SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Residents on Sarasota County’s most popular barrier island have been vocal on several issues including the dredging of Big Pass, overdevelopment, and infrastructure concerns, but many feel local leaders haven’t heard them out on issues that matter to their island community.
That’s why local residents and business owners formed the group ‘Save Siesta Key’. The community group aims at controlling the destiny of the barrier island and protecting the quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors alike.
Save Siesta Key is exploring the possibility of breaking away from Sarasota County and forming its own local government. The group is raising money for a feasibility study to see if incorporation makes sense and if it would be sustainable long-term.
Board member Harry Anand tells 8 On Your Side he feels the county’s crown jewel has been ignored.
“This is a very unique island. We want to preserve and enhance its quality of life for its residents and the tourists who come to visit and enjoy this area,” said Anand. “That is our mission and I think it has been neglected and ignored. We are not pointing fingers at anyone. It is just the county has grown so big that Siesta Key has become a very small part of it.”
Save Siesta Key is following the legislative process laid out under Chapter 165 of Florida Statutes.
“We are following that. We have hired an independent consultant to do a fiscal analysis and that analysis has to be presented to the legislature and our local legislative team kind of has to be the champions of this cause,” said Anand.
The group has already contacted State Representatives Joe Gruters and Fiona McFarland.
“The Save Siesta Key board of directors notified me of their intent to pursue incorporation. It’s an involved process requiring a feasibility study to explore services needed and the fiscal impacts, among others, and I’m sure the study will shed a lot of light on what adding a new municipality will entail for Siesta Key residents,” said Rep. McFarland.
Save Siesta Key is working on a deadline — The group has until Sept. 1 to complete the feasibility study, build a charter, and garner support. They’ve raised nearly $30,000, but are aiming to raise $125,000 to cover the costs of consultants, the feasibility student, and other operating expenses.
“We want to build a consensus. A consensus among the residents, among the business community, and/or the elected officials,” said Anand. “It is not intended to start a battle, it is not intended to harm anyone. We want to make our point we want to make our case how it makes sense for the entire Sarasota County for Siesta to become it’s own town,” he continued.
Anand says the goal is an efficient government. Fire, police, and waste services will be outsourced. The newly formed township would take over control of zoning and planning matters.
“We don’t want to see this community or this beautiful island turn into another Miami Beach,” said the board member.
A survey has shown overwhelming support for the incorporation efforts, but some residents are concerned about associated costs.
“My biggest concern is what it will do to my property taxes here on the key. Living on the water, our taxes are probably higher than the norm to begin with, and how that will transfer. That is my biggest concern,” said resident Phyllis Vincent.
Save Siesta Key will host a public meeting Wednesday, May 19 at the Siesta Key Chapel. It will begin a 7 p.m.
To learn more about Save Siesta Key, visit their website.