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Siesta Key residents explore options to break away from Sarasota County

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Just under 8,000 residents live in the portion of the Sarasota County barrier island proposed for incorporation.

Hundreds of Siesta Key residents attended a recent town hall meeting, hosted by the local delegation, to discuss the incorporation of the island.

A grassroots effort to incorporate Siesta Key is underway.

Some residents want to make the barrier island a municipality so they can gain control over land development.

Members of the group, Save Siesta Key have been working for most of the year on plans to form a local government. Among other issues, the group says they are concerned with how quickly Sarasota County is signing off on development projects.

Several large hotels have been proposed for the key this year and two of those projects have been approved by the Sarasota County Commission.

Tracy Jackson, Vice Chair of Save Siesta Key, says residents feel they don’t have a voice in decisions that will impact their quality of life.

"What are we going to do to take control over the decisions that are consistently affecting us,” she said. "Because what we're doing as far as organizing and going to the commission meetings and saying how we feel is simply not working."

Jackson also says expanding growth on the two and a half square-mile island affects all residents of Sarasota County.

"A lot of people move to Sarasota because of Siesta Key,” she said. “And their access to local beaches is hampered by the increased traffic and over development will affect them as well."

Advocates of local control have an uphill climb.

First, Sarasota County's six-member legislative delegation needs to vote in early January to support advancing an incorporation bill in Tallahassee.

Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature and governor Ron DeSantis would then have to authorize an incorporation vote.

Republican state Senators Joe Gruters and Fiona McFarland both expressed support for the bill but other local lawmakers say they have reservations.

The local delegation will vote Jan. 4 on whether to advance the bill.

If a bill is passed, that would put the question of incorporation on the next ballot, and if a majority votes in favor, Siesta Key would join North Port, Sarasota and Long Boat Key as incorporated governments inside Sarasota County.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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