Members of multiple Siesta Key groups met with Sarasota city leaders last month to discuss the possibility of merging into the city, while efforts to incorporate Siesta Key into its own town have continued.
The City Commission voted to gauge interest in annexation, or merging with the city, among Siesta Key residents in January. Mayor Eric Arroyo said the Feb. 16 meeting was very conceptual and was conducted with open-mindedness.
“The meeting went very well. Both parties were very realistic, and we discussed the steps necessary to make the partnership work,” Arroyo said. “We found that they (Siesta Key residents) have very real and very important concerns that need to be addressed.”
Arroyo said the next step needed to evaluate the best course of action would come by a letter from Siesta Key residents. He said the letter would need to outline and simplify the concerns of the residents.
Both Arroyo and Siesta Key residents spoke broadly about the Feb. 16 meeting, but Save Siesta Key’s opinion on the matter was clearly voiced in a January news release.
“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 Save Siesta Key press release read. “One big hurdle is that, currently, the city assesses 3.13 mills on property inside its borders.”
Local state legislators voted against moving forward with Siesta Key residents’ desire to incorporate the island in January. Several commissioners found issue with the millage rate in their feasibility study, stating it was too low to effectively fund a town.
Tracy Jackson, the vice chair of Save Siesta Key, called the meeting with city officials as a preliminary measure. But she confirmed that incorporation is still the view of Save Siesta Key and has been the primary goal.
“I wish I could tell you more, but there’s not much to report. The meeting was very preliminary,” Jackson said. “But what I do know is that resubmitting for incorporation is the right thing to do, and that is what we will continue to work towards.”
The previous attempt at incorporation was inspired by issues regarding land-use decisions, environmental efforts and general representation for Siesta Key residents. Since the January vote that killed the bill, Save Siesta Key has continued its efforts for incorporation by appointing a new director, Tim Hensey.
Save Siesta Key has planned to submit another bill for incorporation in August for the 2023 legislative session. One requirement for the bill is a petition from residents who support incorporation, which can be signed online through the Siesta Key Association website.