By John Morton
Collecting petitions of support from 10% of a population of registered voters may not sound difficult, but on a tropical barrier island filled with massive condo complexes and thousands of back-and-forth snowbirds it’s no easy task.
Save Siesta Key, the group seeking incorporation of the island in hope it becomes its own municipality instead of being governed by Sarasota County, recently cleared that hurdle. Required as part of the application process to the Florida Legislature, the 10% threshold was recently met, according to Save Siesta Key board member Tracy Jackson, who as of July 20 had hand-signed petitions from 993 of the island’s 8,915 voting residents.
Another 100-plus petitions have been turned in by property and business owners who don’t live here, but want their voice heard. Such support is considered an important part of the application, a Florida League of Cities representative told the incorporation team back in May.
Meanwhile, the required feasibility study being assembled by consultant Bill Underwood is nearing completion, Jackson reported, and now the creation of a required charter (the governing document for a municipality) is underway. In mid-July, Save Siesta Key hired Bob Pritt, a former city attorney for Sanibel and Naples and former interim city attorney for a newly incorporated Bonita Springs, where he helped it in its inception efforts. He assisted in the incorporation of Fort Myers Beach as well, and has created charters for two new fire districts.
“It is looking like we will make our deadline,” Jackson said of the Sept. 1 due date for all documents to arrive in Tallahassee. The Legislature will begin sessions in January and, if it approves Save Siesta Key’s application by special act, the final determination will come back to local voters in the form of a referendum that requires a majority approval.
Regarding fundraising, the group as of July 20 had collected $83,200 via 115 donations toward its $125,000 goal.
Jackson is asking that people complete a second “Community Voice” survey in order to give her group further direction. Visit savesiestakey.org/survey2.
Furthermore, petitions can be downloaded from the web page. The group’s goal is to have 2,000 of them, and they must be signed by hand.
“We hope to show overwhelming support to our Legislature,” Jackson said of the lofty goal.
Petitions can be delivered to either Davidson’s Drugs locations on the Key (Village or Southbridge Mall) or mailed to P.O. Box 35214, Sarasota, FL 34242.
On July 22, Marsha Segal-George and John Gucciardo spoke at a third public meeting on the topic of “Government Lite” — a concept of outsourcing many services despite being a municipality. They applied it while serving as the first city manager and deputy city manager, respectively, of Fort Myers Beach starting in 1995.
At 7 p.m. on Aug. 18, Underwood will share his feasibility study at a fourth public meeting, held at Siesta Key Chapel, 4615 Gleason Ave.
All meetings can also be viewed on the Save Siesta Key YouTube channel.