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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009 10 years ago

Letters to the Editor


+ Call it what you will, but the
Key Club’s project is a plus

Dear Editor:
It is funny how some want to argue over whether the Longboat Key Club’s project is a renovation and renewal or an expansion? I find it rather amusing that the same people keep slandering the club with adjectives such as “massive” and “huge” when, by industry standards, it is modest in scale. At least we have graduated from “convention center” to “conference center.” One day, we may finally get to the correct label in that it is a “meeting center.” The club’s current average meeting-group size is a modest 34 attendees. How could anybody think it is ethical to say they are attempting to build a massive convention or conference center? Actual convention centers advertise that they have 500,000 square feet to 1 million square feet of meeting space. A conference center is not designed to host social events and typically functions independent from a hotel.

The club’s largest meeting room will be a 10,200-square-foot ballroom. The newly renovated Sarasota Yacht Club’s main dining room is 10,500 square feet. More amusing is that nobody calls the Sarasota Yacht Club’s renovation massive. The yacht club plans to use its new 24,000-square-foot clubhouse in much the same way as the club’s 17,000-square-foot meeting center. I also drive by the Sarasota Yacht Club’s renovation and expansion and have witnessed zero traffic delays. Isn’t that another complaint or charge being made by the naysayers? Sorry, the facts do not add up. The club’s new facilities will benefit all behind the gates as well as all Longboaters.

Call the renovation what you will. The new five-star hotel will be a shining star for the entire island of Longboat Key and bring in business executives, professionals and affluent tourists. How can you beat that?

I think we can all agree that the golf course is a renovation that is desperately needed. I really do not care what you call the 28,000-square-foot wellness center because the current spa-and-fitness facilities need desperate renovation and will actually be used, rather than the vacant tennis courts that I drive by every day. I almost forgot and want to compliment the Longboat Key Club in receiving its recent award from the USTA for the new Tennis Gardens. What a winner for Longboat Key Club and our community! 

I want to compliment Mr. Bergman who also got it right. Most of the condos are vacant even in season.

Traffic is of no consequence, and I have read the entire April 2009 traffic study produced by Grimail Crawford, who are professional engineers. I also live in Sands Point and drive by the current club entrance every day. There are 218 rooms at the current hotel and where is the traffic? Again, the facts don’t support the propaganda being championed by the naysayers.

Positive changes are needed on Longboat Key and a $400 million investment in this economic environment is manna from heaven. I encourage all to get the facts and support the club because that is all they are asking from the community. Let’s keep Longboat, Longboat for generations to come. 

Rick Crawford
Longboat Key

+ The best thing for Longboat would be no expansion
Dear Editor:
As residents of Longboat Key, we do not support the current proposal to expand the Longboat Key Club.

Our position is not just because we live behind the gates, but because we care about the adverse effects of adding two nine-story condo towers with 132 units, an eight-story hotel with 196 units, a 17,000-square-foot meeting center, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, double the number of parking spaces, plus additional condo units that will forever alter the gateway to Longboat Key.

As expected, the investment bankers are looking to maximize their return by developing as much as they can force through the process. Why build the capacity to entertain 700 conventioneers and add a large hotel unless you intend to fully use that capacity? What will be the impact on New Pass, the (nature) preserve and the families that come to Longboat because it is a low-impact development environment where turtles and air space count just as much as return on equity?

Currently, there are more than 400 condo units for sale on Longboat. Who will benefit with another 132 new condo units on the market? We are just as confident as Michael Welly that once the town residents have a chance to “learn the truth” they will not support the current proposal. The traffic study, which had to be revised upward, the club survey which was structured in its favor, the past performance of the Key Club in strong-arming their plan and the objective merits of the project should be carefully reviewed in the coming months. Let’s do our best for Longboat Key’s current and future residents.

Robert and Cheryl Clark
Longboat Key

+ Admit it Longboaters: We need help from the Key Club

Dear Editor:
I am a registered Longboat Key voter and have lived full-time on the island for 10 years. I visited the Key since age 12 — I’m 44 now. I have a wife and 10-year-old son who travel off the Key nearly every day. I believe we are qualified to address traffic issues.

