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Longboat Key officials brace for AquaPalooza

Town staff are reviewing a special event permit for the coming MarineMax Sarasota event.

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  • | 3:00 p.m. August 9, 2016
Longboat Key and Jewfish Key residents have complained about raucous partying at a nearby sandbar.
Longboat Key and Jewfish Key residents have complained about raucous partying at a nearby sandbar.
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UPDATE: As of Thursday, MarineMax Sarasota has received a permit from the town of Longboat Key for AquaPalooza.

It’s less than a week until a boat party planned for the sandbar near Jewfish Key is scheduled to set sail.

MarineMax Sarasota advertises AquaPalooza, slated for 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, as “the largest party on the water,” with “sunshine, great friends, live music and more!”

But it caught Longboat Key town staff and nearby residents by surprise.

On Monday, Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein sent a letter to MarineMax asking organizers to apply for a special event permit, since the waters around Jewfish Key falls within the Longboat’s boundaries. The correspondence came after Jewfish Key resident Nancy Nolin emailed Mayor Jack Duncan Monday.

“We wonder if they will inform their guests that Jewfish Key is a private island and to stay off the island,” Nolin said in the email. 

According to the town code, event organizers must apply for a permit 30 days before a scheduled event. In Hein’s letter to MarineMax, he assured event planners that town staff would work to expedite processing a permit — but the first application staff received was incomplete.

“I’ve been informed that historically the town has worked with applicants with much shorter timelines to accommodate similar special events,” Hein said in an interview with the Longboat Observer.

The code also maintains that the town manager has the authority to consider whether to grant a permit based on 13 criteria, including whether the organizer provides for sanitation and public safety.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure our residents and visitors enjoy their quality of life,” Hein said.

Capt. Kathe Fannon, a fourth generation Cortez resident who runs a tour boat with her dog and first mate Pup Pup, said she’s concerned about the behavior of partygoers.

“They rape and pillage everything off of that sandbar,” she said. “You can’t find anything alive anymore.”

Further, she doesn’t believe any of the surrounding jurisdictions will have authority on the water to prevent illegal behavior.

“I go by there on weekends, and there’s actually naked people on their boats dancing,” Fannon said.

But two Longboat Key police officers will be stationed on the mainland of Jewfish Key to discourage trespassers, while two police boats will patrol the waters. And Police Chief Pete Cumming said he is coordinating with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard for more vessels.

“I’m bringing all my people in,” he said. “We’re going to be out there in force.”

After receiving a message from a MarineMax spokeswoman and speaking to town staff, Nolin said her fears about the event have been largely tempered. The Facebook event now lists the sandbar  — instead of the main island —as the site of the party.

“As long as they get the word out that it’s not on Jewfish Key, I don’t have any concerns,” Nolin said. “Otherwise, I hope they have a good time and stay safe.”


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