- May 15, 2023
Longboat Key residents were given the opportunity to meet their Sarasota County commissioner, Mark Smith, at the Town Hall hosted by Miracle on the Key on Tuesday afternoon.
During the event, Smith walked residents through his background and answered questions from audience members, who were primarily concerned with his opinions on local development and affordable housing.
Smith is a longtime Sarasota resident; he moved to the area in 1963. Prior to his election to the District 2 seat in November 2022, he was best known for the architectural firm he started in Siesta Key Village, Smith Architects. He still lives and works on Siesta Key.
Because of his experiences on Siesta Key, he was able to address concerns and common issues that face barrier islands and the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
Traffic, water, air quality and affordable housing are the key issues he discussed with audience members and plans to address during his term.
“What we have on Siesta Key is a growth issue as we do in all of Sarasota,” he said.
The area is not alone in its rapid growth over recent years. According to an analysis by the National Association of Realtors, Florida was the fastest-growing state in the U.S., with about 1,000 people moving to the state each day.
“We have so much development going up, and I am trying to persuade the folks that develop to make it affordable for the folks that work out there,” Smith said. “To me, that would make much more sense because we’re talking about the workforce, the folks that are taking care of lawns in front of houses, the nurses that staff the hospitals, folks working at Publix.”
Even though issues discussed didn’t always directly affect Longboat Key, attendees still had questions about plans for surrounding areas including three high-density hotels approved by county commissioners before Smith had taken his seat.
“I was disappointed to put it mildly,” he said.
At the time, he was involved in the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and had helped come up with alternatives for the hotels alongside residents in opposition to the proposals that had formed the group Spiegel’s Siesta Key Coalition. Rather than hotels, Smith believed condos or a restaurant would have served the site better.
Miracle on the Key began as an experiment to see if members of the town’s Democratic Club and Republican Club could meet on a regular basis, discuss their differences and find common ground.
“To read the news of our public discourse on any given morning is to realize that our divides have widened, our anger has intensified, reputations are trashed recklessly without remorse,” Mayor Ken Schneier said at the start of the meeting.