Monday, November 18, 2019

Statement at Board of Zoning Appeals regarding Mr. Gabbert's change to his Special Exception

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.

Thank you.

Tom Matrullo

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"An offense to all voters" - Lobeck on Sarasota County redistricting

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sarasota Herald Tribune

Not just lines on a map

"As long as he’s a citizen of Sarasota County he’s entitled to submit a map" to redraw the County Commission election districts. — County Commissioner Nancy Detert

Well, Robert Waechter is not just any citizen. And his map, to be voted on by the commission Tuesday, is not just any map.

Mr. Waechter is a convicted criminal, found guilty of fraud for stealing the identity of a Republican opposing the election of Alan Maio to the county commission, to discredit her in the primary by donating in her name to Democrats.

And that was only one incident, linked to a political machine of development interests who hand-pick candidates for local offices and bankroll them to election. I call them the Cabal.

The Cabal was appalled when their big-money domination of commission elections became threatened by 60% voter approval of singlemember districts, despite the Cabal’s expensive and deceptive opposition. Now it takes one-fifth as much money for a candidate to get out a message and neighborhoods are more empowered.

So no surprise when the commission decided to redistrict early, before reliable numbers from the 2020 census, and conduct next year’s election for three commission seats under a new map.

Bob Waechter’s map was submitted under the name of Adam Smith, to hide its source. When Herald Tribune reporter Zac Anderson tracked email addresses to pin the map on Waechter, he at first denied that the map was his.

The Waechter map does two things.

First, it protects incumbent County Commissioner Mike Moran from Democratic voters (who now form a majority in his district) by carving African American neighborhoods out of District 1 and denying them a vote until 2022 (before which I predict the commission will seek to repeal single-member districts).

The second impact is an offense to all voters, including Republicans like me. The Waechter map would carve out of Moran’s district every likely opponent to his reelection, in both parties.

This includes former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, who has declared, as well as New College professor Frank Alcock, who has expressed a strong interest, and potential candidate Hagen Brody, a Sarasota City Commissioner. All are Democrats.

Also, the Waechter map, in redrawing Moran’s district, curiously jags to the north in the eastern county to carve out Myakka Valley Ranches. Thathappens to be the home of Frank DiCicco, who gave Moran a run for his big money in the 2016 Republican primary despite entering the race at the last minute.

This same thing happens in the district of Nancy Detert. At present, she faces a challenge from outgoing North Port Mayor Chris Hanks. The Waechter map carves North Port out into a separate district, and puts Detert into the Venice district, which is up for election but has no incumbent due to Commissioner Charles Hines being term-limited.

That way, Detert is free of Hanks’ challenge and the Cabal gets a shot at electing Hanks if they choose to anoint him.

On Oct. 30, Commissioners Moran, Detert and Maio prevailed on a 3-2 vote to put the Waechter map before a public hearing on Tuesday, together with an alternative by a consultant which merely moves a large Republican precinct into District 1.

While any redistricting should await the 2020 census, the fact that the Waechter map is even being considered is scandalous. If it is approved it will be a scandal beyond compare.

Dan Lobeck is a Sarasota attorney and president of Control Growth Now.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Coming right up

The WTF wall
Monday, Nov 18: Jim Gabbert's Waste Transfer Facility (WTF), approved by Charles Hines, Al Maio, Christine Robinson, Caroline Mason and Paul Caragiulo in 2015, has a nice wall around it. However, there's a glitch. Mr. Gabbert is seeking to move his stormwater partly offsite and underground. But since he has a binding site plan, this change amounts to asking for a substantial modification -- a Special Exception to his 2015 Special Exception. County Zoning says any substantial modification has to go back to the Board. Mr. Gabbert's attorney this modification is not substantial. See Rachel Hackney's free SNL story about Monday's Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing. This should be interesting: 6 pm at 1660 Ringling Blvd.

Bob Waechter
Tuesday, Nov. 19: The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners once again takes up redistricting. With time running short, it has to decide either to select a Bob Waechter map or another, or drop the entire process, which now is opposed by three civic groups. The Board has received advice from concerned citizens (video below), and now from Gerald Webster, Ph.D. Mr. Webster draws on a lifetime of experience with voter litigation to advise the Board not to pursue redistricting before the 2020 Census. The Board begins deliberating at 9 a.m.

For now, Hurrah!: The Board's Nov. 6 decision to preserve the Quad parcels near the Celery Fields for passive recreation came as a genuine surprise to citizens who had spent nearly three years addressing the issue with the Board. No better organization than Sarasota Audubon to protect the bird sanctuary. But those citizens, while hopeful, are wondering whether anything about the way the Board thinks, plans, listens and decides has really changed: was it a genuinely civic decision, or more like politics as usual? Media and, for now, euphoria, are here.

