Saturday, April 22, 2017

Density, Intensity, and the courage to say NO

The letter below was sent to the County Commission by Glenna Blomquist after she attended hearings regarding "Worthington," a new development on E. Palmer Blvd., in 2016.

Dear Commissioners:

I was a presenter at the August 18, 2016 planning commission meeting; and today at the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners' meeting concerning the proposed rezoning of one unit per 10 acres (7 homes allowed on 78 acres) to two units per one acre, resulting in 156 homes added to my mostly rural and agricultural community at Iona and Palmer Boulevard.

Everyone told me not to bother; that it would be a slam-dunk for the developer.

They were right.

Despite numerous testimonies concerning concurrency issues, safety, stormwater management issues, and pointed illustrations of why no traffic should be added to this neighborhood which is already struggling with development, you turned a deaf ear to your public.

Yes, there were some questions, and a little discussion. It appears really no one had read the supporting documents or they would not have had to ask where the "kill-zone" bridge was located.

The planning commission exhibited a lack of enthusiasm for this project, using words like "crazy" "we've been snuckered" "doesn't pass the smell test" "we have the cart before the horse" "I don't like the way it looks" "why don't we have a road (to Fruitville)?" "It's opportunistic language to call an easement a passive park…it isn't, not to any stretch of the imagination." "If I were a neighbor, I'd be shocked to hear of 156 homes."

And yet, the planning commission advised in favor of the project by majority vote.

This was not a mandate to the Board of County Commissioners – this was a suggestion.

County Commissioners: Where is the courage?

Where is the courage to say to a developer the following:


In light of the fact that our county residents have voiced their concerns loudly about development, traffic, and safety, I didn't feel I had to repeat that. I couldn't believe that this awareness would escape any of you.

How do you have the audacity to run roughshod over your constituents and so violate their desires. Are you so afraid that you can't hide behind some nuanced legality that you cower in the face of acting in the best interests of your public?

You can say "NO" to bad development. It's alright to be strong and stand up. You may even keep your jobs that way!

It's takes a lot to be courageous these days; and I see brave people all around me. I cannot count you among those.


Glenna Blomquist

Glenna Blomquist is a member of Control Growth Now and a contributor to Citizens for Sarasota County. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Public Realm is a vanishing species

Rodential devouring of public value by those who solely see the point of private gain:

Prioritizing Economics is Crippling the U.S. Economy 

- James Allworth
Up until (roughly) the end of World War 2, almost all policy were organized around a central theme: impact on democracy. The question would be asked: what was this going to mean for our democracy? From both sides of the political spectrum, there was a common commitment to strengthening and preserving democratic ideals.

But, starting around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and taking full effect by roughly the end of the 1940s, that changed.

No longer was the focus on democracy. Economic growth pushed it into the background.

There was broad recognition in Congress that if anyone managed to gain complete radio dominance in a town, city, region or country, then they would have a lock on political discourse in that region. Because the policy debate focused on impact on democracy, Congress recognized this could happen. And it feared it. As a result, spectrum was retained under Government control, and was licensed out to private parties.
Click image to enlarge
 Fast forward to the 1960s, and a very different debate was happening on allocation of spectrum. It had the same technical and economic elements as in the 1920s — which, of course, is no bad thing. But the nature of the change was stark. The focus on the impact of democracy had largely disappeared. It had been crowded out entirely by the economic focus.

But, starting around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and taking full effect by roughly the end of the 1940s, that changed. 
No longer was the focus on democracy. Economic growth pushed it into the background.
There was broad recognition in Congress that if anyone managed to gain complete radio dominance in a town, city, region or country, then they would have a lock on political discourse in that region. Because the policy debate focused on impact on democracy, Congress recognized this could happen. And it feared it. As a result, spectrum was retained under Government control, and was licensed out to private parties. 
Fast forward to the 1960s, and a very different debate was happening on allocation of spectrum. It had the same technical and economic elements as in the 1920s — which, of course, is no bad thing. But the nature of the change was stark. The focus on the impact of democracy had largely disappeared. It had been crowded out entirely by the economic focus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bo-Code, Buffalo, and our Planning Commission

At 24:40, Planning Commissioner Laura Benson is questioning why the County would wish to put waste processing facilities within core areas of the that allow light industry and residences.