During the summer, we move pretty freely about the town. During season, we have to leave a few minutes earlier. That’s it. 

When I read the same five people repeatedly writing how traffic on our little island is going to come to a screeching halt because of the Key Club’s plans, I have to laugh. Maybe we should raise both bridges on the Key and see if that slows the traffic on and off the Key. Then we could shut down a few more restaurants, get rid of Publix and CVS … then this would be a cozy little community.

Whining about a few-dozen cars is counterproductive to our town’s needs. We need to remember: Nearly half the island is up for sale, the economy is in the tank, we’ve lost a large chunk of hotel units to a small number of seasonal condos, our property values are declining and our taxes will likely go up.

It’s time for us to admit we need help. Help in the form of the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort adding rooms, the Colony getting back in shape and, yes, the Longboat Key Club expansion.

What is wrong with a top-notch resort/country club wanting to improve its dated facilities while at the same time pumping hundreds of millions dollars into our local economy? It’s our own private stimulus package that will cost us a couple of more cars on the road. I don’t think my wife or I will notice a huge change in traffic when we take our son to school in Sarasota.

This island has a big decision to make: Do we want a beautiful island community with charming shops and fantastic restaurants? Or do we want boarded-up stores and foreclosed homes?

This island is dying. Longboat Key needs tourists and part-timers. They keep our stores open — something we “locals” can’t do on our own. 

Like it or not, vacationers and snowbirds directly contribute to our quality of life on Longboat. Like it or not, they drive cars.

Whether or not you are a member of Longboat Key Club, this project will ripple through the whole of Sarasota. It will create construction and hospitality jobs for families in a tough economy. It will breathe life into shops and restaurants on and off the island and probably give a few new ones a chance to get started.

We will all benefit from the added tourism — even with a few extra cars!

Jeff McKee
Longboat Key

+ Key Club’s survey questions were questionable

Dear Editor:
When questionable research and rote journalism join hands and appear on page one, the result is disappointing. The survey paid for by the Longboat Key Club asked general “Are-you-for-a-stronger-economy-and-a-better-America?” kinds of questions and then equated “yes” answers as support for the club’s mega expansion plans. No questions were asked such as “Do you value green space?” or “Do you believe in the integrity of zoning restrictions previously agreed to?” To my knowledge, no residents of Longboat Key are against the club updating its hotel, existing condos, golf course and other current recreational facilities. We are against the scale of its plans. We are against a real-estate land grab — putting cement in vast, precious areas of greenery.

Bill Sandy

Longboat Key

+ The Key Club’s project would improve the status quo

Dear Editor:
I am writing to express our family’s strong support for the Longboat Key Club’s redevelopment plan, because it is necessary to re-energize Longboat Key’s faltering economy. In our opinion, the status quo is unsustainable for our future. The club’s proposal will help preserve Longboat’s historical tourism base, maintain the viability of our retail businesses and be central to the recovery of our real-estate values.

We purchased our condominium on Longboat in late 2006 because it is one of the most beautiful locations in Florida and offered a wonderful lifestyle during the fall to spring seasons. We are concerned that with the national and state economies being challenged in an unprecedented way, if the Longboat Key resort is not enhanced as proposed, our promised lifestyle and investment will suffer as well.

We need to attract tourists to the area and hope that they will be impressed enough not only to support our businesses but will decide to make the area their home for at least part of the year. We believe the development project will employ a fair number of locals, bring in badly needed tax revenues and create a feeling that Longboat is being re-nourished for its current and future residents.

As relatively new residents and club members, we believe that anyone who is interested in our businesses thriving, homes regaining their hard-earned values and our island again being an attractive destination should support the club’s plans as well. Our community depends upon tourism and the influx of future residents, and we should welcome the prospects that an organization is willing to improve the status quo for all of our benefits.

Alan and Nancy Milbauer

Longboat Key


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