Expert in Voting Litigation to Board: Don't Redistrict Now

The two final redistricting maps - source:

Spitzer Map 2-1.A

Waechter Map 4-1A

November 12, 2019

TO: Sarasota County Commissioners, Mr. Charles D.Hines, Chair; Mr. Michael A. Moran, Vice Chair; Ms. Nancy C. Detert; Mr. Christian Ziegler; Mr. Alan Maio;

Cc: County Administrator, Mr. John R. Lewis; County Attorney, Mr. Frederick J. Elbrecht With three attachments

FROM: Dr. Gerald R. Webster, Professor Emeritus, Nokomis

RE: Current Effort to Redistrict the Sarasota County Commission Districts

I have followed the debate over whether the Sarasota County Commission electoral districts should be redistricted for many months. Though recently retired, I acted as a consultant and expert witness in voting system litigation for nearly thirty years. I have served as an expert witness in litigation in fourteen states including Florida. I have been hired by the Department of Justice, state governments, local governments, the Legal Defense Fund, NAACP, and Native American Rights Fund, among many others. A large share of these consultations have involved redistricting at the congressional, state legislative, and local government levels

I have degrees in political science and geography with my academic specialty being political geography with an emphasis in electoral geography and redistricting. The majority of my academic career was spent at the University of Alabama and the University of Wyoming. My Vita is attached and may also be accessed at [this link].

Based on my expertise and experience, I would like to provide additional information for the Commission to consider prior to making a decision on redistricting in advance of the 2020 Census. I hope that the County Commission will reconsider and wait to redistrict when the required data are available in early 2021. As I pointed out in a letter to the editor in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on October 5, 2019 (copy attached), there are serious data problems associated with the current effort to redistrict Sarasota's County Commission districts and, therefore, with the maps being considered. Although I recently returned to Nokomis for the winter, I will be out of state on November 19th and will therefore be unable to attend the public hearing.

The Commission's intent to equalize the relative populations in each single-member district due to potential changes since the 2010 census is understandable. But the use of population estimates can be highly problematic at lower geographic scales. Thus, Stanley Smith and Scott Cody of BEBR found that the Mean Absolute Percent Error (MAPE) for estimates at the subcounty level was 9.2%, “more than three times larger than the MAPE for counties” (“An Evaluation of Population Estimates in Florida: April 1, 2010,” Special Population Reports, Number 8, June 2011). As a result, the accuracy of block level estimates of total population as well as breakdowns by race and ethnicity are highly suspect with likely high margins of error.

The use of population estimates does not allow for accurately evaluating the success of the redistricting effort in terms of the equal population criterion (see attached, “Reflections on Current Criteria to Evaluate Redistricting Plans,” by G.R. Webster, 2013, at page 5 for how the equal population criterion is evaluated). Simply said, the use of estimated population data makes it impossible to know if any existing district population contrasts have been corrected, or if they have been made worse than they may be currently. This uncertainty puts the County in a difficult position legally should any challenges be made to the new districts. It is very possible that additional analysis of the new districts on the basis of traditional redistricting criteria will find them flawed and invalid. In addition, there are negative impacts from a legal challenge to the newly approved districts in terms of time and money as well as citizen satisfaction with their local government. In my experience, such litigation is tremendously expensive due to lawyer and expert witness fees, and such cases can drag on for months if not years. The use of the 2020 Census data will provide a much stronger, defensible and acceptable foundation for any redistricting effort by the County Commission.

Clearly, the major problem in attempting to redistrict in 2019 is the lack of current accurate population data at the Census block level, the smallest geographic units in the Census hierarchy which are commonly used to create equally populated districts. The decennial census enumeration collects population data at this level for the country as a whole and will do so again in 2020. The other sources of data such as BEBR and the ACS do not collect data at the Census block level. More importantly, these data are based on estimates, frequently with high margins of error. With respect to the currently proposed redistricting options, Mr. Doty in a September 29, 2019 article in the Herald-Tribune notes that he has no way of calculating the margin of error for the data used but “at the block level it’s going to be high.” I fully agree.

It is true that the results of the decennial census become less accurate as gradual population changes occur throughout a decade. Because the results of the Census are by far the best data for the purposes of redistricting, governmental entities and the courts accept this reality. The best data for redistricting at present are the results from the 2010 Census. These data will remain the most reliable numbers until the 2020 enumeration is completed.

If the county adopts a redistricting plan based on population estimates, it will be impossible to definitely state that the district populations meet the goals of the equal population criterion from a legal perspective. This puts the county in a difficult position legally, and opens up the possibility that additional analysis of the new districts on the basis of other traditional redistricting criteria will find them flawed. For example, without accurate data on race and ethnicity it will be impossible to judge whether the influence of the minority communities has been enhanced or eroded (see Webster 2013, at pages 5-7).

I hope the Sarasota County Commission will reconsider its efforts to redistrict in 2019 and wait until the required data are available in 2021.


Webster, G.R. 2019. “Flawed Population Data Won’t Yield Equal Districts,” Letter to the Editor, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5 October.

Webster, G.R. 2013. “Reflections on Current Criteria to Evaluate Redistricting Plans,Political Geography 32: 3-14.

Webster, G.R. 2017. Curriculum Vitae.

Existing Districta and first round of alternative maps

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Lucas: We won - but Gabbert's WTF needs to be watched

It took a Celery Village

but the Last Stand at Celery Hill has been won!

