With The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s $400 million Islandside renovation and expansion project looming, members of the Longboat Key Town Commission are publicly expressing frustration and concern with the most important project the town has reviewed in years.
At the commission’s Monday, Nov. 2 regular meeting, Commissioners Peter O’Connor and Robert Siekmann explained that their constituents have approached them to complain about their lack of involvement and lack of attendance at the recent Planning and Zoning Board Islandside public hearings.
“Is it still the recommendation of the town attorney that commissioners stay away from the hearings?” Siekmann asked at the meeting. “Because it creates a problem for sitting commissioners who are approached by residents who ask why we weren’t at the meetings and why we don’t care about this issue.”
Town Attorney David Persson confirmed, again, that it’s his recommendation that commissioners not attend the hearings.
“I prefer you not to attend,” Persson said. “But I can’t require attendance or non-attendance.”
Commissioner George Spoll attended the planning board’s initial hearings on the project in October, and Commissioner Jim Brown also attended a portion of the hearings two weeks ago.
Although Persson admitted the attendance issue is “a minor one,” he explained he would like “to keep the moving parts down to a minimum.”
Spoll defended his attendance at the hearings by saying he purposefully avoided any club presentations or discussions about the project over the last two years, but felt it was appropriate “to get the flavor of the town’s public hearings,” which he thinks will make him a better judge when the hearing is brought before him and his fellow commissioners.
O’Connor, meanwhile, expressed frustration with one particular resident, who sent an e-mail to the commission, urging it to impose a greater standard upon the planning board to increase the quality of the hearings.
“It’s important to note there really are people who are criticizing us and asking us these questions,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor also lectured town staff at the regular meeting for what he perceives as poor planning involved with the project hearings and future hearings.
O’Connor said he is annoyed that town staff has asked him to hold four potential dates in December and January open in case the commission can review the project on some of those dates.
“To hold open multiple dates because something may happen is getting a little overbearing,” O’Connor said. “It’s not to anyone’s advantage to make this an overbearing task for the decision makers.”
Jaleski agreed and asked why the commission was being asked to view the project so soon.
“What’s the big hurry?” Jaleski asked.
A visibly annoyed Persson told the commission that the commission collectively requested him to set potential meeting dates.
“This is a quasi-judicial hearing that requires you to act as judges and give the applicant due process,” Persson said. “I also can’t be any more blunt by telling you that I don’t like you acting as judges on an important project like this during election season.”
Persson, however, said he will not know until after the hearings are conducted this week by the planning board if the commission can conceivably review the project in December or January.
“This is a huge project for the town to consider on a whole series of levels,” Persson said. “And it may very well come to you in February.”
O’Connor, however, urged the commission to pick a date for the commission to review the project instead of hoping that all seven commissioners will be available when the time comes.
“If any one of us fails to keep these days open, you can’t follow your schedule,” O’Connor said.
But Siekmann and Mayor Lee Rothenberg said the town attorney was doing everything in his power to move the process along, and there was a consensus to keep the dates open at this time.
“We have to hope for the best and wait it out,” Rothenberg said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at email@example.com
On the calendar
The Longboat Key Town Commission has been asked to keep Dec. 9, Dec. 14, Jan. 8 and Jan. 15 open for potential hearing dates to review The Longboat Key Club and Resort’s Islandside renovation and expansion project.
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