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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 3 years ago

Our View


If you put yourself in their shoes, you can understand their angst and what we’ll call their “Sarasota NIMBYism.”

These are the property owners on Lido Key, whose beaches have become critically eroded, and the property owners near Big Pass on Siesta Key, who are fighting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging Big Pass to renourish Lido Key.

Both constituents fear the consequences to their properties. If Lido Key beach isn’t maintained and continues to erode, we know the obvious eventual calamity. But if New Pass is dredged, some Siesta Key residents fear, that loss of sand could damage their properties and their famed Siesta Key beach.

Everyone has selfish interests at stake.

And so the NIMBYism has begun. Classic neighborhood behavior on the west coast of Florida.

Sometimes it seems residents here must have invented the acronym.

But here are the unavoidables: 1) Maintaining the beaches, and 2) Dredging. They are facts of life here and must be done.

The challenge is making the best choices for both.

Beach maintenance is an unavoidable reality on the Gulf Coast on two levels. One is to protect individuals’ property. Another level is to protect the economic value of the beaches for the greater community. They and the Gulf provide economic sustenance here. Without them, we’d be little more than a Yeehaw Junction.

Surely everyone who lives on or near the beaches knows this. And to fight it is delusional. This is part of the price to pay to live here.

Once you get beyond that, the next two choices are tougher: how best to maintain the beaches; and how much to spend to maintain them.

Take the first — how best to maintain them. For decades, dredging sand from nearby sources in the Gulf of Mexico has been the accepted and most economical method. And it still is.

To that end, taxpayers spend millions of dollars on Army Corps engineers and private-sector experts searching for the most economical and compatible sources of sand. Taxpayers place their faith and trust in these experts to determine the future consequences of their choices.

And likewise, it’s incumbent on these experts to make convincing cases to taxpayers and property owners for their choices. Indeed, that process is underway now. As Milan Mora, Army Corps project manager, told Siesta Key residents recently: “It’s not a plan set in stone.” State officials still need to sign off on it.

The process is working as it should. And all of this — the fact Lido Key beach must be maintained; the fact sand must be dredged; and the fact the approval process is working — should not have to make the Lido Key residents feel compelled to mount a PR campaign in support of the Big Pass dredging and battle the NIMBYs.

To be sure, all affected residents — on Siesta Key and Lido Key — would be wise to stay engaged in the process and help the Corps make the best choices.

Meanwhile, those residents fighting the Big Pass dredging might keep these points in mind as well:
All of our beaches — from Anna Maria Island to Manasota Key — are linked in this coastal chain. One always affects the other; they cannot be maintained in isolation.

Likewise, those who object to the dredging of Big Pass should see that by choosing to own property near the beach and near the pass, they must accept certain consequences. One of them is this: As long as millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars subsidize the maintenance of the beaches and thus the protection of their private properties, they have forfeited complete control of their destiny. Life is all about choices and their consequences.

+ St. Armands Circle Park
What a fiasco. And it’s complicated.

St. Armands Circle Park is a great venue for events. Tourists and shoppers always swarm the famed retail center, so it makes for a great place to showcase goods and wares.

At the same time, the St. Armands Circle merchants are wary of what goes on in the park. Rightfully, they guard their image and reputation closely.

Then there are the neighbors. They hate it when big events overwhelm their streets with cars and people.

It’s always a tug and pull.

On top of this, the city’s rules for St. Armands Park (and other city parks) are a bureaucratic fiasco. It’s ridiculous what the city requires to obtain a permit for an event.

Predictably, there’s squabbling, fighting, accusations of favoritism, special deals and the usual ugliness that occurs whenever government intervenes.

Here’s a fix: If the merchants and residents are so particular about what happens in the park, they should buy it or lease it from the city. Turn its operation over to the private-sector. We guarantee that would end any shenanigans and improve the park.

This photograph, taken by none other than longtime Longboat Observer senior editor Dora Walters, captures perfectly Ralph and Claire Hunter.

It shows the love and joy they found and held in each other, and not far behind was another love and joy of their lives, the Longboat Observer.

Claire Hunter died peacefully Sunday night in the Hunters’ Bradenton home.

It’s getting tough, losing these Longboat legends.

We would put Claire Hunter in that category — among Longboat legends — as one of the co-founders of the Longboat Observer. As a partner in every way and everything with her husband, Claire Hunter was the even-keeled, detail-oriented foil to Ralph’s vision, entrepreneurism and hearty laugh. After he dreamed, she executed the dream. Dora Walters remembered Claire Hunter as a precise copy editor, one of those now-rare editors who cared deeply about punctuation, spelling, verb tense and subject-adjective agreement. She was that way with everything.

Claire Hunter had her own clever wit, and loved to giggle about the many “only-on-Longboat” stories that they printed in the paper during their 17-year tenure as the paper’s owners.

When they finally agreed to sell their “baby” in 1995, negotiations on the telephone often consisted of talking over a point with Ralph, who would then hand the phone to Claire, to have the same point repeated to her. They made every decision together.

And the more you knew Ralph and Claire, the more you could see how close they were — joined happily together as they were in that photograph on March 27, 1995.

True partners all the way — in love with each other … and in love with Longboat Key.

— MW


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