Mr. Bo Medred shared a photo of a Waste Processing facility in Buffalo which had no walls and was adjacent to a row of houses:

"They're big dirty things" - said Benson.

Bo Medred's petition to amend the Code: It seeks to reduce the requisite acreage for a construction waste processing facility from 35 acres to 15 acres, and it passed the Sarasota Planning Commission unanimously on Oct. 20, 2016.

This decision by the Planning Commission gave Bo Medred and his client James Gabbert the "right" to put a Construction Waste Processing Facility on 15 acres adjacent to the Celery Fields, at Apex Rd. and Palmer Blvd.

Photos of a smaller Waste Processing Facility built by James Gabbert at 8001 Fruitville Rd. may be seen here.

See the related letter below from Adrien Lucas.

Good morning,

I keep watching the video clip from the October 20, 2016 Planning Commission meeting (Video Link).  

I cut and pasted the minutes from the P.C. meeting and added it to this email in the event none of you took the time to read the minutes I referenced from the "Bo-Code" show.  

Bo Medred refers to a recycling dump in Buffalo, NY 

I cannot help but think that perhaps it was Randy Benderson who showed this dump (see pic below) to Mr. Medred.  It reminded me of former County Commissioner, Christine Robinson, who was thrilled to have Mr. Benderson's trucking distribution center next to the Celery Field and had referred to trucking centers she had visited in Buffalo, NY.  Who knew Buffalo was such a mecca for industrial progress such as dumps and trucking centers?  Go figure!?  What a wonderful aspiration for Sarasota, aiming to be the next Buffalo!  

Mr. Medred showed the picture enclosed in this email as an example from Buffalo, NY. He shows the houses in the background behind the piles of dirt and claims that this co-existence of homes and industry works!  He also said that the people who live in the Celery Field area should know that they live in an industrial area.  And I quote Bo, "The MEC's primary implementing zoning district has historically been industrially based and we cannot lost the integrity of that and let it get overtaken.  It's just a balancing act."

We cannot let this area be overtaken?  What in the world is Mr. Medred referring to?  The people who live out there have overtaken the area?  The Celery Field birds have overtaken the area? The locals and tourists who visit the Celery Field have overtaken the area? The Celery Field Stormwater Retention Facility has overtaken the area?  

Please look at the picture Mr. Medred has provided.  Any reasonable person can see that debris from a facility like this is going to JAM UP the Celery Field Stormwater Facility.  A facility that the county has spent at least $30 million on.  Why would the county throw an investment that is earning its keep, more so than Benderson's slush fund water park, more so than baseball parks, more so than Tube Dube or Sandborn, shall I go on?  This is crazy.

Mr. Medred also states that by building Mr. Gabbert's dump in the Celery Field area that "it will reduce trips" for people who want to drop off construction debris.  

This dump will reduce trips?

This dump will reduce trips by people who live off or near Palmer Boulevard because they won't want to get stuck in the truck traffic produced by this dump.

This dump will reduce trips by people like me who go to the Celery Field to work out or to go birding because I do not want to get stuck in the truck traffic produced by this dump.

This dump will reduce trips by people like me who shop at Detwiler's Market because I do not want to get stuck in the truck traffic produced by this dump.

This dump will reduce trips by eco-tourists who do not want to get stuck in the truck traffic produced by this dump.

I visited the National Glacier Park in November. I remember feeling so excited just by the old time park sign and the beauty of the area, and that was before I got into the park.  What a visual splendor Gabbert's dump with equipment or piles of crap peeking over his concrete fence will be for all to see as they try to navigate their way home or to the Celery Field.

