Lawmakers to Host Town Hall on Siesta Key Future

Todays News

Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Fiona McFarland will host a town hall on potentially incorporating Siesta Key as Florida’s newest city. The public forum will be held Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at Siesta Key Chapel.

Gruters, R-Sarasota, expects the entire Sarasota County Legislative Delegation to attend the meeting, which could portend a vote on the issue within the next few weeks. “It’s important the entire delegation understand the positive and the negative moving forward,” Gruters said.

The movement follows up on Save Siesta Key, a citizen group based on the barrier island community, presenting a feasibility study on municipal incorporation to the delegation. The organization has called its plan for a city “government-light,” primarily focused on planning. Member Harry Anand said the group wants to see a city hall that levies around a 0.5 mill property tax to provide for a small level of administration. Major services like law enforcement would still be outsourced to the county under the plan.

The creation of a city is no small feat in Florida, requiring an act of the Florida Legislature. Sarasota County is currently home to four municipalities: Sarasota, North Port, Venice and Longboat Key.

McFarland, R-Sarasota, has worked on the process with the group, and stressed the need to exhaust all other potential solutions including exploring incorporating into the neighboring city of Sarasota.

“I look forward to hearing directly from the residents of Siesta Key on both sides of the issue as I prepare the legislation for the Florida House,” she said.

The efforts to form a city come amid unrest over the approval of hotel developments by the Sarasota County Commission. The county in October approved an eight-story hotel, but conservation activist Lourdes Ramirez this week filed a lawsuit challenging that in court. Regardless of the outcome of that case, community members say the future of the island should be determined by those who live on Siesta Key.

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