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Longboat Key Friday, Apr. 15, 2016 6 years ago

Commission to vet sea turtle ordinance

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Longboat Key town commissioners will consider stricter regulations to protect baby sea turtles during a workshop next week.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

With more public input and data in hand, Longboat Key leaders will again discuss an ordinance aimed at strengthening protections for sea turtle hatchlings Monday.

Town commissioners during a workshop will discuss proposed rule changes, which would restrict more types of artificial lighting and prohibit beachgoers and property owners from leaving beach chairs and other “recreational equipment” on the sand from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Both violations contribute to turtles becomes disoriented, which can prevent the hatchlings from reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

“I hope they accept the changes to the ordinance so we can improve those disorientation rates,” said Longboat Key Turtle Watch volunteer Cyndi Seamon in a previous interview with the Longboat Observer. “They’re pretty shameful.”

Over the last five years, Longboat Key has accounted for the most sea turtle disorientations among barrier islands including Casey Key, Siesta Key, Lido Key and Venice.

Perhaps most notorious among the current code’s provisions is a requirement that for lighting to be considered a violation, it must cast a shadow on a moonless, cloudless night — which essentially restricts enforcement to one night a month.

During a workshop last month, commissioners asked town staff for more data on the causes of disorientations and a matrix of nearby municipality’s ordinances.

Referendum rundown

In response to an increase in requests for density increases on the Key, staff will also provide commissioners with a more comprehensive look at those land development policies.

Floridays’ proposal for a 120-room hotel on the north end is the most notable of recent requests for a density referendum. At an April 4 meeting, several residents spoke out against the plans, despite the fact that a referendum under consideration would merely give the developer a right to ask for more density from the town.

The owner of the Harbour Square office complex has also asked for a referendum, as has Ryan Snyder, owner of Whitney Plaza.

“The referendum and land development process involves multiple steps for approval of the various land use ” said Planning, Zoning and Building Director in a memo to Town Manager Dave Bullock. “In an effort to ensure the public is informed as to the numerous steps involved, a presentation will be provided to explain the Density Referendum and Land Development processes.”

Crosswalk conundrum

While the Florida Department of Transportation is moving forward with a new crosswalk at North Shore Road regardless of town input, commissioners will discuss the proposal, which also includes a sidewalk on  Gulf of Mexico Drive, during the workshop.

Residents have spoken out against the $175,000 project, which they say is unsafe. But after meeting with Bullock, some commissioners have warmed to the idea of the traffic feature.

The proposal includes 10 pedestrian signs, six flashing lights and eight asphalt warnings, according to an FDOT diagram.

Bullock said FDOT worked with the town on the future placement of flashing signs in drivers’ line of sight to alert vehicles of incoming pedestrians at the new crosswalk. To test the measure, Public Works Director Juan Florensa wore a reflective vest to test the measure on-site last month.

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