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Longboat Key Wednesday, May 16, 2018 4 years ago

Do not take this lightly

Selecting streetlights gives Longboat Key’s residents an opportunity to make a statement.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

This is another one of those decisions to which residents pay little attention until it’s too late: the design of streetlights.

The Longboat Key Town Commission and town administration since January have been considering the town’s options as it prepares the conversion to underground utility lines. 

The matter of streetlight design should not end up as an afterthought. In reality, it’s a 40- to 50-year decision. It deserves careful thought and discussion.

Indeed, this is an opportunity for the town and its residents to create a look that makes a statement about the character of Longboat Key.

In that vein, 125 respondents of 159 polled by the Keep Longboat Special organization said they would prefer decorative-style lights throughout the town’s neighborhoods. But that’s only 125 of 6,800 residents.

Perhaps this is a time for the town to organize a detailed educational display at Town Hall that shows options, benefits, advantages, disadvantages and costs. Perhaps erect a few models near Town Hall to give residents a real-life sense of how the streetlights look and function. Conduct educational workshops at Town Hall, or take a presentation directly to town organizations and condominium and homeowners’ associations.

After all that, consider a straw poll or straw election during the upcoming summer primaries or the November election to learn residents’ preferences. Give taxpayers the opportunity to contribute and have a say.

 The risk of this approach, of course, is the old saw of building a horse by committee. You’ll never get complete agreement, and compromises often lead to mediocrity. 

But better that approach than leaving this important decision to utility and Town Hall technocrats. 

This is a once-in-50-years opportunity to enhance the physical image of the Key. And even though this decision hardly has the magnitude of, say, whether Longboat Key should be one county, pardon the pun, it’s a matter that should not be taken lightly.

More turn lanes?

You have heard all of the ideas to improve traffic flow on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Make it four lanes; lower the speed limit; build roundabouts; widen the bike paths; make it a toll road; buy it from the state and put up gates at both ends; add center turn lanes the length of the Key.

The latest repeat idea gaining traction is for more center turn lanes, perhaps the length of the Key. 

But resident Dr. Jim Whitman was right when he admonished commissioners not to be hasty. There are consequences to consider. 

As Whitman said, a center lane the length of the road would eliminate the passing of slow motorists. And such lanes could adversely affect residences abutting the road — moving road noise closer to their homes.

Yes, there are places where more turns lanes would help. But watch out what you wish for.

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