ULI / FROM PAGE 1A The Longboat Observer asked residents and business owners from across the Key a question: Was the ULI study a good use of $125,000, plus additional expenses, in taxpayer funds? Country Club Shores resident and former Planning and Zoning Board member Brad Saivetz thinks it was a waste of money. “When you go to a surgeon’s office they are gong to cut something out of you,” he said. “But when commissioners go to town funds to confirm what they want to do, that’s not right. I like Longboat Key as it was, and I hope we try to attract the same people who came here and not the casual tourists. It was boilerplate stuff. The town gave ULI the answers they were already looking for.” Alan Moore, co-owner of Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, agrees that the study wasn’t worth it, but for different reasons. “It was the biggest waste of money the town has ever spent,” Moore said. “Look at the first two paragraphs of the study. They tell us to get rid of the Comp Plan and relax the rental restrictions. I could have given them that advice for five bucks.” Ann Roth, who was co-president of the recently dissolved Public Interest Committee (PIC), disagrees. “It energized the process,” Roth said. “We already knew some of this stuff from the Vision Plan process, and we went through a lot of it before. But nothing is easy. We needed the perspective and now we have work to do.” Country Club Shores resident and former Commissioner Randall Clair thinks it’s a good idea to work on less controversial issues, such as sprucing up entryways and adding recreational amenities to Bayfront Park. “In view of everything that has transpired before and all the negatives, having the ULI come in was the right thing to do — to have people disinterested in
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2013
the process tell us what we should do,” he said. But, for many stakeholders, the answer to the question of whether the study was worthwhile gets a definite “maybe.” “It’s worth the money if they would listen and actually make some changes,” said Cannons Marina owner David Miller. “It could have been gotten for a lot cheaper,” said Bay Isles resident David Novak. “But what price do you put on getting us out of gridlock? To me, the Town Commission for years has been driven by people coming to them and addressing their problems versus doing things for the betterment of the community. If they can use this as cover or impetus or a tool for these people to use, then it’s a worthwhile effort.” Spanish Main Yacht Club resident Tom Freiwald, who served on the subcommittee that formed for the ULI visit, also thinks the study’s value has yet to be seen. “If the town embraces this and does something with it and it brings together the community to move forward and do something, then it’s the best $125,000 we ever spent. But if the town kills all the good ideas and nitpicks it to death, then it’s the biggest waste of town money and energy, and we will have wasted the opportunity,” he said. Bayou resident and District 3 Commission candidate Ray Rajewski takes a different perspective. “There are two ways to answer that,” he said. “It was worth it, because we now understand we have almost a perfect island. The recommendations they came up with for the most part are so farfetched I don’t know how you implement anything. We already have a town center. It’s called St. Armands Circle. That’s where you go to walk around, see residents and get a cup of coffee. The other way to answer is, it’s a waste of money. If that’s all they can come up with, it tells me we have a pretty nice place with not a lot to improve upon.”
BID / FROM PAGE 1A position of having someone trying to extort money while looking through my personal computer,” Rappaport said. “If you volunteer for this city, you’re at risk. If need be, I’ll resign because my time is too valuable and the exposure is too great.” Citizens for Sunshine attorney Andrea Mogensen, through a letter from paralegal Michael Barfield, is seeking any email on private or personal email accounts from BID directors containing the words “restaurant,” “retail,” “Business Improvement District” or “Bob Gibbs.” Barfield also wants any email BID directors sent to St. Armands Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan. Corrigan, though, she is not subject to the Sunshine Law through her affiliation with the BID. The records request, which will involve rifling through Rappaport’s personal computer and most likely the computers of other BID directors, was prompted when BID and the Downtown Improvement District (DID) met to revisit the possibility of limiting the space restaurants occupy on the Circle and in downtown Sarasota. At that meeting, Rappaport mentioned the BID had hired urban retail planner Robert Gibbs to study St. Armands Circle in 2005, noting that Gibbs praised the Circle as a shopping destination but warned retail tenants were being overshadowed by restaurants. After that study, the BID suggested restricting restaurants from occupying the first floor of buildings; that effort was unsuccessful. Rappaport estimates that 55% of retail space on the Circle is used for food purposes, up 10% since 2005. Although city attorneys warned there were a host of legal issues involved with restricting land use, Rappaport said it was a cause worth pursuing. Members of both boards agreed, voting to put out a request for proposal that would bring in a consultant like Gibbs to investigate whether the number of restaurants within the BID and DID was problematic.
Rappaport noted Tuesday that his mentioning of Gibbs Oct. 8 did not mean he was pushing for the BID and the DID to hire Gibbs again. Rappaport also told city Purchasing Manager Mary Tucker weeks ago that to avoid any conflict, he would not be a part of a selection committee that hired a consultant to perform the work. Rappaport and others expressed concern and frustration with the public records request Tuesday. “I’m not concerned about being out of the Sunshine in any way,” Rappaport said. What’s frustrating to Rappaport and other city volunteers, they said, is they are being forced to turn over personal computers because their personal emails have been used in the past to conduct business. Even if city employees send a notice of a meeting to a personal email, their personal computers could be scanned. BID directors also expressed concern with what they perceive as a frustrating city email policy. “It’s easier to use our personal emails than try to log into the city system,” said Rappaport, who has since started using only the city email system for Circle business. Rappaport noted the only way for directors like him to be completely safe from public records requests in the future would be for the city to pay for city computers. Corrigan also expressed frustration. “Now BID directors are being harassed for not just work email, but personal emails,” Corrigan said. “It’s out of control.” At a special Sarasota City Commission meeting Nov. 7, the City Commission approved a second settlement offer in response to an ongoing lawsuit that will acknowledge the city violated the state’s Government in the Sunshine Law for an undisclosed amount. “Unless something is done and the city takes a stand, the city is putting themselves open for lawsuit after lawsuit,” Rappaport said. “These minor claims can cost thousands of dollars, and they’re driving volunteers like me from wanting to participate in the process any longer.”
Longboat Observer 11.14.13