SIESTA KEY, Fla. (WFLA) – After a split 3-3 vote Tuesday evening, the delegation of state legislators from Sarasota County is not referring a Siesta Key incorporation request to the full legislature this session.
Many residents on the barrier island had been hoping to vote next November to make their community Florida’s newest municipality, but now that referendum on self governance will not be appearing on the ballot in 2022.
Chants of “vote them out” broke out moments after the vote inside a packed Sarasota County meeting room.
The vote came after a nearly six-month battle as Siesta Key residents formed an organization to incorporate called Save Siesta Key, and put together documentation and a feasibility plan needed to start the process of potentially forming their own town government.
The vote was a 3-3 tie between members of the Florida House of Representatives and State Senator Joe Gruters:
- Rep. Fiona McFarland (R) – yes (bill sponsor)
- Sen. Joe Gruters (R) – yes
- Rep. Michele Rayner (D) – yes
- Rep. James Buchanan (R) – No
- Rep. William Robinson (R) – No
- Rep. Tommy Gregory (R) – No
Rep. Robinson cited the proposed boundaries and taxation rate during his explanation before the vote.
“I represent the northern section of Siesta Key who are in the City of Sarasota,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that we have a portion of Siesta Key that’s in the City of Sarasota and a portion that would be in a new city with different millages.”
The movement for self-governance in Siesta Key gained momentum after the Sarasota County Commission approved the building of two “high density” hotels on the barrier island.
But residents told News Channel 8 they are also concerned about traffic congestion, pollution and pedestrian safety.
Only one speaker during public comment voiced opposition to incorporation, saying he did not believe forming a separate government from the county would solve those problems.
Rep. McFarland, who represents Sarasota and Siesta Key, sponsored the Siesta Key incorporation bill.
“I’ve learned in my first session sometimes bills take more than one try,” Rep. McFarland said. “I don’t think this is the end of the conversation when it comes to the incorporation bill now.”
For now, the popular destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast will remain an unincorporated community in Sarasota County.