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Letters to the editor for Longboat 02.23.17

Sarasota resident praises Longboat planners

  • By
  • | 8:58 a.m. February 17, 2017
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp,  fields questions from Key residents.
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp, fields questions from Key residents.
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Sarasota resident praises Longboat planners

I read in utter disbelief and amazement the article on the Fruitville Road disagreements (Feb. 16). My husband and I have lived in the Rosemary District for eight years. I walk Fruitville Road sidewalks every day, where I very seldom see anyone walking. We use the Fruitville Road bike lanes, which they now want to eliminate. We cross safely at the lights, with no problem.  

They want to turn Fruitville into a one-lane street (as if it were Main Street) for two blocks. I have experienced this in my own town up north, where the traffic because of this idiotic design is now always backed up, and sends drivers into all of the side neighborhoods.  

 Do any of these city staffers live in this area or walk every day?   Most probably not.

  But they want to treat this major road like it's Palm Avenue.   I offer my thanks to the Longboat Key staffers, who have more sense than the planners of the city of Sarasota - the city of unchecked development,  no setbacks for new construction, a homeless problem run amok, traffic ignored or added to the present congestion, with suggestions like this.

Katherine White

Colony proposal cannot be at expense of others 

I am sure you have received many letters opposing the proposed Unicorp development on the Colony’s site.

I however, feel I must write as well. But rather than focus on the technical laws in place. I am choosing to write what Longboat Key has come to mean to me and my family.

In 1975, my parents had a friend who had bought a condo in Aquarius on the south side overlooking the Colony, but had chosen not to keep it as it was "too quiet" for his wife’s liking. Knowing my parents as he did, he offered them the condo, explaining that with their busy lifestyle, Longboat would be a perfect oasis for them. Soon my parents, my brother and I visited our magnificent Key for the first time. As it was to be a "vacation property" for our family, it was important to my parents that their teenage children embrace it, as it was to be a place for us to come to as well and enjoy as we grew up.

I have watched the Key grow, and with it the increase in traffic. But I always knew there were laws in place to ensure Longboat never became a Miami with both density and height restrictions in place. While I could go on and on with my memories, the most important point is that our home on Longboat has been a place of great joy and happiness for us all. When my father became ill in 2008 and my mother felt she no longer wanted the responsibility of owning, my husband and I purchased the condo. One of my favorite photo’s is of my father holding our first son on our balcony with the ocean in view behind him.

I find the proposed Unicorp plan for the old Colony site abhorrent on so many levels. We look over the Colony on the third floor and the idea that we would be looking o\into a 12 story building and have an access road near our fence is unthinkable.

I have been so proud over the years to extol the virtues of Longboat Key, its community and people. We cannot allow a developer to change the face of our Key irrevocably.

While it is to everyone’s advantage to have a wonderful resort built next door, it cannot be at the expense of everything that brought us all to Longboat in the first place.

Many people have a ‘happy place’ where they visit in times of sadness or stress, and for me that is the beach on Longboat. I sincerely hope that the township keeps our serenity in place for future generations to love and enjoy.

Denise Grimes

Longboat Key

Colony plan incompatible with island character

Recently, I attended a presentation by Unicorp’s Chuck Whittall, a developer who hopes to sell his dream for redeveloping the old Colony property. Mr. Whittall has purchased some of the former Colony property, knowing that it had a grandfathered nonconforming density of 237 hotel units. The conforming density for the Colony property is 103 units. But even with the increased density allowances, Mr. Whittall wants more, and zoning and density regulations do not seem to be an obstacle.

He has drafted a site plan that he hopes the Longboat residents approve in a March 14 referendum that would allow him to add an additional 180 units (now a total of 417), a ballroom, a spa, two restaurants, a parking garage, various pools, several bars, retail stores and a five-star resort.

To accomplish this dream, Mr. Whittall’s wants the Longboat voters to support his plan and grant him exemptions from height restrictions, density restrictions, as well as ignore the obvious. His project is not only incompatible with our zoning and construction laws, but also with the charm and character of Longboat Key. Mr. Whittall is asking that he be allowed to increase his density to almost two times the density of most other developments on the Key.

While he explains there will be plenty of green space and water features in his project, Mr. Whittall glosses over the fact that his plan portrays a horseshoe of 10-12 story buildings (not including one to two stories of parking) around the perimeter of the property. Gulf of Mexico Drive will have the view of the back of these glittering buildings that will be set very near the property line. The “green space” and “water features” will rest inside the horseshoe.

Mr. Whittall continues to sell us his fairy tale by pronouncing that although there will now be over 400 units, a ballroom, hundreds of staff and employees, and dozens of service and delivery vehicles, he has conducted and paid for a study that says that our traffic will not be adversely affected by his proposed project but, in fact, lessened.

Mr. Whittall boldly states that the Florida Department of Transportation knows why we have traffic but does not have the money to fix it. Fear not, Mr. Whittall cites the traffic problems in Cortez as one of the culprits and states that he will pay for a lane extension, which by the way can only run for a few hundred yards, and a rotary. What Mr. Whittall neglects to say is that this possible fix was one of the findings of an FDOT study done in 2007. Acknowledging the age of the investigation and findings, a new FDOT study recently began to investigate the causes and possible solutions to our present traffic troubles.

The Colony property has been shuttered for almost seven years — not a single car in or out of the former resort. Now consider if our traffic problems have increased or lessened in the past seven years? Meanwhile, Mr. Whittall contends his proposed project with its increased density, employees and service vehicles will alleviate our traffic. Mr. Whittall’s plan for redevelopment of the Colony property is completely incompatible with what makes LBK special and what drew many of us to the area—its charming, tropical, laid-back style.

The Colony should be developed, but not with total disregard for what makes LBK extraordinary.

A “No” vote for the March 14 referendum is necessary to stop this overreaching development.

L.F Geswelli

Longboat Key


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