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Longboat Key Monday, May 11, 2020 1 year ago

Longboat begins looking at what's next for Town Center Green

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Initial site work began in April and is scheduled to finish in late summer.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Planning and budgeting for the next step of the Town Center Green plan are underway.

The town commission voted 6-0 last week to approve a concept plan for phase two of the project after clearing work began in April at the 4.8-acre site that sits next to the Public Tennis Center and the Shoppes of Bay Isles.

Proposals for the site include a 1,000-square-foot stage pad, a 23,000-square-foot lawn that can accommodate 2,500 people standing for a concert or 1,200 people for a seated reception, a restroom facility and 94 parking spaces. The plan also calls for walkways, lighting and resodding of the site.

Hoyt Architects owner Gary Hoyt said the site has the potential for a farmers market, food trucks, bike tracks and more.

Longboat Key staff and Hoyt Architects asked residents for feedback on the open-space site. Hoyt found three of the public’s main concerns were timing, funding and parking.

During Monday’s virtual Town Commission meeting, the discussion between commissioners, Hoyt and his partner Chris Gallagher did not include an itemized cost for each part of phase two.

“[The land acquisition fund] is the primary funding source we’d be looking at to advance some component of the next phase,” said Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman. “We probably do not have enough funding to do all of those components, but we’re going to price those out with Hoyt on a ballpark, rough-order-of-magnitude basis and see what could be one of the next features to add.”

Town Manager Tom Harmer said the town is projected to have $657,286 left in its land acquisition fund at the end of fiscal year 2020, which ends Sept. 30.

“If you agree with the concept plan, we would come back with a project that would fit within the budget that we have, and we would try to do as many of these things as possible,” Harmer said.

Commissioner Jack Daly expressed his support for the project, but said he wanted to know the total cost of phase two.

“Assuming we would approve what's presented here, recognizing that it might exceed our [$657,286] acquisition fund balance here,” Daly said. “I think it’s informative [for] us to know  — assuming we approve this as going forward  — what it would take budget-wise, dollar-wise to complete this phase.”

The town is planning to have a budget workshop meeting on May 18 to discuss fiscal year 2021.

“To get us a budget and a design, an itemized budget to go forward with this, what do we know about the cost to get us there?” Mayor Ken Schneier said.

Town leaders have discussed for years how to fund a future Town Center and what specifically to build. Possibilities include a community center, a new recreation center, a library, pickleball courts and a cafe among other things.

“It may be a bit premature to move on to the next stage on these other two items, a community center and the rec center,” Gallagher said. “Again, from the meeting that many of you attended with us, there are a lot of strong feelings about these subjects with a lot of good feedback. But again, we’re recommending here that phase two — after you’re completed with the initial phase underway right now — really needs to be this outdoor area, and then the conversation can continue with the community center and the rec center.”

Gallagher also said the building or buildings that could get built would need to be “multi-purpose.”

“Some of the themes that came in very strongly here is, number one, that we're remaining flexible,” Gallagher said. “Flexible…means that, again, we're leaving pad site available that we could put these buildings here.”

Some commissioners also expressed their concerns about the plan's parking.

Commissioner BJ Bishop — who served on the town’s Planning and Zoning Board from 2006-2020 — expressed her parking concerns despite calling phase two of the project a “very exciting plan."

“My one cautionary comment is, there is nothing in our planning and zoning code that says you can build a facility and not have adequate parking,” Bishop said. “So, when you all start talking about using synagogue and using the adjoining banks and using Publix, think about the long-term impact and the long-term situations that all of those facilities may have.

“There may be some changes in the synagogue property in the future. There may be changes to those bank buildings in the future. So, if you are building facilities and you don't control your parking, you may be pretty short-sighted.”

Vice Mayor Mike Haycock said commissioners should think about how the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key gets hundreds of people for their big events when thinking about future plans at Town Center Green.

“Let's just say we have 500 people on the [Town Center Green] site, but we only have 100 parking spots, those two aren't compatible with each other,” Haycock said. “Have you thought through where we would put overflow parking if we do have a number of big events a year?”

Harmer said the town has had “general conversations” with some of the property owners in the nearby area. According to Harmer, there could be additional places to park near Publix, Mediterranean Plaza, the Temple Beth Israel, Chase Bank, the Tennis Center and Town Hall depending on the time of a future event.

Crews are scheduled to finish phase one site work at Town Center Green by late summer.

 

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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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