Siesta Key, Fla. – Save Siesta Key Inc. (SSKI) has learned that local House Bill 923, creating the Town of Siesta Key by allowing its citizens to vote on incorporation, will not be considered by the Florida House of Representatives during the current 2023 Legislative Session ending Friday, May 5, 2023. While HB 923 passed unanimously in the House Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee on March 29, 2023, — one of the few local bills that achieved that status – the measure was not advanced by the two remaining House committees, also required for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
SSKI Chair Tim Hensey stated, “On behalf of Save Siesta Key Inc., I would like to thank State Representative Fiona McFarland, State Senator Joe Gruters, and State Representative Mike Grant for their support of HB 923. We would also like to thank our local residents and friends who have generously contributed their time and money to this effort.
“Rather than speculate as to why our bill failed to advance through its final two committees, we intend to meet with legislative leadership this summer to find out why our bill stalled, and to determine if there is a reasonable path for success in the 2024 Session. We intend to be fully transparent and share more information as it becomes available,” Hensey concluded.
HB 923 Sponsor, State Rep. McFarland shared, “More than 1,800 bills were filed this year, and while we had strong support for HB 923, time simply ran out for our initiative to be heard in its two final committees, as is required for passage. Thank you to Save Siesta Key Inc. supporters who made their voices heard through local meetings events, emails, and phone calls throughout this process.”
About Save Siesta Key Inc.
Save Siesta Key Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(4), was formed in 2021 with the goal to get incorporation on the 2024 ballot for the Siesta Key community by working through the legal and political process. The group’s guiding principle is to afford the residents the right to vote on creating their own municipality. The group believes incorporation and responsible self-government provide the community with the opportunity to maintain the unique charm of the island and preserve the quality of life for residents and business owners.
From Florida Politics: The Sarasota County legislative delegation this year advanced a local bill to create a bare bones municipality. That’s already a step farther than the legislation reached last year, when a divided county delegation stopped it from ever being heard in Tallahassee.
This year’s success was, as much as anything, a sign of the different makeup of the delegation post-redistricting. But some of the opponents of the bill still will have a vote when it gets heard in the Capitol.
“It’s a big deal to make a city,” McFarland acknowledged. She anticipates some resistance in the House, but feels optimistic the demonstrated groundswell of support from residents in her district will sway lawmakers.
From Fox News 13 Tampa Bay – Save Siesta Key is one step closer toward incorporating their island community. The Sarasota County Legislative Delegation voted 3 to 1 Thursday afternoon to bring a bill forward to the Florida Legislature.
“We are super happy that we got the green light today, and we are up for the challenge,” said Tim Hensey, the chair of Save Siesta Key.
From Sarasota Herald-Tribune – A recent informal poll by proponents of incorporating Siesta Key showed overwhelming support for creating a new town on the barrier island, giving self-rule advocates more ammunition in their push to convince local state lawmakers to support the idea.
An elaborate, election-like straw poll of thousands of people, designed to gauge the Siesta Key community’s support for the incorporation effort, showed that 87% of those responded favored the creation of a new town and local government on the island.
From WWSB ABC 27 News Sarasota – “Incorporating gives us the ability to govern the island with people who live here represent the interest of people who enjoy Siesta Key. It’s not just residents it’s people who vacation here, own condos here. We’re all really trying to support thoughtful development,” said Jann Webster.
Results of a straw vote regarding the incorporating Siesta Key had a 41% turnout and 87% of voters support incorporating the island.
Save Siesta Key is conducting a “straw vote” by mail in hopes of demonstrating that a majority of Siesta Key residents want the opportunity to vote on whether to incorporate the island. In November, a non-binding ballot will be sent to all registered Siesta Key voters.
Last year, the local Sarasota County Legislative Delegation – which shot down the incorporation effort in a 3-3 tie vote — strongly encouraged that Save Siesta Key take such a measure to gauge public interest.
“As one member of our delegation put it, ‘If a straw vote indicates an overwhelming majority of Siesta residents want the question of incorporation put on the ballot, how could we possibly deny you?’” Tim Hensey, Save Siesta Key chairman, said. “The results will give our local delegation evidence that the residents of Siesta Key are serious about preserving the island for generations to come, to share with their fellow senators and representatives in Tallahassee.”
“We are building momentum by building a sense of community,” said Save Siesta Key board member Jodie Tierney as she handed out raffle prizes at a Sept. 15 gathering at the Turtle Beach pavilion.
The outing drew about 60 supporters, as did the first one in August that took place at the Siesta Key Wine Bar.
Next up is an Oct. 20 gathering at Spearfish Siesta Grille, followed by a Nov. 17 outing at Siesta Beach.
The event, called ‘Third Thirsty Thursday,” will feature games, prizes, and the sale of Save Siesta Key T-shirts. At each gathering, a Save Siesta Key board member will be in attendance to provide an update on the group’s effort to make Siesta Key its own municipality.
The Save Siesta Key incorporation group is conducting a community Zoom update meeting at 5 p.m. July 13. To register, visit savesiestakey.org and click on the top of the main home page.
The Save Siesta Key incorporation team has made it clear it doesn’t want Sarasota County to rule the island. But now that it will remain under its control for at least the foreseeable future, its members are beginning to eye ways to influence the county leadership.
