Off Islands

| July 1, 2014

by Rodger Skidmore

Is Blackbeard’s Treasure  buried on Longboat Key?

Over the years there have been many maps produced showing that Blackbeard (William Teach) buried his pirate treasure, around 1718, in or near North Carolina’s Ocracoke Inlet just before he died. Newly discovered information points to buried treasure worth between $10 and $21 million being buried on Longboat Key but it appears that it is not Blackbeard’s booty that is under discussion. In fact, the treasure, according to Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force Chairman George Spoll, has not yet been buried – and, perhaps, may never be buried. He, and Vice Chairman Tom Freiwald, were urging the Longboat Key Town Commission to reconsider, for the third time, burying Longboat Key’s power poles along Gulf of Mexico Drive (for $10 million) or, why not, everywhere on the key (for $21 million). Mayor Jim Brown did not think that the third time would be the charm and that discussing it three times in one month would not bring the job any closer to fruition. Not too many other commissioners thought the discussion would be worthwhile as there just was not enough money in the kitty.

Joining Forces

How to stop trespassers from entering homes on Jewfish Key? Perhaps the police should entertain the thought of eliminating the key altogether so that there would be no homes and thus no homes to enter.

Longboat Key Police have been on the lookout these past few months for trespassers who have been entering into houses on Jewfish Key. Police detective Kristina Roberts even has photos of the alleged lawbreakers taken from surveillance cameras while they were running on the deck of the property after an alarm had been sounded. It seems the two main functions of the police are to stop crime and to apprehend criminals. Apprehending can be difficult when the police aren’t 24/7 everywhere on Longboat and its outer islands. Having the surveillance system is helpful but only if it is providing the images in enough time for there to be an arrest.

Things have been missing from other areas around LBK as well, both on the northern and southerns ends of the island – sand. The sand has been eroding very quickly and thus again, it is time to add that green sweetener – money. Upwards of $1.5 million this time around.

Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock thought the solution might be to truck in the sand (hundreds of trucks carrying thousands of truckloads of the quartz crystals) or bring it in via tubes pumped from a dredging site near Jewfish Key. Hence the possible solution to both problems. If they pump enough sand, the remnants of Jewfish Key would be pumped and dumped all along the key and there would be no homes on the key since there would be no key. With no houses trespassers would have no houses to trespass upon.

Money, money everywhere

They’ve restored the Stature of Liberty, are getting ready to fix up the Washington Monument, did a bang up job on C’ad Zan, the old Ringling Mansion, and even ensured that the Van Wezel and the Opera House could continue in operation. If something is worth taking care of, the saying goes, you do what you gotta do.

In Holmes Beach, the object of their affection is the Anna Maria Island Community Center. It seems that the $22,500 that the city allocates annually for its upkeep has not been enough and, in a June meeting which 200 residents attended, Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said that it’s important for the city to support the center for the services it offers its residents as well as fulfilling recreational requirements for the city’s comprehensive plan.

The suggestion is that the city create a special tax district and charge each of the 4,000 properties $25 per parcel, with the proceeds going into a special fund for the center. This would add $100,000 each year to the center’s budget and the $22,500 could go back into the city’s general fund to be used for other purposes. Almost like free money for the city and the center. Of course if they only charged each taxable land parcel $12.50 it would still double the budget for the center and would “cost” the city nothing since it would be taking money out of the taxpayers’ left hand pocket instead of out of their right hand pocket.

Of course one might also ask “Why was the total operating cost of the center so high”. Many of the residents who attended were very glad to answer. As with many non-profits there seems to have been a great deal of mission creep. While the center used to operate with a surplus between 2000 and 2007, the downturn in the economy coincided with the beginning of its losses. It seems that when revenue slowed there was little cutting back on services, scholarships, or activities. Randy Langley, former board treasurer, said scholarships almost quadrupled with many seemingly well-to-do parents taking advantage of free programs. Executive Director Dawn Stiles indicated that greater proof of income and needs have been put into place. Others said that a review of what the center offered and how residents were to pay for them might be worthwhile to determine if everything could be cost justified.

Chuggin’ down a cool one

On Holmes Beach this means chuggin’ down a can of cold diet soda from now on. For years it has been illegal to drink alcoholic beverages on the beach. The problem was that it was not illegal to possess that beer or wine cooler. Pop the top, rub the cold can on your fevered brow, let the condensation drip onto your sun-burned arm – fine. Just not legal to drink, said Police Chief William Tokajer. The city commissioners have now fixed what was broke and have instituted a new ordinance banning alcohol on the beach. How or why the original law left such a large loophole is not known but the police no longer have to observe the chuggin’ in person, they just have to see it to believe it. And at $75 a pop, the tops might not just stay on, but at home. And with the alcohol at home the cans and bottles, which often wind up in the sand, might stay there as well.

A rose by any other name ….

Over the past year a number of Snow and Spring Birds booked rooms at the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort. When they arrived this month the Hilton was gone. Vanished.

Oh, a resort hotel was there, right at 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive, but it was not the Hilton, it was, and is, the Gulfside Beach Resort. The resort welcomed those guests with open arms but not, it seems, with an open restaurant or bar. Except for those closed items everything looked like a Hilton but for one thing – the Hilton logo was also missing. Andy Berger of Ocean Properties stated that back in January he was told that the Hilton flag could keep flying over the property if renovations started by June 1st. The work had not begun by that time so the logo was removed. Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray indicated that a demolition permit has been issued for the project, and once approved the town can expect them to file for their building permit plans soon thereafter.

The question then is, what will the newly renovated and expanded (by 85 rooms) resort be called. Will the renovation be up to Hilton Standards? – Will Hilton charge too much for the use of their logo? – Will another brand wish its logo to fly over the new resort? – Or will Ocean Properties start its own brand? Given that they already own the Longboat Key Club, a couple of resorts on Lido Key, and have just put in the high bid for The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort ($3.74 million), that just might be the case. Reservations for the X-Hilton aren’t being accepted beyond June 30th and the hotel will be closed for between 16 and 18 months while the extensive renovation takes place.

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