Lawmakers representing Siesta Key will hold a town hall meeting about the prospects of incorporating as a city.
Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Fiona McFarland, both Sarasota Republicans, will host the public forum Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Siesta Key Chapel. The full Sarasota County Legislative Delegation is advertised to attend.
“Members of the community have made a request for the Legislature to allow the voters of Siesta Key to incorporate so that they can control their own destiny,” Gruters said. “This is a significant request being made and after meeting with numerous constituents, I feel it is worthy of a discussion and possible vote.”
At a delegation meeting earlier this year, community leaders with Save Siesta Key presented a feasibility study and made the case for becoming a city. It would take passage of an act of the Legislature to make that happen.
“However, prior to any delegation vote, the delegation should hear from all sides in order to get a full understanding of where Siesta Key residents stand and the benefits and consequences of moving forward,” Gruters said.
Notably, lawmakers expressed some skepticism at the delegation meeting about the creation of another government entity. Those behind the incorporation effort have sought a “government-light” city entity, continuing to outsource fundamental services like law enforcement to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, but taking over long-term comprehensive planning for the city. That would mean a minimal amount of property tax increases within the proposed city limits.
McFarland stressed at the delegation meeting that before any incorporation effort moves forward, all other options should be exhausted, including annexing into another city like Sarasota. The proposal presented to lawmakers to date calls for just a 0.5 mill property tax, lower than nearby island cities like Longboat Key or Anna Maria.
Just under 8,000 residents live in the portion of the barrier island proposed for incorporation, out of 434,000 Sarasota County residents.