And, with two county commission seats up for grabs in November – both of which happen to include territory involving Siesta Key (District 2 for north half and District 4 for south half) – the team is hoping to get active in the election.
The Save Siesta Key group fighting for incorporation of the island has placed its entire feasibility online at savesiestakey.org.
The non-profit group plans to apply again to the state for consideration of becoming its own municipality. Its first effort was shot down in early January by the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation.
Tim Hensey is the new chairman of Save Siesta Key — a group that he said learned a tough lesson when a local delegation of elected state officials voted down its incorporation bill Jan. 4.
“We got a good old butt whipping behind a shed in politics,” said Hensey of the 3-3 tie that, for now, killed an effort by some Siesta Key residents to become a municipality instead of being governed by Sarasota County.
Certainly frustrated, but thoroughly undaunted.
That is how members of the Save Siesta Key incorporation group felt, and stood, after the tie vote (3-3) by the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation on Jan. 4 that killed, for now, the bill that many in the community hoped would progress to the state capitol for consideration and then to the local ballot.
Now, the earliest Siesta Key could become a municipality is Dec. 31 of 2023. If it again pursues that goal, it must start from scratch with the application process.
The group leading the effort for an incorporation vote is holding a rally in downtown Sarasota at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
It is being held at the “Unconditional Surrender” statue in Bayfront Park, located at 5 Bayfront Drive.
One Save Siesta Key “walk and rally” is in the books, with another set for 11 a.m. Dec. 12. beginning at Siesta Beach.
The group that is seeking incorporation for the island will also participate in a community town hall at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 and then its initiative will be discussed by the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation at 9 a.m. Dec. 13.
The Sarasota County Legislative Delegation has agreed to another meeting with Save Siesta Key and, shortly thereafter, a likely vote regarding the group’s incorporation effort.
Save Siesta Key board member Harry Anand has reported that the meeting is likely to occur the week of Dec. 13. Sometime before that, there also will likely be a local town hall meeting hosted by state Rep. Fiona McFarland and state Sen. Joe Gruters. The meeting’s intent would be to gauge local interest and flesh out any details in question. Visit our website at siestasand.us for updates, as well as savesiestakey.org.
A feasibility study is required as part of the application-for-incorporation process, and the Save Siesta Key group has delivered its findings to Tallahassee for consideration by the Florida Legislature. The group hopes for approval there so local residents can vote in the spring on whether or not Siesta Key should be its own municipality.
With a Sept. 30 presentation planned before state officials, the Save Siesta Key incorporation team is making a final push for petitions of support.
As of Sept. 9, the group had collected 1,735 petitions. Its goal is 2,000. Petitions are available for download at savesiestakey.org and can be signed by residents, property owners, or business owners. Board member Tracy Jackson notes that if a person fits more than one of those criteria, they can sign in representation of each.
Save Siesta Key, the group that is pushing for the incorporation of the island, isn’t messing around with its deadline.
“We’re getting the application to Tallahassee a couple days early, just to be safe,” board member Tracy Jackson said of the Sept. 1 deadline set by the Florida Legislature. It convenes in January, and if it approves of the request through a special act a local referendum would likely be held in the spring. A majority vote in favor at that point would result in Siesta Key becoming its own town on Dec. 31, 2022. Throughout its existence, the Key has been governed by Sarasota County.
By the end of the month, Save Siesta Key hopes to have a proposed charter finalized for a new municipal government on the barrier island and more than 2,000 signatures in support of incorporation.
With less than two weeks remaining until a deadline to submit materials to the state, however, the group isn’t quite done with its work. Earlier this month, Save Siesta Key Vice Chair Tracy Jackson appeared at a Siesta Key Association meeting to update residents on the status of the incorporation campaign. Although Save Siesta Key is still putting the finishing touches on the charter and a required feasibility study, Jackson said the group is on track to submit everything necessary to the state legislature in time for a Sept. 1 deadline.
“We’re going to make the timeline,” Jackson said.
As of June 25, 500 signatures of support by island residents who are registered voters here had been collected, according to board member Tracy Jackson. At least 10% of the residents must sign their names in the form of a petition, per the application process.
A recent feasibility study, required by the state as also part of the incorporation application, found the island’s population of residents to stand at 8,915 as of 2020. Therefore, the percentage threshold for petitions has not yet been reached.
Jackson said that reaching all residents, many of whom may be snowbirds, has been challenging. She said her group is working with the Siesta Key Condominium Council in an attempt to track-down everyone.
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.
With four large-scale hotels on the county planning commission’s table, Tracy says residents feel left out. The group is exploring the possibility of breaking away from Sarasota County and becoming incorporated.
“It feels like a replay. Oh gosh. Here we go again,” she said. “We are trying to provide a long-term solution where we can be hard and our voices can mean something.”
Welcome to the town of Siesta Key.
The possibility of a sign greeting visitors and residents with that message on the island side of both causeways to the now-unincorporated community has a nice ring to it, say organizers of a new grassroots push steeped in history that goes back to the 1960s.
At issue is self-rule and a dissatisfaction with county management of the island.
A man with a name familiar to Siesta Key residents is returning to a project with which he’s quite familiar. John Davidson, a resident here since 1958 and known as the founder of Davidson Drugs and later The Pelican Press, has stepped forward to lead a group seeking incorporation of the island. If successful, Siesta Key would become its own town and form its own government. Currently, Sarasota County commissioners govern the Key.