism units
The Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort submitted an application to the Planning, Zoning and Building Department Monday, Aug. 17, requesting an additional 85 tourism units from the newly created pool of 250 tourism units available Key-wide.
Longboat Key Hilton owner Mark Walsh vowed last year that he would expand his 102-unit hotel considerably if the voters approved of the concept that would allow existing grandfathered tourism units to be converted to legal tourism units at their current density.
The application proposes to increase the number of hotel guestrooms from 102 rooms to 187 rooms.
+ Firefighter union discusses contract with the town
Contract negotiations between the town and the Longboat Key Fire Rescue union are ongoing.
The town’s labor attorney told firefighters in attendance at an Aug. 19 public-negotiation session at Town Hall that because of declining revenues, the town is not willing to offer a new three-year contract with any major changes.
The town’s labor attorney, Reynolds Allen, of Allen Norton & Blue, said the bargaining unit was receiving a fair offer.
The firefighters, represented by Keith Tanner, a firefighter-paramedic and district vice president for the Longboat Key District of International Association of Firefighters, responded to Allen’s claims and proposal by submitting their own counter proposal for the next three years.
The bargaining unit’s counter-proposal asked for more vacation time, additional medical leave and annual step increases, which Tanner said will bring the department in line with surrounding departments.
+ Town proposes new three-year police contract
Just like the town’s fire department negotiations, the town is offering a new three-year contract for the police department — from Oct. 1, 2009, through Sept. 31, 2012, — that denies the police officer cost-of-living and step increases for at least the first year of the contract, citing difficult budget years.
+ Boat theft
on the rise
Whitney Beach resident Robert Lyons has had a boat moored at the Whitney Beach Marina for more than a decade.
At least, he did, until his 2008 ivory Grady-White boat, valued at $251,000, was stolen from its slip in late August.
The boat, according to a Longboat Key police report, was equipped with a $15,348.91 electronics package and included twin Yamaha 350-horsepower outboard motors.
Lyons, who was told there has been a rash of boat thefts lately between Naples and Tampa, isn’t the only boat owner who’s had to report a stolen vessel this year on Longboat Key.
Longboat Key Police Crime Technician Richard Brey reports that through Sept. 13, four boats have been stolen from docks or boat lifts on the island, compared to one boat stolen in all of 2008.
+ Town’s tax rate falls by .65%, rate of 1.4903 mills
The town’s tax rate will fall when the fiscal year 2009-10 budget begins Oct. 1.
Five of the seven members of the Longboat Key Town Commission recommended a millage rate of 1.4903 mills, down .65% from the town’s current 1.5 millage rate, at their Sept. 14 regular meeting.
For Longboat Key taxpayers, the millage rate for Beach District A property owners — residents who live west of Gulf of Mexico Drive — will be 2.1700, up from 2.1103 mills.
For Beach District B property owners — residents east of Gulf of Mexico Drive — next year’s total town millage rate will be 1.7090 mills, up from 1.6963 mills.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
+ Gov. Crist approves natural gas pipeline project
Gov. Charlie Crist approved a natural-gas pipeline project application Sept. 11 that will affect Longboat Key’s beach-quality sand resources.
Port Dolphin’s proposed $1 billion natural-gas pipeline is slated to be situated 28 miles southwest of Tampa Bay near Anna Maria Island, right through the middle of sand used for the town’s future beach renourishments.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said that a memorandum of understanding reached between Port Dolphin, the Oslo, Norway,-based pipeline company, and the state, reveal that the town must remove the sand affected in two of its permitted sand sites by June 2012.
However, if the town moves forward “with all deliberate speed but is not successful in removing sand by June of 2012,” Port Dolphin has agreed to either extend the town’s deadline by one year or reimburse the town for sand lost in those sites within a 400-foot corridor at a cost of $15 per cubic yard, up to $5 million.
+ The Colony suspends
its hotel operations
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, now in its 40th year of operation, suspended its hotel operations Sept. 24 until further notice.
Colony General Manager Katie Moulton announced Sept. 22 that hotel operations are closed, for now, as a result of the failure of the condominium unit owner association’s board to assess unit owners to fund operation expenses and repairs to the property.
The Colony and its association have been in the midst of a legal dispute over funding requirements since April 2007.
“I’m sorry we have to do this,” said Moulton. “But we will return our operations soon, get renovations done and be the gem of the Gulf that we have been.”
Colony Chairman and owner Dr. Murray “Murf” Klauber called the announcement “the toughest decision I have ever made in my life.”
Eighty full-time hotel staff employees were laid off, and approximately 60 employees remained on-site to continue restaurant, bar and catering operations, Moulton said.
+ Longboat Key police
Police Chief Al Hogle placed Longboat Key Police Officer Pati Beardsley on administrative leave without pay Sept. 17, one day after she was arrested for waving her department-issued handgun at a motorist who pulled into the driveway of her Sarasota home.
