Beach project, charter amendment approved

 

Beach project, charter amendment approved

 

Date: March 15, 2011
by: Kurt Schultheis | City Editor

 
 

On Election Day, Longboat Key voters agreed with the town that a north-end, structure-and-sand project was needed — 76.2% of voters approved the $16 million beach project.

Tuesday’s vote continues to follow a trend for Longboat Key — the last two beach projects were each approved by approximately 80% of the vote.

Also Tuesday, voters approved a town charter amendment question, which asked voters to clarify what is considered a partial term for commissioners.

But the beach-bond referendum was the most important question for taxpayers, who had no commissioner election races on this year’s ballot.

Residents approved a beach project that includes the construction of a variety of erosion-control structures on the north end of the island. The project cost also includes placing sand along the north end and other high-erosion areas.

Beachside Longboat Key taxpayers, who reside in District A, will fund 80% of the beach project. Bayside property owners, who reside in District B, will pay the remaining 20% of the project.

In District A, the beach project approval received 79.6% of the vote, or 371 votes, compared to 20.4%, or 95 votes, that was against the project.

In District B, the beach project approval received 73.9% of the vote, or 521 votes, compared to 26.1%, or 184 votes, that was against the project.

Island-wide, the beach project approval received 76.2% of the vote, or 892 votes, compared to 23.8%, or 279 votes, against the project.

The approval was considered a victory for the Town Commission, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis and town staff. All have worked in some form to inform the public of the beach project and what it means for the island.

In previous weeks, St. Denis had given a beach presentation at various locations to explain why the project is important.

Mayor George Spoll said he was pleased with the election results.

“Obviously, this is something that in my judgment had to happen,” Spoll said. “The town has a responsibility to the people on the north end, and the sand is needed to carry us forward at least until the 2013-14 renourishment.”

Spoll said the reaction to the beach project in countless beach meeting sessions was “99.9% positive.”

“The town’s citizens realize how important the beach is to the overall character of this island,” Spoll said.

To help hold sand on the severely eroded north end, a groin that’s similar to what sits on the other side of Longboat Pass at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island might help hold sand in the area.

Two other groins that are proposed near the vicinity of North Shore Road might also help.

St. Denis believes the $16 million project might be able to be performed for as little as $8 million if both a $3 million surtax funding option and a $5 million credit from natural-gas pipeline company Port Dolphin LLC are received next year.

St. Denis also said changes might be coming to the town’s island-wide beach project. The Town Commission chose to put forth this ballot question as opposed to an island-wide beach project, because it believes it would be too early.

Also on the ballot was a town charter amendment question, which asked voters to clarify what is considered a partial term for commissioners.

The charter amendment allows a commissioner to serve three full terms, as well as a partial term as long as the partial term is less than one year. If a commissioner were appointed for a partial term of more than one year, that partial term would count as a full two-year term.

The charter amendment was approved by 84.3%, or 981 votes.

The turnout for Election Day was below average (30% to 50%), most likely due to the lack of a commission race.

This year, 1,175 total votes were cast Key-wide, or 18.8% of the town’s 6,260 registered voters.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at kschultheis@yourobserver.com.
 

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