Staff says Jewfish Key desire to leave Longboat a bad move


Editor & Publisher

The Town of Longboat Key is poised to decide whether Jewfish Key should be allowed to leave the Town’s jurisdiction and become part of unincorporated Manatee County.
The Town Commission will debate the matter on June 3, with a strong and clear recommendation from staff to deny the petition for numerous reasons.
The petition was submitted by Attorney Najmy Thompson on behalf of the Jewfish Key Preservation Association last January. Reaction by Town residents in the intervening months has been a general outcry against the notion mainly because it would allow unfettered tourism uses such as AirBnB rentals and increased development rights on the island.
The irony of the name ‘Jewfish Key Preservation Association’ has not been lost on numerous letter writers to Town Hall who fear increased noise, loud parties and what they see as a self-serving move to monetize through development rights at the expense of their quiet residential enjoyment. This is especially true in the Village section of Longboat Key, which lies directly across the intercoastal from Jewfish Key and has struggled for years enduring the boisterous activity on the sandbar just off Jewfish Key where hundreds of boaters, beer drinkers and music-thumping partiers convene on a regular basis.

Denial based on deficiency
Town staff recommends that the commission deny the petition on its face because by State Law 15 percent of qualified voters in any area desiring to be excluded from municipal boundaries must propose such an ordinance. As of May 10, there were three registered voters on Jewfish Key. According to the Town, one voter is designated as active while the other voters are designated as inactive. A review of the qualified voters on Jewfish Key shows that none of them signed the petition. Further, the Jewfish Key Preservation Association, Inc. is itself not a qualified voter. Therefore, Town Staff says, “As submitted the petition currently fails to meet the threshold requirement for consideration of the feasibility study. Accordingly, the petition should be rejected.”

Enclaves are an issue
Another problem and reason Longboat staff says the petition should be denied is that one of the fundamental components of state law as defined in the Municipal Annexation or Contraction Act is an intent not to create what are referred to as “enclaves.” An enclave is defined in State Statute as an isolated, unincorporated area that is surrounded by the territory of the municipality. The reason is it creates numerous governance and administrative challenges between municipality and county government. In fact, State Law encourages existing enclaves be annexed into municipalities to reduce such administrative challenges.
Town Staff says that if Jewfish Key were to secede from Longboat Key, numerous complexities relating to land use, public safety and code enforcement would result.

Density differential
Perhaps the greatest difference that would arise if Jewfish Key were to become unincorporated is that numerous restrictions in land use would be lost. Primarily, the Town does not allow the addition of increased density or number of dwelling units whereas Manatee has no such restriction. Also, Longboat Key has strict land use controls on tourism restricting the rental of residential properties for tourism units. On Longboat Key, residentially-zoned areas such as Jewfish Key and the Village cannot rent out their homes for less than 30 days. Manatee County has no restrictions on tourism uses in residential areas. Staff says if Jewfish Key were allowed to become part of unincorporated Manatee County, the increased tourism usage on the island would create “nuisance impacts” to the surrounding residences on the north end of Longboat Key within the Village community.
Another concern is that Manatee County has a far weaker noise ordinance than Longboat Key and this too could have an immediate impact on Longboat.
In fact, the reasons staff outlined for the town to not proceed in developing an ordinance to promulgate Jewfish Key leaving the town amounts to about 20 bullet point paragraphs ranging from the above reasons to the fact that simply policing and preventing fire service would become more difficult and jurisdictionally confusing.
The town Commission can deny the petition based on any one or more of the reasons and if the Commission agrees with staff on Monday, it will vote on a Denial Order.


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