SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents on Siesta Key want better representation of their barrier island. Over the last several months, there’s been a momentous push to break away from the county and incorporate.
However, the goal of bringing incorporation to the ballot in 2022 was shot down in a split vote by the local delegation on Jan. 4. Now, Sarasota’s mayor Erik Arroyo is stepping into the conversation, opening up the door to the possibility of annexing Siesta Key into the City of Sarasota.
“The people of Siesta Key have felt that they are not represented for a very long time. That feeling, I think, would be alleviated by being a part of the City of Sarasota,” Mayor Arroyo said.
During a city commission meeting Tuesday, the mayor presented some of the benefits of annexation. He talked about the city’s focus on water quality, strict regulations for development on barrier islands, and residents of Siesta Key possibly having their own district within the city.
“It would give them a seat at the table,” said Mayor Arroyo. “The county has 454,000 people. If you divide that by five districts, it’s like 80+ thousand per district. The city of Sarasota would average about 13,000 people per district times five if Siesta came on board which would be such a great asset and it only makes sense,” he explained.
Other commissioners were open to exploring the possibility, but only if the residents of Siesta Key are on board.
Resident Lourdes Ramirez spoke before city leaders Tuesday.
“I think we need a lot of information. I am not 100% sure if it is a good idea, but the problem is we don’t know,” said Ramirez. “What I would love to see is a comparison chart. How it would be with the county, how it would be if we incorporate in two years, and how it would be if we annex with the City of Sarasota. That way we can really make an informed decision as a community. There has to be a community conversation on this,” she continued.
Save Siesta Key is the group that organized the local effort to incorporate the barrier island. After the Jan. 4 vote, the group told 8 On Your Side they have no intentions of giving up.
We reached out to the group Tuesday before the city’s discussion of annexing Siesta Key.
“Annexation doesn’t solve what we are trying to fix. We don’t feel it is going to gain any traction because of the tax increase,” said a Save Siesta Key spokesperson.
Mayor Arroyo believes the millage rate could be lowered if Siesta Key joined the city. It is currently just over three mills.
“It is important to understand that millage is what you get for representation and right now, I understand that for what they are paying, they don’t feel represented, but this will make them feel a lot better. I ran a rough calculation and if we add all the properties that are on Siesta to the City of Sarasota, if we averaged out the mill overall, it would reduce it by about one mill bringing it down to the low two range,” said the mayor.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday afternoon, city commissioners directed the mayor and city attorney to reach out to the leadership of the Siesta Key incorporation movement to see if there is any interest on their part for the city to explore the possibility further.