Minutes below:

4. ZONING ORDINANCE AMENDMENT (ZOA) Public hearing to consider proposed ZOA No. 119, a publicly-initiated Amendment, amending Ordinance No. 2003-052, as amended and codified in Appendix A of the County Code, to amend Section 5.3.5 to allow recycling facilities for Types B, C, and D fill in the IR (Industrial and Research) and the ILW (Industrial, Light Manufacturing, and Warehousing) zone districts. Mr. Bispham noted a conflict of interest and filed the appropriate documentation. Staff Presenters: Planning and Development Services Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson and Deputy County Attorney Alan Roddy Public Presenters: Robert Medred, James Gabbert, and Brian Lichterman Item submitted: Form 8B - Memorandum of Voting Conflict for County, Municipal, and Other Local Public Officers filed by Mr. Bispham Discussions were held on the following topics/issues: - 1,000 foot setback/residentially zoned properties versus residences in the ILW zoning/setbacks - recycling facilities/zoning classification/zoning language revisions/stipulations - previous two recycling facilities - Open Use, Estate (OUE) and Open Use, Agricultural (OUA) zone districts/Major Employment Centers (MEC)/Urban Service Boundary - the previously approved Recycling Facility on Palmer Boulevard.
 4. ZOA - (Continued) Discussions continued on the following topics/issues: 
- operational/machinery noise concerns at the proposed property - size/space/setbacks from residential areas - setbacks/possible elimination from residential properties - possibly adding language regarding the setbacks in the Urban Service Boundary. 9:21 p.m. Commission Action: Closed the public hearing. Closed by Ask, without objection. 9:23 p.m. Commission Action: Recommended approval to modify language in proposed ZOA No. 119 under Section 2, subsection 5.3.5.b. 2. iii, as follows (additions shown as underlined text): "Recycling of Type B, C and Recyclable D fill is not allowed, unless the parcel is (1) larger than 15 acres, excluding wetlands, watercourses, and waterbodies, (2) zoned IR or ILW, (3) within a designated Major Employment center (MEC), within the Urban Service Boundary and (4) at least 1,000 feet from any residentially zoned properties." Moved by Stultz, seconded by Cutsinger, carried by a 6-0 vote; Bispham abstained. 9:23 p.m. Commission Action: Authorized transmittal of proposed ZOA No. 119, as amended, to the Board of County Commissioners with a recommendation for approval. Moved by Stultz, seconded by Cutsinger, carried by a 6-0 vote; Bispham abstained. Note: Oath/Signature Cards Filed for Record. Note: Chair Ask passed the gavel to Vice Chair Bispham and left the dais at 9:24 p.m

Yep, it's "Bo-Code" all the way.  Please do not do this, please do not grant Gabbert his dump.  Please.


Adrien Lucas

Planning Commission Board is appointed by the Commission. Email addresses are here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fogartyville Invite from Adrien Lucas - Tues April 18th

Hi Florida Friends,
If you are free this Tuesday, I am co-hosting a potluck at Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, to share information and update everyone about Our Celery Fields and the county battle regarding the sales of surplus lands surrounding the Celery Field.
I'm bringing a giant vat of a white bean salad and a mound of surgar'ree sweet something for dessert. Beverages are available for purchase at Fogartyville. A beverage purchase helps WSLR, so come thirsty!
There will be a short presentation by Luigi Verace, and Tom Matrullo and I will be giving a brief update in relation to the timeline and battle that we are preparing for. Yes, I'm calling it a civic battle, The People vs. The County. We'll end with a Q&A session where hopefully we will be able to answer any questions thrown our way and audience members can share any insight, suggestions or strategies.
Tue 6 PMFogartyville Community Media and Arts CenterSarasota, FL
AdrienVicki and 7 friends

Free Admission - bring a plate

CONA Town Hall: Brief Report

Surplus Lands, Community Treasures -- the Town Hall meeting at CONA Sarasota last evening was well attended - the Garden Club meeting room was full. There were four presentations and a good deal of thoughtful comment and questions from the hall both during and after the presentations.

