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Incorporation efforts reignite for Siesta despite coming annexation meeting

Sarasota leaders will meet Siesta Key Association representatives to discuss the possibility of annexing the island into the city. But Save Siesta Key is making a further push for incorporation.

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  • | 11:00 a.m. February 8, 2022
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A meeting between Siesta Key Association representatives, Sarasota Mayor Eric Arroyo and City Manager Marlon Brown has been scheduled to discuss the possibility of annexing Siesta Key into the city, but SKA members have a different plan for the island’s future.

The meeting is expected on Feb. 16, but SKA members voiced that annexation is not the direction they would like to go. Despite the January vote that killed the bill to incorporate Siesta Key, Save Siesta Key incorporation efforts have continued, with plans to resubmit for incorporation in August.

“Although we are somewhat skeptical that this is a viable alternative to forming our own government-lite town, out of courtesy, we have agreed to meet on Feb. 16,” a Siesta Key Association press release read. “One big hurdle is that, currently, the city assesses 3.13 mills on property inside its borders.”

Continued incorporation efforts are far from a rumor, as Save Siesta Key added a new, determined director, Tim Hensey, to its board. Hensey detailed what needed to be done to resubmit the request to incorporate the island during last Thursday’s SKA meeting.

Hensley said one of the first orders of business would be to gather a petition signatures totaling 60% of Siesta Key's population. 

“We were told early on that by staff there was no petition requirement, don’t focus on it," he said. "So we let off the gas pedal on that."

Hensley also suggested redoing the feasibility study, which has been an established requirement for incorporation. Members of the state legislative local delegation took issue with the original study’s .25 millage rate as too low.

Even with the petition and feasibility study efforts, Hensley said the odds of incorporation ultimately getting on the ballot for Siesta Key voters was not good. He voiced disapproval toward the county and state government and said Siesta Key did not get a “fair shake” in the first incorporation attempt.

“If you look at what’s going on in Tallahassee right now, you’ve got a Republican governor, Republican House and Republican Senate that are very anti-additional layer of government,” Hensley said. “We were fighting a huge political wave.”

While acknowledging the difficulty of pushing incorporation forward, Hensley presented possible solutions starting within the Save Siesta Key project. He told those in attendance at the February SKA meeting that experienced lawyers were needed and could give an incorporation bill a better chance at passing.

Read more: After incorporation bill fails, Siesta Key speaks up through lawsuits

Hensley also explained the importance of lobbying in Tallahassee and comforted SKA members that lobbying is a common tool. He explained the hire of Jodie Tierney, a lobbyist influencing politicians in favor of Save Siesta Key’s interests.

“We just brought on Jodie who’s a lobbyist. That’s something I don’t have much experience in, but it is a real art,” Hensley said. “She’s in Tallahassee all the time, and I think having someone on our board that understands how things work in Tallahassee will be huge.”

The desire to incorporate Siesta Key was originally based in preserving the land, water and culture on the island. Recent approval of two high-density hotels on Siesta Key further pushed incorporation efforts.

“Our feasibility study expert recommended the lobbyist we (formerly) used, and I think he’s a super nice guy,” Hensley said. “He was up there on our behalf visiting them (legislators) in their offices and behind closed doors, but I don’t think our voice was heard.”

Before becoming the Save Siesta Key director, Hensley ran the fifth largest construction company in the U.S. for more than 40 years. He was also an area manager for the company that built Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Venice, along with other local projects.

More information on the annexation meeting and Siesta Key’s incorporation efforts can be found on the Siesta Key Foundation’s website. The meeting will be streamed through the Sarasota County website, and is budgeted to occur towards the end of the regular meeting.

“I don’t think Siesta Key will ever get where we want it to get until we put our wallets behind our voice and do something about it,” Hensley said. “There’s 7,000 of us. I think we have the ability to do it.”


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