The Longboat Key Town Commission has already given its support of a new concept plan for Bayfront Park, which includes a new community center on the park’s most northern parcel.
But for the first time since the concept was discussed at a May 2009 workshop, the town is ready to move forward with addressing the bureaucratic and land-zoning issues that exist before the town can discuss how to fund the project.
To start, the park cannot become a reality unless changes are made to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
At its Thursday, Oct. 21 regular workshop, the commission moved forward a resolution to its November regular meeting that will eventually amend the future land uses of Sarasota County and town-owned lands adjacent to Bayfront Park.
“It’s one of the initial steps in moving forward on this park project,” said town planner Ric Hartman.
Next, town attorney David Persson and town staff will craft an interlocal agreement to be agreed upon by
Sarasota County and the town of Longboat Key.
The agreement, Persson says, is more legally binding than the memorandum of understanding both parties agreed upon last year.
“An interlocal agreement has legal weight, and a memorandum of understanding does not,” Persson said. “The agreement will make sure both parties agree that this site is meant to be used for a community park.”
In addition, the Sarasota County-owned southern park parcel, previously dubbed the Albritton parcel, must be rezoned from single-family residential and commercial to an open-space category.
And because the new park plan calls for the deletion of the baseball field, the town must amend its Comprehensive Plan to suggest that the field is not required.
Persson, in a letter sent to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis in April 2009, explains that The Longboat Key Community Center Inc. donated the central portion of the park in 1993.
But, as a part of that donation, an agreement calls for the property to be used as an “activity-based recreation site” that requires a baseball field.
The town will have to confirm it’s still in compliance with that agreement and may have to ask for an amendment to the agreement.
Persson also pointed out that the new proposed placement for the tennis courts, closer to Gulf of Mexico Drive, is seaward of the Department of Environmental Protection’s coastal construction-control line, which would require additional state approval. The placement of the courts might also require the lights to be turned off at night during sea-turtle nesting season.
Persson said, in total, the changes that need to be made at the town and state levels could take more than a year to accomplish.
“There is nothing here that’s not solvable,” Persson said.
The biggest hurdle still exists, however.
Monies will be needed to build a new 15,000-square-foot community center, a new multi-use basketball court and relocated tennis courts.
The rest of the park’s site, including the site of the current baseball field, is slated for a multi-use active recreation area and passive recreation area that will include spots for a children’s playground, a half-mile walking loop near Sarasota Bay, a gazebo, sites for barbecuing and a mangrove informational walking area.
New park amenities that received favorable responses from residents included the placement of a fishing pier near the site of the park’s two current dock locations, and a relocated dock and boatlift is planned on the southernmost portion of the property. A kayak pavilion and kayak wash-down area also received a favorable response from the community.
• A new 15,000-square-foot community center building
• Multi-use sports court
• Tennis courts
• Separate restroom facility
• Dock and boatlift
• Kayak pavilion and wash-down area
• Fishing pier
• Half-mile walking loop
• Mangrove informational walking area
• Multi-use active and passive recreation areas
• Covered areas with picnic tables and barbecue grills
• Retain existing recreation center for art classes
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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