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Careful planning, budgeting required for north-end drainage improvements

The Sleepy Lagoon and Buttonwood neighborhoods have long had an issue with drainage. A drainage committee and the town are committed to realizing improvement.

Buttonwood Harbour and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods are among those most prone to flooding during high tide.
Buttonwood Harbour and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods are among those most prone to flooding during high tide.
File photo
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Drainage has been a long-standing issue on the north end of Longboat Key, specifically in the Sleepy Lagoon and Buttonwood neighborhoods. 

“When I started the drainage committee, I saw a kayak go down Marbury Lane. Kayaks should not be going down roads,” said June McGroary, former president of the Sleepy Lagoon Homeowners Association and one of the founders of its drainage committee. 

To continue to address drainage problems, the town has allocated funds in fiscal year 2024 and the town’s long-range plan. 

In the 2024 fiscal year budget, the town of Longboat Key’s Streets Fund will provide most of the money for drainage-related projects. From that fund, there’s $1,035,040 allocated to the Village Stormwater Project, $467,000 to the Norton Street Improvements Design, $1,765,971 to the Stormwater Management/Drainage Improvements and $36,035 to the Storm Drain Improvements. 

An additional $147,821 will come from the Manatee Infrastructure Surtax to be allocated to streets projects. This includes $97,821 being carried over from the fiscal year 2023 budget along with the regular annual allocation of $50,000. 

The planned projects include raising the streets as well as improving drainage, and because of that Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said the projects fall under the scope of resiliency. He said the town thinks the grant environment will be “pretty well-funded” for resiliency projects in the coming years.

“Right now, the town is doing our best to leverage other funding, other than local taxpayer money,” Brownman said. “There’s a lot of dollars being floated in federal and state budgets for grant opportunities to help with these types of projects.” 

The town's newly hired grant manager will also be tasked with working on additional grants throughout the years the projects will take place. 

The town is working with planning and design consultants Kimley-Horn for the design of the drainage projects. Each aspect of the project will have a design and a build phase, said Blythe Jeffers, drainage committee member. For the Sleepy Lagoon neighborhood, there are four phases. The phases are ordered by priority, but it’s also necessary to complete them in a particular sequence. Raising one street will force water to drain into others, so the design needs to be thoughtful in its approach. 

One of the main problems with the streets in both neighborhoods is that they are inconsistent, McGroary said. Streets go from having one drain to seven. Every road is different, so when addressing drainage issues, it’s necessary to treat each one differently, McGroary said. Norton Street and Bayview Drive are among the worst streets for flooding in the summer and fall, according to McGroary. During extreme king tides, she said it’s nearly impossible for people to go down those streets. 

The Buttonwood area is split into six different projects. Brownman said some projects will help with drainage, others with resilience and water quality. The first three are Buttonwood Drive and Winslow Place road reconstruction, flow diversion and ditch optimization. Those three are tied together, Brownman said, and will really help the overall roadway and drainage. Recent grant applications address those projects. 

“If we’re able to accomplish those first three projects, that’s a big win for the Buttonwood neighborhood,” Brownman said. 

Brownman said the drainage projects are set to be phased over a five to 10-year period, and the town hopes to complete all projects within that window.

Close cooperation 

The town’s Public Works Department has a close working relationship with the drainage committee.

The drainage committee appoints “captains” to each street in the neighborhood. The captains walk down streets during floods, assess the issues and submit reports to Public Works. The committee also is active by going to town meetings, reviewing budgets and attending the town’s goals and objectives workshops.  

In the drainage committee's most recent meeting with town staff in mid-July, the committee asked some questions of town staff about the budget. The committee was satisfied with the results of the meeting, Jeffers said. When analyzing the budget, it’s important to also look ahead, you have to be looking at more than just the upcoming year, since these projects take multiple years, Jeffers said.

“We’re confident that the town is going to continue its commitment to us to have these projects done to ensure residents’ safety and that the town will include the matching funds and fiscal budgets for the long range plan,” Jeffers said.

Previously, the drainage committee worked closely with the town to make improvements to Lyons Lane. According to McGroary, residents could not pass through or park in that area for at least 10 years due to the drainage issues. In 2020, new types of drainage valves called WaStop Inline Check Valves were installed, and in 2021 the street was raised. 

“As of today, that street is passable,” McGroary said. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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