CONA Town Hall 4.10.17 - photo: David G. Johnson

Adrien Lucas offered excerpts from court reporting at the Neighborhood Workshop suggesting conflicting statements made by the applicant for the Construction Waste Processing Facility who is seeking to locate it adjacent to the Celery Fields, and provided the Sarasota County Zoning mission statement: "To protect a community's health, safety and welfare."

Rob Wright of Audubon spoke about the history of the Celery Fields and provided abundant stats indicating that in its first year of operation the Sarasota Audubon's Nature Center at the Fields drew between 30,000-50,000 visitors -- eco-tourists from afar as well as regular Sarasotans. The combination of birding, exercise, hiking, Tai Chi and other classes provides a huge boon for East County, and for the County's image. He also believes there's room for the public to work with the County on land use regulations.

Tom Matrullo looked into Sarasota County's planning, zoning and surplus land use codes. On the one hand they're elaborate and cumbersome; on the other hand, archaic land use designations and highly "discretionary" surplus lands powers destabilize homeowners' confidence, leading to a "conflict of reliance." Can you rely on the word of your Realtors, developers and builders that your community will be undisturbed by industry, or does a highly arbitrary surplus lands policy mean anything is possible, including degrading land uses near your homes?

Carlos Correa of The Enclave on East Palmer Blvd. spoke about his concerns as a homeowner that his community, his neighborhood school (Tatum Ridge Elementary), the roads and the image of the growing residential area could be seriously degraded were the County to rezone the public lands at the Celery Fields for industrial use -- with a direct and deleterious effect upon their property values. The intensity of truck traffic on two-land E. Palmer Blvd. would alone disrupt the daily lives of working people, parents and students, he said.

The meeting was videotaped and will be available soon.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sarasota at the Crossroads

Sometimes it takes a bad plan to recognize a good one.

The recent furor provoked by efforts to rezone and sell public lands adjacent to the Celery Fields for industrial uses is about more than Roseate Spoonbills and Purple Gallinules.

Putting a construction waste processing operation at the intersection of East Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road, as one developer proposes, would hardly be life-enhancing for the myriad creatures who thrive at this lovely open space, including thousands of Sarasotans who hike, bird, and exercise there weekly.

But there’s a more fundamental test of judgment, common sense, and communal identity at stake here as well.

Over the past two decades, while no one was paying much attention, the ingredients of a unique new area of the county have been quietly ripening. The natural heart has been the unforeseen success of a stormwater project that evolved into an 85-foot high observation mound rising from an environmental treasure that everyone seems to love -- the Celery Fields.

Just to the North lie 420 acres set aside for the Fruitville Initiative -- a mixed-use community that was conceived through the unusual collaboration of County staff, private landowners, neighborhood HOA’s and the Moule & Polyzoides architectural firm. The resulting plan is a success story ready to come alive: A civic gateway to Sarasota at the Fruitville exit that could feature a well scaled mix of homes, shops, an Audubon-themed hotel, a Sarasota history museum, even a 1.5-mile “Riverfront” along the northern watercourse of the Celery Fields.

People who have seen sketches for the Initiative wonder why, since its adoption in 2014, little has been done to make it happen. It’s a terrific asset that deserves a confident push in the right places, such as The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the Celery Fields are ripening into a stunning eco-tourism destination. Placing a 16-acre waste processing plant full of noise, diesel fuel, crushed concrete particles and asbestos-laden yard waste next to them is clearly not the best option.

We can thank this bad idea for galvanizing the people of Sarasota to think about better alternatives. Hundreds have turned up at rallies, neighborhood workshops, and County Commission hearings. There is a strong sense that the intersection of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard is now a crossroads -- and so is Sarasota.

