Note: After all presentations were given, the Board of Zoning Appeals first voted 4-3 to support the County Zoning Administrator's ruling that James Gabbert was seeking a major modification of his WTF. Then, led by Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee/Sarasota Building Industry Association, it reversed that vote. Mast, purporting to "amend" Justin Powell's original motion, turned it into a double approval for Gabbert, and undermined the Zoning Administrator's interpretation of our Zoning Code.
|Board of Zoning Appeals at Gabbert Appeal 11.18.19|
It’s not often that Sarasota’s regulatory boards interact with the general public. If the County were to require one or two seats on each Board to represent residents, and duly reported on Board actions to inform interested residents, that might help close the gap between the self-interest of business-as-usual and the larger shared values of the general public.
I’ll keep this short. In 1980, Sarasota County was first in the state of Florida to address future development with a planning document curiously named “Apoxsee.” It served as a sort of rudimentary Comp Plan.
In 1996, about 30 far-sighted residents from a variety of professions - architecture, law, engineering, development and construction among them - began to formulate a balanced set of principles to guide future development practices. They were known as the Multi-Stakeholders Group, or MSG, and their collaboration - which was not always collegial - led to the Comprehensive Plan approved by the county several years later.
With the great Depression of 2008 came pressure to grant a kind of emergency welfare to developers. The delicate balance between the community and development interests went sideways, and remains tilted heavily today toward the developers.
Revisions in the UDC as well as in Comp Plan Amendments have contributed to this move away from consideration for the community. Certain codes are less constrained, and residents experience the impacts new developments daily - in their nostrils, in their waterways, and on their roads.
In addition to requiring public representatives on your Board, I would ask that you each support a change to the UDC: Demand that traffic studies for the site development review process be required. How could the unleashing of 100 large trucks a day at this location on Palmer Blvd. not have been addressed? The repercussions of this programmed ignorance will be felt every day by those who live and work in the Palmer, Bell, Cattlemen and Apex area. Please press for this change in the 2020 Amendment cycle.
County zoning’s fundamental purpose is to “protect a community’s health, safety and welfare.” Binding site plan rules exist for a reason. I support the Zoning Administrator’s interpretation in this matter, and ask that you help Sarasota return to its tradition of community vision in long-range planning.