Density vote, three-year terms approved.
Longboat Key voters approved a density change for Mote Scientific Foundation’s 1.8-acre commercial parcel at 5630 Gulf of Mexico Drive, clearing the way for the foundation to sell the land to raise money.
The vote was 1,056 for and 838 against, according to vote totals posed by the elections offices in Sarasota and Manatee counties. In Sarasota County, 742 voted for the density change, and 533 were opposed. In Manatee County, the vote was 314 in favor and 305 against.
This is the second time the foundation has asked voters to consider a density change for the property. The first was in 2017 and failed with a 58% no vote. Voters also had Unicorp National Development's high-profile Colony Beach & Tennis Resort density request on the ballot, which was denied with an 87% no vote.
It was a different story this year, however, with voters approving the measure. If the property is rezoned to residential, then a maximum of four residential units an acre, or a maximum of seven units for the entire site, would be allowed.
“We are very excited, and we’ll take it. This is very good for the foundation and really good uses will come out of this,” said Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, president emeritus and senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
Mayor George Spoll agreed.
“I think it was appropriate to see change in zoning because that piece of property languished,” he said.
Mote Scientific Foundation is separate from Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The nonprofit’s mission is the advancement of oceanography and marine research on Florida’s west coast, along with supporting local social organizations such as the Boys and Girl Clubs. To date, the foundation has dispensed about $40 million or 70% or more of funds in grants.
The property was purchased in 1982 by William Mote, Mote Marine’s founder, who turned the land the land over to a trust. It was the trust that donated the land to Mote Scientific in 2001.
The other issue voters decided was to extend the town commissioners’ terms from three two-year terms to two three-year terms. What remains unchanged is the six-year overall limit.
Those voting for an additional year for commissioners totaled 1,175. Those voting against it were 715. Sarasota County voters who voted for the extra year totaled 819, while 455 voted no. Manatee County voters who voted for the additional year totaled 356, while 260 said no.
Then idea behind serving two, three-year terms rather than three, two-year terms is that a commissioner spends the first year learning the job and the second year campaigning to be re-elected to a non-paying job.
Both incumbent commissioners, Spoll and Jack Daly did not face opposition and were automatically re-elected. Newcomer Mike Haycock, former vice chairman of Planning & Zoning, was also elected to the at-large seat because he can no opposition. He takes over for Jim Brown, who decided not to run again.
Spoll said the additional year is not that important in the long run. If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it, he added.