Siesta Residents Confident in 2022 Incorporation Vote

Todays News

It’s not every year a new city forms in Florida, but leaders of Save Siesta Key feel confident a vote will be held next year on incorporating the island as a town. “We are quite optimistic” said Harry Anand, a spokesman for the civic group.

Save Siesta Key presented their case the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation, which would still need to meet again to advance a local bill. At the meeting, lawmakers voiced some skepticism. Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, said her office is still working with the community, but wants to make sure residents have exhausted all options regarding governance before moving a bill.

“What I am trying to understand as a representative of Siesta Key is, at a fundamental level, what you broken and how incorporating as a city might fix that,” she said.

Anand conceded the community of Siesta Key has no problems with government services like law enforcement or utilities, and has spoken with appropriate government agencies about contracting with them for equal service at no added charge. A feasibility study on incorporation submitted to the state suggests a modest government operation and a low millage rate to have a commission-manager government. The result, Anand said, would be a city hall that controlled planning and zoning, letting the less than 7,000 residents of Siesta Key chart the communities future.

The move comes as four proposed hotel developments on the island make their way through the county planning process.

McFarland asked if the community has explored another option such as incorporating into the neighboring city of Sarasota, which already includes a northern portion of the island within its city limits. Mayor Hagen Brody, who attended the delegation meeting last week on the part of the city, approached Save Siesta Key members and said city leaders would have be happy to engage in any appropriate conversation about annexation.

But Anand said making Siesta Key a part of the city would double taxes. The city’s zoning codes have been crafted around urban planning, which Anand said is incompatible with what Siesta Key residents want.

Anand said he’s already communication with staff for the Florida House about the specific demands to move the incorporation process forward. But he also stressed that ultimately, lawmakers in Tallahassee will only vote on allowing a referendum for voters who would be a part of the new city.

“Tallahassee is not deciding the future of Siesta Key. It’s the residents,” he said.

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