Hogle made the decision after the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents Beardsley, said they were willing to have her placed on unpaid leave.
Hogle and the police union determined the charges were serious enough to discontinue Beardsley’s pay immediately.
“This incident is truly disappointing and very frustrating,” Hogle said.
+ Islandside project
The town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment upheld Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson’s decision to deem the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside application complete at its Thursday, Sept. 17 regular meeting.
A standing-room-only crowd of people, many who were wearing “I Support the Club” badges, applauded the board’s decision.
The Longboat Key Association, which owns Longboat Club Road, appealed Simpson’s decision to deem the application complete in July, forcing the zoning board to review Simpson’s decision.
Longboat Key Association attorney Richard Ulrich stated in his appeal that the association must sign the application because it’s the owner of property that requires construction of new driveways and road entrance and right-of-way modifications.
+ Town drops cell phone ordinance discussion
The Longboat Key Town Commission decided to amend its highly debated telecommunications ordinance only a little at its Sept. 24 regular workshop.
After another heated discussion from cell-phone tower supporters and residents who oppose them, Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann urged the commission to do nothing to the ordinance except a minor modification that will ban uncamouflaged towers from being built on the island.
+ Tennis Center
Longboat Key Public Tennis Center Manager John Mracheck says his staff is “holding its breath,” in the hopes the new tennis center building will be functional in time for two back-to-back tournaments in December.
The Longboat Key Town Commission approved a site-plan amendment to the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center last year for a $732,000 project that includes a larger, 1,750-square-foot tennis building/pro shop.
The two-story building is already looming over the town’s U.S. Post Office location and construction workers are working feverishly to finish the building.
+ Are oil rigs on the horizon for Longboat Key?
Oil and gas rigs that can be seen from the shores of Longboat Key could become a reality sooner rather than later.
The Longboat Key Town Commission and Town Manager Bruce St. Denis were warned at a Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association Conference that oil drilling off the west coast of Florida could be discussed at a special two-day Legislative session that could be scheduled for later this month.
Explaining that oil and gas rigs could be placed three to nine miles offshore, which would be visible from the beach, St. Denis brought forward a resolution that opposes oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida.
+ The Colony files
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort’s hotel-operating entity filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday, Oct. 5, in the Tampa-based U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Middle District of Florida.
Colony President and General Manager Katie Moulton said the hotel corporation, Colony Beach & Tennis Club Ltd., would reorganize the limited partnership her father oversees in bankruptcy court “to protect the long-term viability of the resort.”
“It’s not something we had hoped or planned to do, but we were forced into making this decision,” said Moulton, referring to the condominium association’s decision not to pay for and fund certain expenses.
The bankruptcy filing did not affect the operation of The Colony Dining Room, The Monkey Room Bar and the restaurant’s catering division. All three businesses, which operate under Colony Beach & Tennis Club Ltd., remain open.
+ Town doesn’t recommend
Although Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson said in a staff report her staff could not recommend approval of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s proposed $400 million redevelopment and expansion, Key Club officials and attorneys said they are not alarmed.
“The differences between Monica Simpson’s memorandum and the club’s application are not nearly as serious as it may appear upon a casual reading of the report,” said Key Club General Manager Michael Welly.
Mike Seery, president of the Sanctuary Master Association and an Islandside Property Owners Coalition director, meanwhile, was pleased with Simpson’s report, which he called thorough and complete.
“We were gratified to see town staff elaborated on some of the concerns we have expressed from the very beginning about the project,” Seery said.
+ Planning and Zoning
denies Moore’s request
Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant & Marina owner Alan Moore said his 43-year-old business will shut down unless the town approves a request to change the zoning of the property on which the eatery sits.
But the majority of the town’s Planning and Zoning Board decided not to recommend Moore’s request to have his property at 800 Broadway changed from commercial to residential use at its Oct. 20 regular meeting.
If Moore can’t get the Town Commission to approve his request later this year, he says he won’t be able to renegotiate double-digit-interest-rate business loans that are due in January.
Planning board members Morton Siegler and John Redgrave were the only board members to vote in favor of Moore’s request.
“If we don’t grant this request, Mr. Moore is likely to lose his restaurant,” Siegler said.
+ Walgreens eyes Longboat for drive-thru pharmacy
Walgreens Co., the nation’s largest drugstore chain with sales of more than $37 billion annually, is making plans to build a stand-alone drug store on Longboat Key.
The Deerfield, Ill.,-based company submitted an Outline Development Plan to the Avenue of the Flowers planned unit development Sept. 29 for a 10,000-square-foot location at 500 Bay Isles Road next to Bank of America.
Walgreens has a contract in place with Bank of America to purchase 1.49 acres of Bank of America’s overflow parking lot just west of the bank near Gulf of Mexico Drive.