The 32 acres at that intersection known as "The Quad" form a central core. Here these promising assets connect with recently built residential communities (and Tatum Ridge Elementary School) down East Palmer, and with the Packinghouse District to the West, with its new bakeries and gyms alongside Detwiler’s Market and JR’s Old Packinghouse Cafe.

The core area doesn’t need much. East Palmer Boulevard cries out for a tree canopy. A well-shaded neighborhood market, a public garden, day care, walking paths, perhaps an eco-lodge -- with something so basic, three ripening areas will converge in a useful, walkable, publicly mindful way.

The alternative -- the industrial uses the county is now considering -- would insult the environment and the communities that love its unique features. Think of the reports reaching our visitors’ international communities -- how we turned our Observation Mound, whose unique open vista we relish, into a Industrial Debris Overlook. The economic ripple effects of this shock to our “brand” would be incalculable.

Sarasota: Define yourself. Something amazing has been gestating here for two decades. No one was looking at it until the news of selling our public lands for industrial use came to light. That uninspired proposal has sparked new public interest that could go far toward connecting the dots and bringing these promising pieces into a powerful alignment.

The potential in this alignment -- economic, civic, natural -- is still bright. It’s not too late to recognize what an original, multi-faceted place of commerce, tourism, history and neighborhood life East County has in its midst. A kind of Central Park, as many see it, for people as well as birds, bees and wildflowers.

Such recognition could spur a renaissance of the very thing that once made Sarasota County special: thoughtful consideration of place.

Tom Matrullo

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sarasota LWV panel on Newtown - Sandy Hook shootings April 24

The Sarasota LWV is proud to announce a screening and panel discussion of the acclaimed documentary Newtown on April 24 at Fogartyville Community Center. Official selection of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Newtown describes the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history.
The national conversation about gun violence is often laced with partisan politics. Newtown offers the opportunity to broaden the dialogue. A panel and audience discussion on how we can work together as a community to prevent a similar tragedy in Sarasota will follow the film.
  • Doors open at 6:00 pm
  • Panelists include: Dr. Frank Alcock, Associate Professor New College; Patti Thompson, M.A, psychotherapist; Willie Shaw, City of Sarasota Mayor; Michael Andreas, Director of Safety for Sarasota County Schools.
  • Location: Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, 525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota (Parking on Lemon Avenue and Boulevard of the Arts)
  • Food on site for purchase

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Letter from Sarasota Audubon to Commissioner Al Maio

Sarasota Board of County Commissioners
1660 Ringling Blvd-Second Floor
Sarasota, FL 34236
February 22, 2017

Dear Commissioner Maio,
I know you are all well aware of the parcels up for rezoning, sale and development at the Corner of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard. I also know that several groups have and are organizing protests against the sale of these sites for commercial development. This letter is on behalf of Sarasota Audubon Society which speaks for itself and no others.

The Collaboration between Sarasota County and Sarasota Audubon was specifically entered into in order to enhance and develop the Celery Fields as a haven for wildlife and for passive recreation. Working together, we have achieved that goal. The Celery Fields is one of the most well-known birding hotspots in Florida, hosting visitors from all over the world (see attached visitor logs). The financial impact of a prime birding site cannot be overstated; birders spend lots of money in pursuit of their hobby. In order for the Celery Fields to maintain its prime eco-tourism reputation, Audubon and the County are continually improving habitat, and therefore the Celery Fields experience for all. The investment by Sarasota Audubon of $1.4 million at the Celery Fields is testament to the area's rich birdlife.

