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Longboat Key Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11 years ago

Park project has many hurdles

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Town Commission has already given support for the new concept plan at Bayfront Park, which includes a new community center on the park’s northern parcel.

But the commission will review a lengthy list of items from Town Attorney David Persson at its Thursday, May 21 regular workshop that need to be addressed before dirt can begin turning on the site.

The park cannot become a reality, first of all, unless changes are made to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

Specifically, the Sarasota County-owned southern park parcel, previously dubbed the Albritton parcel, must be changed from single-family residential and commercial to an open-space category.

And, because the plan calls for the deletion of the baseball field, the town must also amend its Comprehensive Plan to suggest that the field is not required or remove the requirement.

Persson, in a letter sent to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis April 28, also explains that The Longboat Key Community Center Inc. donated the central portion of the park in 1993.

But, as a part of that donation, an agreement calls for the property to be used as an “activity-based recreation site” that requires a ball field.

The town will have to make sure it’s still in compliance and may have to ask for an amendment to the agreement.

And while the town will be working with the county to fund the park and search for grants, a $50,000 grant that the town received years ago for improvements at Bayfront Park Recreation Center could be lost if the park is changed, because it requires a baseball field on site.
Persson also points out that the new proposed placement for the tennis courts closer to Gulf of Mexico
Drive is seaward of the Department of Environmental Protection’s coastal construction-control line, which would require additional state approval. The placement of the courts might also require the lights to be turned off at night during sea-turtle nesting season.

Persson said the changes that need to be made at the town and state level could take a year or more to accomplish.

But because the Town Commission is not sure how the plan will be funded at a time when town revenue is expected to drop another $1 million this summer, the hurdles might come at a convenient time.

Monies will need to be found to build a new 15,000-square-foot community center, a new multi-use basketball court and relocate tennis courts.

The rest of the park’s site, including the site of the current baseball field, is slated for a multi-use, active-recreation area and passive recreation areas that will include a children’s playground, a half-mile walking loop near Sarasota Bay, a gazebo, sites for barbecuing and a mangrove informational walking area.

The Town Commission will review the project’s list of steps at its 2 p.m. Thursday, May 21 regular workshop.

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