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Longboat Key Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 4 years ago

Villagers question bay-access research

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

More than 20 Longbeach Village residents came to the Town Hall chambers Dec. 11, but they weren’t sure why they had to be there.

They showed up because the Longboat Key Town Commission scheduled a discussion for the alleys and bay access points in the Village.

And they rose to the podium with one common theme in mind.

“Everyone says to leave things alone,” said Village resident David Myers. “We don’t know why we are even here today.”

Village resident Gene Jaleski also rose to the podium.

“No one in the Village has called for anything to be revisited or changed,” Jaleski said.

Village residents were there, though, because they were worried commissioners were going to make changes to their alleys and bay access points.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Pat Zunz pointed out during a boat-and-trailer subcommittee meeting that several of the alleys in the Village are closed off and inaccessible, even though they are town-owned properties. Public Works Director Juan Florensa was asked to research the bay access points after the commission questioned why several of them are not accessible because of overgrown mangroves and vegetation.

Florensa said his staff pulled research about the alleys that dates back to 1913 to assess the condition, length and width of each thoroughfare. The town owns five-and-a-half of the seven platted alleys in the Village. But most of the alleys are closed in by vegetation and not accessible.

Six bay access points are inaccessible, even though town signs display them as bay access points that are open to the public.

The Village residents who attended the meeting were concerned about the summaries presented to the commission.

Commissioner Lynn Larson agreed with the Village residents.

“Leave all this alone,” Larson said. “It’s a sleeping dog.”

Commissioner Jack Duncan agreed, noting the property is still owned by the taxpayers and the town isn’t going to sell the property.

Zunz noted she only brought the alley issue up as “a public-safety standpoint.”

“We have to know what we own,” Zunz said.

Vice Mayor David Brenner suggested the commission give staff direction to continue its study and clearly mark the property the town owns and label any utilities that might exist under the alleys in the Village.

But Larson objected to the idea.

“If no one wants to open them up, why spend town staff time and money to investigate them further?” said Larson.

Duncan agreed.

“I don’t know what we are trying to accomplish,” Duncan said. “What are we getting out of this other than creating an expense?”

But after Bullock said it might be valuable for the town’s Public Works Department to know what sits underneath the alleys, Mayor Jim Brown, Brenner and Commissioners Zunz and Terry Gans reached a consensus to move the analysis of the alleys forward to conduct more research.

Larson was frustrated with the decision.

“The only people who want to do anything with this are four people sitting up here,” Larson said.
In the meantime, the town also plans to investigate whether it can label bay access points that aren’t accessible to the public something else besides a bay access.

“It seems counterintuitive to have bay accesses you can’t access,” Duncan said.

Commissioner Phill Younger suggested closed access points be renamed as “town preservation areas.”

Acting Town Attorney David Persson said he would look into the matter. He noted that the town’s bay access points currently meet certain qualifications with the state.

“Does it have to be called a bay access to meet those standards?” Persson said. “That’s something we need to find out.”

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]


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