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Longboat Key referendum issues preoccupy 2 biz plaza owners

One owner said traffic is the biggest issue islanders are experiencing, which could affect their perception of his plans.


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  • | 2:39 p.m. November 7, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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While the nation decides Tuesday whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton should be the next U.S. president, Longboat Key voters will also help determine the fate of two business operations.

Ryan Snyder, 37, of Bradenton, wants to raze a portion of Whitney Beach Plaza in the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive to make way for up to 18 homes. His low-key campaign pitch emphasizes this new direction is the best use of the 45,000 square feet of commercial space and such a small number of homes will not aggravate the traffic congestion.

Ryan Snyder, 37, of Bradenton, wants to raze a portion of Whitney Beach Plaza in the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive to make way for up to 18 homes.
Ryan Snyder, 37, of Bradenton, wants to raze a portion of Whitney Beach Plaza in the 6800 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive to make way for up to 18 homes.

“It’s in the hands of the voters at this point,” he said Monday. “To be honest, I’ve never been so unsure about anything in my entire life.”

Snyder said he knows traffic is the biggest issue islanders are experiencing, which could affect their perception of his plans. The last referendum on a hotel proposal for a site just north of Snyder’s plaza failed with 78 percent of the vote against it.

He also said he’s worried the referendum questions on the ballot “are not models of clarity.”

“I would like to think a lot of residents are familiar with the plaza and would say we’re getting rid of an eyesore.”

The other referendum vote will decide whether owner Oscar Parsons, 94, can regain the simultaneous residential and business use of 4,200 square feet of penthouse office space at Harbour Square, 4134 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“I’m pretty confident it’s going to pass,” Parsons said. “I could be wrong.”

Parsons has owned his office plaza, right on the Sarasota County line with Manatee County, since 1985. Four years ago, he gave up the right to use the penthouse as a residence.

Longboat Key planner Steve Schield said Parsons gave up a grandfathered nonconforming use and now wants it reinstated.

Parsons said all present businesses would remain at the 17,000-square-foot business complex with 72 covered parking spaces and an open courtyard.

The only real change the referendum would allow, he said, is letting a business owner live in the penthouse for $5,000 a month. It could also be subdivided into a maximum of three residences.