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Longboat Key commissioners discuss Town Center site at retreat

Longboat Key leaders discussed several projects, including the future of the Town Center site and a Sarasota County-operated library on the island.

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  • | 4:52 p.m. October 18, 2021
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The Longboat Key Town Commission on Monday set aside some time to discuss 2022 initiatives in a retreat setting at the Sea Place clubhouse.

Though no votes were possible, commissioners covered a broad range of topics, including:


Town Center developments

Completing the outdoor Town Center venue along with phase two improvements and building a stage is among the town’s 2022 strategic plan initiatives.

Phase two work includes walkways, lightning, bathrooms and land preparations for the planned addition of a performance stage.

The Longboat Key Foundation is helping the town coordinate private fundraising for the 50-foot wide permanent stage  between the Public Tennis Center and the Shoppes of Bay Isles.

“I’ve had one contact so far from a family that sounds very interested in doing a naming rights-size contribution to the project,” Mayor Ken Schneier said.

Schneier did not specify which family or who specifically he talked to about the naming of the proposed Town Center stage.


Possibility of a Sarasota County-operated library

While the Longboat Library lease runs to June 15, 2024, the Town Commission discussed the possibility of adding a Sarasota County-operated library.

The town’s library at 555 Bay Isles Road is a privately run, nonprofit organization, staffed and operated by volunteers. Longboat Key is the only municipality in Sarasota County without a public library.

Longboat Key’s lease where the current library sits at 555 Bay Isles Road has a 90-termination clause for the town to transition to a county-operated system.

“What does a 21st-century library look like?” At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop asked.

Town Manager Tom Hamer said the town has had discussions with Sarasota County leaders “for years” about a county-operated library.

“They have not made a formal commitment yet,” Harmer said. “Their commission supported the concept previously, and then COVID hit, and we paused the discussion, so we’ve been trying to reinvigorate those discussions now that we’re past a lot of the COVID-economic impacts.”

On Monday, commissioners discussed what purpose a new library would serve.

“We need like the equivalent of a student union center or a community center, and the students are the community,” District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick said. 

Commissioners had some discussion about the need to have a place to gather, hold presentations and hold educational classes.

“I am a little skeptical about our library because as soon as you built it, it’s almost obsolete,” Dominick said. “I mean, that’s been my experience with libraries, and in this day and age, you build it and then your equipment isn’t up to date.

“But if it’s just a meeting facility, that’s a different issue.”


Roundabouts could come to Gulf of Mexico Drive

Commissioners discussed the possibility two roundabouts on Gulf Mexico Drive: one at Broadway and another at Longboat Club Drive, both long-discussed potential projects.

“The Broadway roundabout is first,” Harmer said. “That project, we’ve already gone through what’s called a (Project Development and Environment) study with the state, and we’re now moving into the design.

Harmer said the town is funded to do the design of the GMD-Broadway roundabout.

“Once the design is done, then we do lobbying the state for funding the actual construction,” Harmer said. “We haven’t done any of that advanced planning or design with the (proposed) Longboat Club roundabout.”

Harmer said the town has decided to look into pursuing a roundabout at Longboat Club Road as part of the GMD Corridor Study.

There was also some discussion about reducing speed limits on GMD, and about the state’s plans for a pilot program testing out different kinds of crosswalks along GMD.


Redundant pipeline project

Following the town’s June 2020 sewage-line break, town commissioners determined dealing with the town’s single pipeline to the mainland should be the highest priority.

Longboat Key leaders waiting to hear back from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on plans to conduct a pipe reassessment, which Harmer said the town planned to conduct even before the sewage leak.

“We’ve presented to them the methodology and technology and we just need to get their thumbs up,” Harmer said.

Harmer said the FDEP leaders in Tallahassee are reviewing the town’s plans. In July, the state approved the town’s proposed environmental projects totaling about $290,822 to fulfill a consent order. It includes adding an upgraded flow meter and three pre-eminent bypass pumps at lift stations in the wastewater collection system.

“You’d think that would be a pretty urgent thing for them,” District 2 Commissioner Penny Gold said.


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