I want to make a few points about birds: The Fields provide forage for 3 Federally listed species of birds, for 8 Florida listed species and provides safe nesting for 48 bird species (see attached Celery Fields checklist). This is a phenomenal number in such an urban area. However, some of these birds (and ecotourism) will be at risk for the following reasons:
  • Noise and ground vibration of traffic, especially heavy trucks, impact breeding rates of birds
  • An inadequate buffer zone between the Fields and commercial development will push birds further into the Fields setting up competition for food, thereby reducing survival rates
  • The eco-tourism aspects of the Fields will be degraded due to increased commercial interests
In view of our concerns for the future use of the sites at the corners of Apex and Palmer, we request the BCC deny the proposed rezone action and create an advisory group of affected citizen stakeholders to Work with County staff in determining a land use suitable to the affected parties and the citizens of Sarasota County. The recommendations of this group will be presented to the BCC for further action if necessary.
We are grateful for the BCC's Support of Sarasota Audubon over all these years and hope we can continue to work together for the benefit of wildlife and the eco-tourism sector.
Jeanne Dubi, President

220 bird species at Celery Fields


Celery Fields, Sarasota, Florida


King Rail, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbill, and more than 200 other bird species have been spotted at this Great Florida Birding Trail site.

By Jeremy Ford | Published: 2/22/2017

Built in the 1990s on a former agricultural site, Celery Fields is one of southwestern Florida’s premiere birdwatching locations. It’s featured on the Great Florida Birding Trail and has a checklist of more than 220 species. More than 200,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted, and 100 acres of wetlands have been restored.

I love the variety of opportunities the site offers. I can walk up the observation mound and see raptors glide just above my head or look down upon their extended wings as they swoop below the summit. On the top of the mound, look for Northern Bobwhites and Tree Swallows among the recently planted palm, oak, and cedar trees.

You can also stroll two 300-foot-long boardwalks and scan open ponds for Osprey, Roseate Spoonbills, and, in winter, up to 20 duck species. The ponds and marshes are also great for egrets, herons, Sandhill Cranes, wrens, rails, and sparrows. Every morning from 8:30 to 10:30, from November through April, a naturalist equipped with a spotting scope is available at the end of each boardwalk.

My favorite time to visit is during breeding season, when many of the birds are dressed in their most colorful plumage. — Jeremy Ford

More than 220 species. Year-round: Bald Eagle, Turkey and Black Vultures, Osprey, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White and Glossy Ibises, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Tricolored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, King Rail, Limpkin, Sandhill Crane, Laughing Gull, Red-winged Blackbird, Barn Owl, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-necked Stilt, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Mockingbird. Fall through spring: Brown Pelican, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, warblers. Winter: Up to 20 duck species, American Bittern, dowitchers, sandpipers. Rarities: Upland and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-eared Owl, Nelson’s Sparrow.

When to go

Year-round. Morning is best.


Observation mound, boardwalks, trails, restrooms, nature center, boat ramp for kayaks. Bird walks offered on fourth Monday of the month, October-March, at 9 a.m.; meet in the parking lot. Downloadable checklist on Sarasota Audubon website.


County stormwater-collection site. No fees. Open daily, 6 a.m. to midnight. 
Sarasota Audubon Nature Center open 9-1, October through May.


Wear sunscreen and good walking shoes, and bring a camera.

For more info

Celery Fields
Sarasota Audubon Society, (941) 312-6533

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Audubon Announcement: April 10, 7 pm Surplus Lands / Community Treasures


Monday, April 10, 2017

7:00 p.m

surplus lands and

community treasures 

- crucial decisions -

a town hall examination 

On Monday, April 10, 2017 please join CONA for a town hall examination of our surplus lands policies and zoning processes that are putting lands considered community treasures in danger, perhaps irreversibly. Such crucial decisions require public participation. 

The current offer to sell public lands adjacent to the Celery Fields for a construction waste processing facility has drawn the focus of adjacent neighborhoods, environmental groups, conservationists, and many concerned individuals. The issues will be examined to determine what should drive decisions about public lands and how policies may be changed to assure protection of our community treasures while making appropriate decisions about development and preservation.

Social 6:30 p.m. - Meeting 7:00 p.m.

Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota
(at the intersection of Tamiami Trail, south of the Municipal Auditorium. Parking and the entrance are reached from Van Wezel Way)

For more information contact: Rob Wright