The barrier islands of Manatee and Sarasota counties are becoming places where only wealthy companies can afford to purchase properties once owned by longtime residents.
That was the main concern among island mayors when Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle held a meeting to address their concerns Nov. 1, in Bradenton.
“The elephant in the room is the federal flood insurance program and the rising cost of wind insurance,” said Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown.
Property owners on Longboat Key and other barrier islands who don’t live here full time and don’t use their island home as their primary residence are seeing 25% increases in their flood insurance policies this year. And, because more than half of Longboat Key properties are second homes, the hikes are affecting a large portion of the Key’s properties. Many property owners are moving to the mainland to avoid the expensive insurance hikes.
Couple that with wind policies that have risen 15% to 25% in the last two years alone, and the price to insure properties on Longboat Key and other barrier islands becomes costlier every year.
Brown knows all about the rising cost of insurance.
In fall 2011, Brown insured his house for $9,600 a year through a Texas-based insurance company.
But when the company notified Brown it would no longer insure his property, he was forced to find insurance elsewhere.
After receiving two quotes for more than $55,000, Brown found a better rate with a company for $23,000 a year.
“The worst part is I’m paying $23,000 a year to a C-rated insurance company,” said Brown, who said the rising cost of insurance has him contemplating selling his more than 3,000-square-foot house for a smaller property on the Key, which would be cheaper to insure.
Other island mayors sympathized with Brown and said they are having similar issues in their communities.
Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti expressed concerns that full-time residents are leaving Anna Maria Island and the properties are turning into tourism properties.
“The wealthy are buying up the properties and charging thousands to rent the units out,” Monti said.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy and Monti said they were both working to combat parking problems in their cities. Bradenton Beach is working on a plan to have motorists park at Coquina Beach and use the trolley system more, while Monti said Anna Maria is investigating water taxis and paid beach parking.
Brown noted that Longboat Key’s issues with parking are minor, but traffic congestion in season could be combated by implementing the Urban Land Institute’s suggestion of calming traffic with pedestrian islands along Gulf of Mexico Drive and a possible roundabout at Broadway and Gulf of Mexico Drive on the north end of the Key.
Brown and other mayors expressed a need to work together to combat problems they all face.
“Who is coming to our island communities?” Brown asked. “We all know it’s not us, so we need to prepare for our future.”
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