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Several key issues face Longboat in the next weeks, months

Commission will hear a lot of these topics.

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  • | 11:00 a.m. March 26, 2019
Demolition of the Amore building is nearly complete.
Demolition of the Amore building is nearly complete.
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One of the names has changed, but a lot about the newest version of the Town Commission remains the same.

Mike Haycock was sworn in to his at-large seat on the morning of March 19 and by early afternoon was already weighing in on the town’s biggest public issues: street parking in Longbeach Village and the size of poles connected to the town’s $46 million project to bury utility cables and equipment and upgrade wireless service.

Haycock may be new to the commission, but he’s no rookie. He’s lived in Longboat for 22 years and served on the town’s appointed Planning and Zoning Board for two years before running.

Mayor George Spoll and Vice Mayor Ed Zunz were re-elected to their posts the same morning and were, likewise, seamlessly back on the job.

A year ago, a collection of big ticket issues loomed for a newly seated commission: the town’s sign code was still unsettled, a system of on-the-spot citations for a selection of code violations was being considered and the issue of nonconforming structures was still up in the air.

By 2019, a new sign code is law, a batch of code citations have already been handed out and commissioners have dealt with a wide-ranging rewrite of the town’s zoning code, as it pertains to non-conforming structures.

Still, there’s a lot on the town’s agenda in the coming months. Among the top issues:

Arts, Culture and Education Center

It won’t be too long before the last remnants of the former Amore Restaurant building are removed from the woodsy two acres the town bought for $2.2 million on Bay Isles Parkway in early 2017. Connected with an adjoining 2.8 acres the town already controlled, there’s nearly five acres on which to one day build the town’s long-proposed Arts, Culture and Education Center.

Once demolition and cleanup are complete, though, the town will begin working with George F. Young Inc., a St. Petersburg engineering company, on permitting options and site planning for an interim project — a town-run open green space for outdoor events. With permitting likely in the next few months, the green space project could be ready by this time next year.

The plan, Town Manager Tom Harmer said, is to try to overlay as much as possible land plans for the green space with the future needs of the Arts, Culture and Education Center, to avoid unnecessary work. George F. Young Inc. is also working on arts center project. Some accommodations for power and plumbing will built into the green space project to make its use that much more convenient, Harmer said.

Longboat received $400,000 from Sarasota County to demolish the former restaurant and transform it into green space.

With the vision for the Arts, Culture and Education center changing, Harmer said the town will seek a new agreement with Ringling College of Art and Design, essentially the tenant, on how the venue will be designed, constructed and operated. Such an agreement would be flexible but still be a structured path forward in the work between the town and the school.

And while Ringling College might suggest events for the town’s green space, Harmer said the town would have complete control over that venue’s programming.

Zoning code amendments

The big one is out of the way: The town knows now what the plan is for non-confirming buildings that want to rebuild or renovate.

But a whole slew of smaller-ticket but nonetheless important changes are possibly on the way, packed into a systematic plan to look at everything from standards related to pickleball courts and the construction of boat docks to gulf beach setbacks and site-plan exemption thresholds.

Harmer said once freed of the time spent on non-conforming properties, the town wanted to set up a framework to re-examine codes through a basic framework that listed and grouped together prioritized items in five phases, one phase at a time.

“Were you to do it piecemeal, it’s a mess,” Harmer said.

Commissioners recently talked about accelerating the schedule by dealing with some phases at the same time. Harmer said town staff wanted to have something for commissioners to vote on by March 30. They will likely take a vote on the plan on April 1.

Parking is only allowed on the south side of Broadway Street.
Parking is only allowed on the south side of Broadway Street.


With a recently opened restaurant bringing in seasonal crowds, another expected to open soon and a third, though less intense one, proposed at the site of an abandoned gas station in Longbeach Village, parking concerns aren’t likely to go away soon on the north end of the island.

Commissioners recently began discussing options.

Among some of the ideas were more restrictions on general curbside parking, including additional no-parking zones, and consideration of limiting the use of public streets for valet parking. Also, commissioners recently discussed talking with Mar Vista Dockside restaurant owner Ed Chiles to consider reconfiguring his on-site lot or possibly expanding it to hold more customers’ vehicles.

Among a change to the zoning code related to parking: a provision requiring a traffic study for “place of assembly” thresholds of 7,650 square feet (from 10,000 square feet) and the per-person accommodations from 650 to 425 people.




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