Skip to main content
Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Our View


“Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.

“Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action … It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”
Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights”

When you sit in the back of Temple Beth Israel during the Longboat Key Club and Resort public hearings and attempt to observe with, as they say, no dog in the fight, the intellectual exercise takes on a surreal spectacle.

You ask yourself: What are property rights? Who has what right? Do the owners of the Key Club have a right to their own life? As Ayn Rand says, “The right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of” their property?

Indeed, what does it really mean to own property on Longboat Key? Is it really yours?

In the same vein, what rights do the residents of L’Ambiance and the Sanctuary have over the Key Club’s disposition of its property? They have the right not to be harmed. But what is harm? Construction? Traffic?
If that is harm, there would never be construction.

Or, if, say, they have the right to dispose of the Key Club’s property, to stop the Key Club’s right to the product of its property, does that make the Key Club their slave?

It’s surreal when you hear the Key Club opponents articulate their opposition to change. They sound as though they were promised contractually that Longboat Key would remain the way it is. They bought here believing Longboat Key would never change dramatically, and they express disdain that the Key Club’s out-of-town owners (“New York boys”) would propose to expand, build value and seek more profits. So you ask: And what did the opposition do in its younger years? Expand, build value and increase profits?

How is it that it was OK for the out-of-town developers of L’Ambiance and the Sanctuary to develop their properties, expand their wealth and profits — at the expense of the owners of the Longboat Key Club and Resort, who lived through the construction and increased traffic? But not OK now.

Where has change never occurred? Be realistic: For almost 20 years, Florida has been the nation’s fourth most-populous state, where people are drawn to live on the edge of its 1,800 miles of coastline and where the rates of growth have outpaced those of most other states. Change is as native to Florida’s coasts as the palm tree.

None of us can stop change. That is, unless we do what Monica Simpson, the town’s director of planning and zoning, suggested at Tuesday’s Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board hearing. Speaking of her former home city of Houston, Simpson noted that Houston doesn’t have zoning laws. In fact, she said, with the irony not lost on the audience, there’s a belief in Houston that if you don’t want development next to your property, then buy the property.

The Key Club opposition was not amused.

Kudos to Steve Queior, president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He pleaded to the planning board that the quality of life and prosperity of Greater Sarasota hinges on a vibrant economy. And at this moment, one of the keys to the region’s quality of life hinges on creating jobs. We need jobs; this area lost 17,000 jobs in the recession, Queior told the board. And we need visitors, Queior said, to draw business owners and others here to fuel our economy as tourists and perhaps move here to grow their business.

The Key Club opposition was not persuaded. “And who wants more tourists here anyway?” the Islandside Property Owners Coalition has written.

Surreal indeed.

Worth noting: Florida hosted 80 million tourists in 2009. Tourism spending in 2008 was $65 billion (equal to the entire state budget). Tourism employment totaled 1 million.

+ Cell tower on Sister Keys?
Don’t go apoplectic yet. And, yes, we know. This may remind some longtime readers of when we endorsed the use of Orimulsion at Florida Power & Light Co.’s Parrish power plant. That one prompted the late Longboat Key mayor, Kit Fernald, to organize a boycott of Longboat Observer advertisers.

So we know how sensitive Longboaters are to anything environmental.

Nonetheless, with apologies to our environmental friends, including Virginia Sanders, Rusty Chinnis and many others, it seems worth a serious discussion the idea of placing a temporary cell tower on one of the Sister Keys, the uninhabited, town-owned islands just south of Jewfish Key.

Here are facts:

• It’s probably safe to claim there are no Longboat Key residents on the north side of the Key who want a cell tower of any kind in their backyards or even visible from their backyards.

• It’s also accurate to say cellphone reception on Longboat Key is less than what it should or could be.

• And it’s probably accurate to say most Longboaters would agree we should have better cell reception — for all kinds of reasons, among them, safety and keeping Longboat Key in tune with technological times.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to improve cell service would be the installation of a tower. There are plenty of companies that would want to do that, and it makes economic sense for the cell providers to pay for access to a tower.

Alternatives, such as distributed antennae systems and municipal digital infrastructures, exist, but the cell providers don’t want to absorb the additional costs and hassles. It’s easier and more profitable for them to stay with spotty cell service.

So there’s the impasse.

Which leads to the possibility of Sister Keys. A tower obviously would not be in anyone’s backyard.

Perhaps an agreement could sunset a tower’s existence after a period, requiring its removal once more affordable and effective alternatives become mainstream. The agreement also could offer a tower provider an incentive to build on Sister Keys — to make up for the additional cost of maintenance (i.e. boating to and from). And if a hurricane knocked it over, no one (humans, anyway) likely would be hurt.

We know a tower on Sister Keys runs contrary to the islands’ environmental protection. But this reminds us again of the wisdom of commentator Thomas Sowell: There are no solutions to problems, only choices.

One more choice: Solve the problem yourself. Shop for your own cellphone reception booster. is selling them starting at $349.95. We have no idea how well they work.

Related Stories