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Longboat Key Friday, Mar. 12, 2021 8 months ago

Daly advocates for Town Center, traffic solutions

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Commissioner leaving town service as he reaches term limits.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key Town Commissioner Jack Daly said he has mixed emotions about stepping down from his District 4 seat this month.

Daly reached term limits after serving on the Town Commission since 2015. He’s also served as the town’s representative on the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization for the past six years, was a Planning and Zoning Board member from 2011-2015 and served as chair of the Investment Advisory Committee since 2020.

“Physically, you've got to do something you like and be active, and mentally, you have to be continually challenged,” Daly said. “I’ve always abided by that.”

Debra Williams is set to take Daly’s seat during the March 22 statutory meeting. After Williams and fellow Commissioner-elect Penny Gold are sworn in, the new Town Commission is expected to decide on who the town’s representative will be on the MPO Board.

Citing recommendations from the Barrier Island Traffic Study, Daly has advocated on behalf of Longboat Key for years about mainland traffic plans and their effects on the barrier islands.

“In the two counties, development-wise, the traffic situation [isn’t] getting better,” Daly said. “It’s getting more condensed.”

Work began this week on a multi-lane roundabout at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue on Sarasota's bayfront. To mitigate some of the potential traffic woes, Daly is still hoping for a nearby overhead pedestrian walkway, which is subject to approval from the Ritz-Carlton.

Daly has also been critical of some of the concepts in the MPO’s proposed “Transform 2045” long-range transportation plan.

“The city (Sarasota) is absolutely, transportation-wise, focused, I would say mesmerized here, on pedestrian and bicycle mobility,” Daly said. “Automobile traffic is an afterthought.

“[Longboat Key’s] top priority is the reverse. We're certainly concerned about pedestrian mobility. We have crosswalk issues to deal with and the like here, but the major concern is getting on and off the island of Longboat Key residents.”

Daly said the town must continue to be vigilant, especially with plans moving forward on The Bay Sarasota Park project.

Daly has also advocated for the town to construct an Arts, Culture and Education building at the Town Center site. He still considers it a possibility to re-establish a relationship with Ringling College of Art and Design.

However, Ringling stepped back from its relationship with the town in 2019. In February, the college’s President Larry Thompson cited several reasons why it’s “not probable” for a partnership to resume. It includes the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the college.

“I really do view that that’s a failure of this commission here,” Daly said. “Hopefully, the new commissioners recognize that failure and will activate it.”

Daly said some new perspectives on the Town Commission should help the Town Center development too.

“Please pay attention and look afresh…at the Town Center, and get that back as a priority,” Daly said. “It’s going to take time, but I think we have to continually, not only talk, but flesh out and focus on that in workshops and that’s going to take leadership from the commission.”

On March 9, town leaders met with representatives and members of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.

During Daly’s tenure on the Town Commission and P&Z Board, the town also addressed important issues like the underground utilities project, addressing density issues and how to handle the legal battle for the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.

“That was a major, major Longboat Key project and impact,” Daly said of the former Colony site. “Every owner, almost to an individual, had a view on it.”
 
At the former Colony site, Unicorp is moving forward with plans to build and develop The Residences at The St. Regis Longboat Key Resort. However, Unicorp faces public hearings before the Town Commission and P&Z Board before construction can begin.

“It was a huge deal, and even to this day, myself included, many people were introduced to Longboat Key at the Colony,” Daly said. “That was the original [and] only hotel site at the time and the major attraction for Longboat Key.”

Daly said he plans to continue to play tennis and spend time with his family once he’s off the commission. He has four children and eight grandchildren. 

“[I] take a little pride in recognizing that there has been a little bit of Daly-value added, but that remains to be seen at this point,” Daly joked.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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