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Incorporating Siesta Key is the only way to save it

Siesta Key is now another step closer to becoming Fort Lauderdale, as a harebrained hotel proposal remains alive and kicking.

Might as well build a giant Ferris wheel and a miniature golf course while they’re at it. You know, just to completely ruin the integrity of the best beach community in the world, the one we seem so proud to promote after yet another travel guide throws a dart at a board and declares us No. 1!

The Sarasota County Commission recently voted 3-2 to remove a regulation that limits the number of hotel rooms that could be built on an acre. Is this really the best idea? Not only does it pave the way for a proposed eightstory hotel consisting of 170 rooms to move forward, but also three other hotel proposals on Siesta Key just like it.

Here’s what proponents still do not seem to grasp: Ruining Siesta Key with ill-advised hotel projects impacts the entire region.

When tourists visit the area, one of the first places they go is Siesta Key, and undoubtedly, when people consider moving here, the beach holds significant sway. Of course, not many people can afford to live on Siesta Key, but they can afford a home in Venice, North Port, Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton. They just want to be close. Within driving distance.

But once the traffic becomes unmanageable (wait until construction ties it up even more; that will be priceless), and the aesthetics are displeas-

See ANDERSON, Page 4B

Chris Anderson

Columnist Sarasota Herald-Tribune USA TODAY NETWORK

Continued from Page 1B

ing, and the vibe no longer feels like a village, guess what?

They stop visiting. They stop moving here. And that hinders our entire economy, from developers to builders, suppliers to Realtors, school districts to the service industry, just about everything you can think of.

Wait and see: If they build new hotels on Siesta Key to hold more people, eventually those same hotels will be the very reason people won’t fill them.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll stick with it: Take away Siesta Key, and Sarasota becomes little more than Sebring with a spring training baseball team.

So what can be done? Incorporate. Make Siesta Key a town. Let the people who live there run it. Let them decide what is best.

Earlier this month, a group called Save Siesta Key met with a local representative of the Florida Legislature and presented an outline as to how this would work.

The group wants to get this on the ballot next year, but first, it needs the legislature to authorize a referendum, which isn’t easy. In the last 15 years, only two towns in Florida were incorporated.

But the group claims that out of 500 residents polled, 95% want Siesta Key incorporated as its own town. Highdensity hotels and traffic, the group claims, are the top two concerns.

There are many important issues to be discussed with a step this big. Planning. Zoning. Budgets. A charter. Essential services. The makeup of the government.

In its recent presentation, the group pointed out that Siesta Key represents a small fraction of Sarasota County’s residents but is a major source of revenue.

And there is a simple reason why: It’s not Fort Lauderdale. Yet. Hopefully, it never will be. Better off letting the residents run it.

Or it’s all over but the Ferris wheel. Contact columnist Chris Anderson at chris.anderson@heraldtribune.com. Please support local journalism by purchasing a digital subscription.

The Siesta Key Coalition provided this model to show the scale of the proposed hotel project at Calle Miramar and Beach Road. The group contends it is an accurate representation and to scale with the surrounding property.

COURTESY OF SIESTA KEY COALITION

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