SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Residents on Siesta Key are growing frustrated with how county leaders are handling decisions that impact their community.
In the last week, Sarasota County commissioners voted in support of two major developments on the barrier island, despite outstanding opposition from the people who live there.
“People here feel completely disenfranchised from what is going on in our government. We have no say, our voice is not heard,” said resident Eileen Jones.
Jones was in the commission chambers last week during a public hearing for a controversial 170-room, 8-story hotel near the village. So many people showed up, there was standing room only. The vast majority of people who spoke did not want to see high-density hotels on Siesta Key. Some of the concerns included congestion, infrastructure, and overall public safety.
Siesta Key resident Carlyn Berghoff also attended the meeting last week. She attended another public hearing this week for another high-density hotel closer to her home over the southbridge.
“Giving me five minutes to talk when you already had your mind made up was really disheartening,” said Berghoff.
Harry Anand was another resident who attended one of the public hearings.
“What is the point of letting those people speak for hours and hours if you have already made your decision? Save that facade, “he said.
It appears the frustration and feelings of being voiceless are resonating across the barrier island.
Anand is a board member of Save Siesta Key. The group of locals aims to incorporate the key and ultimately, take back control of their community.
“What we are seeing here on Siesta Key is probably the worst case that I have ever seen or you will find in this entire country of taxation without representation,” said Anand. “We have no representation. This little barrier island is split between two county commissioners and neither of them live on the island. They don’t understand what the needs of the people are,” he continued.
Following the county’s two approvals in the last week, Save Siesta Key is seeing a new wave of interest from locals.
“People are really concerned about the future of this island. People are very frustrated with how the county has not been hearing our voices and that is why this momentum has really picked up,” he explained.
The group has already completed a feasibility study and submitted it to officials in Tallahassee. They have also presented to the local delegation.
“We explained why it is important to incorporate Siesta Key. We made a strong case to the delegation of why they should support this as a local bill,” he said. “What we are proposing is a ‘government-light’ model and that basically is asking for only a quarter of a mil tax, ad-valorem taxes, which will be the additional taxes throughout the town. To put that in real numbers, that only means about $97 for an average assessed value home for $440,000,” he explained.
There is another meeting scheduled for Dec. 13.
“There is just too much proof that we will never be heard, so if we really want to control our destiny, the only way to do that will be to incorporate, said Eileen Jones.