Our view

 

Our view

 

Date: April 9, 2014
by: Observer Staff

 
 

For more than a decade, rewriting Longboat Key’s outdated, outmoded and confusing zoning codes and Comprehensive Plan has appeared and disappeared periodically from the public agenda.

It’s a subject that is about as fun and interesting as having a colonoscopy.

At the moment, though, it looks as if this finally may be the time the colonoscopy will occur — when town officials are serious about addressing and rewriting the codes and comp plan.

It will be an arduous, eye-glazing and boring process. But in reality, it may well be the most important public-policy task for the future of Longboat Key.

Last week, the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board ventured into this tar baby-like topic when it discussed one of the most confusing aspects of the town’s comp plan: the Outline Development Plan.

Virtually no one understands it. And if you put three lawyers and a judge together to agree on what the ODP laws say and how they are interpreted, most assuredly you will get widely differing interpretations.

Indeed, that’s what happened when the Longboat Key Club and Resort attempted its $400 million redevelopment and expansion back in 2010. The Islandside Property Owners Coalition sued the Key Club and town over the Town Commission amending the town’s Outline Development Plan. Twelfth Circuit Judge Charles Roberts and IPOC interpreted the ODP laws the same; and IPOC won.

Even so, if you talk to the losers in that suit, they would still contend they had the legal right to do what they did.

The point of recounting this is to emphasize the importance of rewriting and clarifying the codes and comp plan. How that is done ultimately will determine whether and how the new owners of the Longboat Key Club and Resort will be able to redevelop in a way that best suits their interests — and the town’s interests.

Now here is what really must be determined in this process:

1) Are there vested and grandfathered rights to develop 1,400 previously approved but unused units within the Longboat Key Club boundaries? Documents say there are about 600 unused units in Harbourside and 800 in the Islandside development.

2) If those unused units are real and grandfathered for future development, who owns the development rights? Ocean Properties, the new owners of the Key Club? Or JMB Realty, the Chicago-based investment firm that acquired in 1987 the original Key Club developer, the Arvida Corp.?

These are monumental questions for the future of the Key. Unfortunately, the answers are disputed and unresolved.

We know, for instance, that if Loeb Realty, the previous owners of the Longboat Key Club and Resort, had obtained final approval for its expansion and redevelopment of the club, lawyers for JMB were lying in wait to demand that Loeb and the Key Club pay JMB for the rights to develop any of the 1,400 unused units. JMB still believes it owns the unused units and accompanying development rights.

But last week, standing before the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board, Ocean Properties CEO Mark Walsh said his company owns the rights to the 1,400 unused units.

With that, you can see future lawsuits brewing.

Which is all the more reason, clarifying the town’s ODP process and rewriting the town codes and comp plan should be moved to the top of the town’s agenda.

This process may be excruciatingly tedious, but the Key’s long-term economic future rests on its outcome.

+ Lousy customer service
It was as inevitable as the sunrise. Participants at the first meeting of the new North Beach Property Owners Coalition on Longboat Key discussed a variety of issues last month. Traffic backups on Gulf of Mexico Drive was unavoidable.

It’s that time of year. Traffic typically snakes from the Cortez Bridge on Bradenton Beach sometimes as far south on Gulf of Mexico Drive to Longboat Island Chapel; and from St. Armands Circle across New Pass Bridge as far north as Beachplace on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

The tie-ups make you wonder: Why don’t the police departments do something?

Here is one reason: They have no incentive to do anything. They will get paid the same whether they try to alleviate the backups or let them snake for hours at a time.

Here is another reason: The police chiefs’ bosses (town and city managers) and their bosses (town and city commissions) have not made these traffic backups a priority.

To be sure, there really isn’t much the Longboat Key Police Department can do. The choke points are out of its jurisdiction.

Nonetheless, perhaps Longboat Police Chief Pete Cumming, Town Manager David Bullock and a town commissioner or two can formally lobby Sarasota city and Bradenton Beach officials to strategize on solutions.

Predictably, officials will say they don’t have the manpower and money, and that if they devote police time to traffic control, that means less time devoted to other crucial duties.

But if elected commissioners would think about the economic effects — frustrated tourists who won’t come back, wasted gas, lousy customer service from the affected cities — they might be more inclined to act.

Give it a try. Bradenton Beach and/or the city of Sarasota should have officers spend a few days directing traffic to see the effects. That alone would raise dramatically the image of each city in the eyes of their customers. Indeed, that’s what this is all about — customer service.

DON’T FORGET
All Faiths Food Bank is hoping for cash and cans before the summer begins to be able to feed the region’s impoverished children while they’re out of school.

Before you head out for the summer, drop off your leftover non-perishables and cash donations at the Longboat Key and St. Armands Key fire stations.

DEMONS OF CAPITALISM? MEET THE REAL KOCH BROTHERS
If you read the popular press, you get the impression the Koch brothers of Kansas are nasty billionaires out to exploit the poor, hungry, orphaned and widowed.

Check out this excerpt from the April 3 Wall Street Journal. There are always at least two sides to every story. — Editor

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson warned that this could happen. “The natural progress of things,” Jefferson wrote, “is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

He knew that no government could possibly run citizens’ lives for the better. The more government tries to control, the greater the disaster, as shown by the current health-care debacle. Collectivists (those who stand for government control of the means of production and how people live their lives) promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents.

They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced.

Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society — and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society or accurately report the facts about Koch Industries, our critics would have you believe we’re “un-American” and trying to “rig the system,” that we’re against “environmental protection” or eager to “end workplace safety standards.” These falsehoods remind me of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Here are some facts about my philosophy and our company:
Koch companies employ 60,000 Americans, who make many thousands of products that Americans want and need. According to government figures, our employees and the 143,000 additional American jobs they support generate nearly $11.7 billion in compensation and benefits. About one-third of our U.S.-based employees are union members.

Koch employees have earned well over 700 awards for environmental, health and safety excellence since 2009, many of them from the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. EPA officials have commended us for our “commitment to a cleaner environment” and called us “a model for other companies.”

Our refineries have consistently ranked among the best in the nation for low per-barrel emissions. In 2012, our Total Case Incident Rate (an important safety measure) was 67% better than a Bureau of Labor Statistics average for peer industries. Even so, we have never rested on our laurels. We believe there is always room for innovation and improvement.

Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. Cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful and should be abolished.

Koch Industries was the only major producer in the ethanol industry to argue for the demise of the ethanol tax credit in 2011. That government handout (which cost taxpayers billions) needlessly drove up food and fuel prices as well as other costs for consumers — many of whom were poor or otherwise disadvantaged.

Now the mandate needs to go, so that consumers and the marketplace are the ones who decide the future of ethanol.

Instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness.

This is what happens when elected officials believe that people’s lives are better run by politicians and regulators than by the people themselves. Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

 

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