+ Local bureaucratic government soft tyranny at its worst
Last week our town installed two very attractive signs at the entrances to our island that say, "Welcome to the town of Longboat Key.”
Really? The signs were approved by our Planning, Zoning and Building Department headed by Director Monica Simpson, who last week recommended denial of the Longboat Key Club application to improve its property.
This after years of discussions between this department and club planners, management and Islandside Property Owners Coalition (IPOC) to resolve issues and revise their plans in good faith. This also after days and days of Planning and Zoning Board discussions and approvals.
Rather than facilitate, (they work for us) the director and "staff" played the role, very subjectively, of project designer/manager to meet their own design opinion and philosophy. Also, consistently giving "muddy" input to the commission over countless meetings: "You can do this or that.” This did not serve the commission well.
The director is a bright, articulate land-use authority. However, she should not drive the design of a major Longboat Key property owner's multi-million dollar improvement investment. Good intentions but questionable judgment to the detriment of a worthy, stimulative project and the majority of Longboat residents and businesses struggling in this terrible economy.
The director's overall concern that the project density is not in keeping with all of those IPOC high-rise condos jammed together on the beach is ridiculous and stunningly myopic! Many of her other findings exhibit a good deal of subjectivity and some out of her scope of authority. Nothing is black and white, especially with codes and zoning, where departures and variance requests are common, sometimes necessary and require good judgment and common sense.
The director's detailed comments in "staff's" recent recommendation to deny the club's application should have been proactively discussed and resolved a long, long time ago, not at this 11th hour. This department should support and service property owners within the law, not just be adversaries. The reputation of this important department over the years has been "they just say no.”
This passive/aggressive obstruction M.O. rather than a spirit of facilitation again with this substantive project is a recipe for disaster. It unquestionably sends up a huge red flag to other potential residential and business investors. Goodbye to meaningful future investment on Longboat, just when we need it most.
There is no excuse for this finding after all this time, effort and good-faith plan revisions. Just evidence of poor leadership and management of the process.
We also question whether this is just a dramatic 11th hour power play attempt by the director to communicate to the commission the need for code and Comprehensive Plan reform. If so, there are many other ways to constructively communicate this need. In any event, this finding recklessly risks a catastrophic economic loss of a major investment in our community at a critical time in our history! This, not to mention handing the minority opposition fodder for a groundless nuisance lawsuit.
These high-level bureaucratic mistakes could be very costly on all fronts.
For those who bluster that we'll lose Longboat as Longboat, nonsense! We have plenty of local government regulations to control development, great authority in our elected commission and even some common sense. No one who is invested in Longboat wants to destroy or compromise Longboat's ambience. This is just a "straw man" for weak argument’s sake. Let us get over it and let's look to the future.
What we have been experiencing for months and months, before our very eyes, is a perfect example of local bureaucratic government soft tyranny at its worst. Simply put, the "tail is wagging the dog.” We, the vast majority of voters, are "the dog.” Enough!
We trust that you dedicated commissioners have the authority, the principled leadership and the will to do the right thing in demonstrating that we really do mean "welcome" when we say it.
Bob and Shannon Gault
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