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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Siekmann reflects upon his vote

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Commissioner Robert Siekmann, the lone dissenting Town Commission vote of the Longboat Key Club’s Islandside renovation-and-expansion project, told The Longboat Observer Friday that there was a project he would have supported.

Siekmann said he would have allowed the club to build its five villa buildings on the north parcel, as long as the club agreed to eliminate its 27-unit, seven-story condominium tower over one level of parking on the south parcel and put the wellness and spa center next to the proposed five-star hotel.

“I could have lived with that as a negotiated settlement on Wednesday,” Siekmann said.

But, if he had his way, Siekmann would have further altered the project, requesting the club move Longboat Club Road and put all of the project’s commercial components in one cluster away from the residential components.

“What we approved, in my mind, people will get accustomed to, but it won’t work properly,” Siekmann said.
The commissioner continues to express concern that the majority of the commission “totally ignored” the recommendation of the town’s planning director.

And what Siekmann called “appalling” was the fact that, in his mind, he and Commissioner Hal Lenobel were the only commissioners willing to engage in a conversation about the project during the last two hearings.

“The fact that some commissioners’ decisions were already made and they didn’t even (show) a willingness to discuss departures or engage in the conversation was appalling,” Siekmann said.

Siekmann says he has suggestions for how the process should work in the future.

“The suggestions begin with the recognition that we built a Comprehensive Plan that was very non-specific that was used to the advantage of the applicant,” Siekmann said. “We need to learn a lesson from that and be far more specific in a revised plan.”

But a more pressing issue, Siekmann believes, is a complete overhaul of the process now in place between the commission and its Planning and Zoning Board.

Siekmann notes that the commission took site-plan approval away from the planning board more than a year ago because it didn’t believe that system was working.

“But the new system isn’t working well, either,” Siekmann said.

Siekmann called the Islandside project recommendation from the planning board to the commission last year “very liberal,” noting that the planning board’s recommendation included a long list of project issues that “were passed on to us to deal with.”

Siekmann believes the town needs to refine how it deals with large projects and that the commission shouldn’t have to rehear all of the presentations an applicant has presented to the planning board.

“An idea floating around is the commission could function more like an appeals court, where the applicant would give its presentations to the planning board and the commission would review the evidence and draw their conclusions from the planning board’s hearings,” Siekmann said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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