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Longboat Key Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2021 10 months ago

Longboat Key voters to decide on Buttonwood referendum

The residential density measure is set to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key voters will have the chance to vote in November on a residential density measure in the Buttonwood Harbour neighborhood.

The request from land planner Bruce Franklin is for the conversion of 597 Buttonwood Drive from an office-institutional property to a residential use for two homes that would front Buttonwood Drive.

The following referendum question will appear Nov. 2 on Longboat Key ballots:

May the Town allow the property located at 597 Buttonwood Drive (Property ID#
0005080027) and comprising approximately 0.86 acres, to increase density from OI
office-institutional uses (which allows no density) to either R-3MX or R-3SF residential
use (which allow a maximum of three (3) residential units per acre), for a maximum
total of 2 residential units on the property?



On July 2, Franklin spoke before commissioners about the proposal. Franklin serves as an agent for American Momentum Bank, the owner of the property, and Brista Homes Inc., the contract purchaser of the property.

“We fully acknowledge it’s our responsibility to the community, not only the immediate neighborhood, but the voters of Longboat Key,” Franklin said.

On July 2, Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier explained what it meant for the Town Commission to vote 6-0 on the second reading of the measure.

“The commission takes no position on the advisability of this or what might happen if future actions do go ahead and approve that density on a town level or any construction that will be done,” Schneier said. “It is purely to allow the applicant to put this on the referendum, on the ballot without having to gather 709 [or] 710 petition signatures.”

Had the commission not approved the referendum request, Franklin could have tried to qualify for the ballot by gathering petition signatures of 10% of Longboat Key voters.

Buttonwood Harbour resident Lorenzo DiNino told commissioners he preferred Franklin go through the petition process.

“This approach, it places a requirement on the builder to provide additional information to the voters and Longboat Key so that an informed decision can be made,” DiNino said. “It very well may be that residential homes at this location makes good sense, but how can we make that determination without facts about the property development plan other than the builder’s stated desire to construct two homes?”

However, if Longboat Key voters approve the Buttonwood Drive referendum by a majority, Franklin would then need to get a site development plan approved by both the Town Commission and the Planning and Zoning Board.

“The request for, ‘we want to see the home design, we want to see how the drainage is going to be handled, etc.’ is the next step,” Franklin said. “I can’t get there from here unless this referendum passes.”

In 1984, the town’s voters made it mandatory for any increase in residential development to come before voters in a referendum. Only one such referendum has succeeded: a 2019 request for 1.8 acres at 5630 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The vote was 1,056 for and 838 against.

“Historically, very few referendums in this municipality have passed, and the ones that have passed are the ones that they’ve done a good job of educating the community,” At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop said.

In June, the commission voted against considering a referendum request to redevelop the vacant bank building at 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive to a two-story building with four residential condominium units.

In May, the commission voted against considering a referendum request about the possibility of adding a maximum of 10 residential units at Whitney Beach Plaza, which has since sold to a new owner.

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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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