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Letters to the Editor

Poisoning the Roots of Democracy

Basic democratic principles are at risk when a 70% majority vote gets challenged by the very government whose actions were rebuked by that vote.  On November 27th, about forty citizens attended a County Commission meeting to voice concerns regarding this very issue during Agenda Item #1, which is “Open to the Public.”  We asked the commissioners why they were spending our tax dollars paying the County Attorney to pursue meritless claims against the RBR sponsored amendments which we had voted for and passed by an overwhelming majority.  We want Beach Road rebuilt and we want it to remain public. We also want to protect our parks, preserves, beach and water accesses from being given away or sold by our government; we said so with our votes in support of the amendments.

During public comment, Commission Chair Nancy Detert said, “We hear you and we’re implementing it. I mean, it’s a government process. Nobody’s shuffling it under the carpet or trying to undermine anything…”  Well, that’s interesting because the County has two current lawsuits which seek to have the election results thrown out.  Let’s assume Chair Detert wasn’t being dishonest. Is it any more acceptable that the chairperson of our County Commission is unaware her employee, the County Attorney, is actively seeking to subvert the voters’ will through these lawsuits?

I ran into Commissioner Hines at lunch later that same day. He agreed we should “settle this thing,” and suggested I have former commissioner Jon Thaxton help negotiate on behalf of Reopen Beach Road. It took three weeks to get a one hour meeting, Mr. Thaxton wasn’t allowed to attend, and the County Attorney was “unaware” of our ‘proposed framework for settlement.’ I found this shocking because we sent him, and each commissioner, our ‘proposed framework for settlement’  FOUR MONTHS prior, on 8/17/18.  Their inattention makes their half-hearted efforts seem disingenuous; I hope I’m mistaken about that.

The “proposed framework for settlement” is a public record through which we offered to allow the developers to keep their illegally obtained development rights in exchange for their unbuildable, partly submerged beach lots, the combined appraised value of which is under $10k… Also, the County has to follow the recommendations provided by Taylor Engineering in their 2013 report and rebuild Beach Road with sidewalks and a bike lane. This will allow us once again to enjoy Siesta Key’s only unobstructed Gulf-view drive, bike, rollerblade, skate, etc. Contrary to the county’s inaccurate claims, none of these uses currently exist.

Our offer seems reasonable to us. The developers get their extra ‘units’. The public gets its road back, federally mandated ADA compliance for our elderly and mobility- impaired citizens, and unfettered use of the beach. As for me, I get to go back to remodeling houses, boating, and fishing. Frankly, this has been exhausting and I’m looking forward to getting my life back.

Let’s hope the county follows through and embraces the will of the voters. Thank you to the publishers of this paper for the opportunity to educate its readers, to all of our Reopen Beach Road volunteers and supporters, and to Commissioner Hines for his efforts to get this mess straightened out. Happy New Year!!!

Mike Cosentino
President, Reopen Beach Road, Inc

Siesta Promenade vote

On Dec. 12th, the County Commission demonstrated that the “will of the people” is no match for the will of developers. Thank you Commissioners Detert and Hines for hearing the pleas of the people and voting against the Benderson proposal. It is tragic the Commission lost what may well be the last chance to save a neighborhood and have a positive impact on the already traffic saturated Stickney Point/US 41 corner that leads to Siesta Key.

Our membership representing over 90 Condominiums and 7,000 doors on Siesta Key made their opposition to this project known in our recent membership survey. A SKCC representative made this known to the Commissioners by speaking at the meeting with the theme of “serving the will of the people.”

Traffic jams and long waits to get on the key are the norm. Health and safety of residents and visitors are at risk as emergency vehicles struggle to negotiate traffic.

The Commissioners voting outcome made no attempt to alleviate these conditions and in fact added to the already bad situation.

Siesta Key Condominium Council Board

Siesta Promenade County Commissioners decision

At its hearing on December 12, the County Commission approved the Siesta Promenade application without significant modification. The hearing room was at capacity and the overflow room had to be opened.

The comment portion lasted from 9am to after 5pm and the Commission discussion was over an hour. Over 100 signed speaker cards and approximately 75 remained to testify. Of the total number of speakers, only 5-7 supported the application and they were all associated with building and/or development organizations.

In the Commissions hour plus discussion many of the concerns/objections were considered and two were discussed with the applicant. One was to increase the amount of affordable housing and the other was to reduce the building heights. The applicant would not consent to either.

Because of the complexity of the project, it had to be addressed in five separate motions. Four motions were approved on a 4-1 vote with the Chair Nancy Detert being the dissenting vote on each motion and the fifth motion was approved 5-0. Virtually no amendments to the application were proposed!

When the voting was completed, Chairperson Detert gave an epilog lamenting the fact that she joined the Commission when consideration of the project was already under consideration. She expressed a limited ability to influence the result and stated that many important issues were raised by the citizens which need to be addressed by the county.

The angry and dejected participants departed in shock and silence.

To think that over 1000 letters were sent to commissioners, more than 1800 petitions were presented and about 75 individuals testified before the commission, but that governmental body did not find even one suggestion actionable!

Larry Lawrence
The Landings