On November 6, 2019, the Sarasota County Commission finally heard the public outcry to “Save Our Celery Fields” and voted 5-0 to place three of the four parcels in a conservation easement. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and Sarasota Audubon will work with the Sarasota County Administrator and Planning to reforest the southeast parcel and do something for the northeast parcel with the retention pond. The southwest parcel will also come under a conservation easement. The northwest parcel with the fire station was left out of the vote. We will continue to monitor that parcel as 4.1 acres there are not part of the conservation easement, and could be rezoned in the future.

I want to thank everyone who helped in defeating past and present Commissioners from selling the Quad properties for development. This was a non-partisan effort that was supported by local, state, national and global efforts. People can continue to enjoy the Celery Fields without further introduction of development in the Quad Parcels surrounding the park. What a joy! 

However, with this exciting win for the Celery Fields, there is something we need to continue to monitor. The “WTF” Waste Transfer Facility, adjacent to the Quad properties, is in its early stages of being built by TST Ventures. Sadly, Mr. Gabbert decided to build his dump despite heartfelt community efforts to persuade him to find an area better suited for his business. 

Mr. Gabbert and his attorney William W. Merrill III have applied for a Zoning Appeal with Sarasota County. Screen shots pertaining to this appeal may be seen below. 

In a nutshell, if you are interested, there is a Public Hearing beginning at 6:00 pm on Monday, November 18 to considering Zoning Variances from the Sarasota County Zoning Regulations. It appears that Mr. Gabbert wishes to alter the Special Exception plan: He is now asking to move the location of a proposed stormwater retention pond to a property he owns outside the boundary of the WTF. The new proposed tank would not only change the site plan, but it would be underground, making it likely more difficult to monitor. 

Sarasota County Zoning staff have denied Mr. Gabbert’s zoning modifications, hence, the appeal. We will be attending this meeting and following its outcome.

(and many Sarasota scientists who have much more knowledge than I do) believe that with Gabbert’s dump, there will be known construction particulates that contain poisons such as lead paint, asbestos and who knows what else that will be sprayed down in the open air dump. This water will leech into the Celery Fields Stormwater Retention Pond. This drainage ultimately ends up in Sarasota Bay.

We will keep you abreast of the situation but if you want to attend a meeting, please join us at 6 pm Nov. 18 at 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Commission Chambers.

Bunches of Celery Hugs,
Adrien Lucas

Date: Mon. November 18, 2019

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location: 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL

Parking may be found behind the County building in the parking lot.

Discussion Section:

Public hearing to consider Appeal 19-155651 ZZ, a request by TST Ventures LLC to appeal a Zoning Administrator’s interpretation letter dated 8/28/19, interpreting that the
modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. The property is zoned Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehousing (ILW) and is located at 6150 Palmer Boulevard and 1099 Porter
Road, Sarasota (Parcel ID No. 0237050001 and 0237120001). William W. Merrill, Esquire,
Email the Sarasota County Commissioners
It is polite to be polite! It isn't easy being a public figure, and they finally heard us! You may or may not want to thank Sarasota County Commissioners Charles Hines, Al Maio, Nancy Detert, Mike Moran and Christian Ziegler.
Just click the button to the right and the link will take you straight to the Commissioners email box.
Useful Links, Supporting Material & Some Helluva Good Press from the Past Week!
ABC Channel 7 by Rick Adams | November 6, 2019

Filmed by Daniel Perales, produced by Adrien Lucas

Herald Tribune by Anna Bryson | November 2, 2019

ABC Channel 7 by Taylor Torregano | November 1, 2019 

ABC Channel 7 by Taylor Torregano | November 1, 2019 

Herald Tribune by Carrie Seidman | Octobert 31, 2019

Citizen's for Sarasota County Blog by Tom Matrullo | November 3, 2019

Sarasota News Leaser by Rachel Brown Hackney |October 24, 2019

Fresh Start for the Celery Fields, a real time blog holding any and all things related to the Celery Fields and Sarasota County government. Great place to learn what we are up against. This is a useful site for appropriate cut and paste sentences for writing why you oppose the sale of the Quads.

Comment on Critical Area Plan for the Quad Parcels at the Celery Fields, a breakdown on the proposed county staff Celery Field Quad CAP analysis to Sarasota planner Mr. Kirk.

A video of Fresh Start's presentation to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners on Sept. 12, 2018 that apparently fell on deaf ears. Click here to View.
Sent by Adrien Lucas,
A Sarasota p.t. private citizen moving back to SRQ f.t. to run for
County Commissioner and small business owner of
who simply is overjoyed that we all Saved Our Celery Fields!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

After the Nov. 2 Rally for the Celery Fields

A question:

What town, what community would receive the gift of an extraordinary water management system that not only protects our homes from floods, but also provides a fertile environment for birds, and a pristine open space beloved by people for its tranquil beauty -- what community would receive this inspired gift, and then direct public planners to put heavy industry right next to it?

We know the answer: The people elected as custodians of Sarasota County have never shown they have a clue about the evolving genius of the Celery Fields.

Board of Sarasota County Commissioners

In January it will be three years since James Gabbert brought his waste processing proposal to the Church of Hope. Three years since the community came out in force to tell him and the County: NO WAY.

Now, after saying little and doing less, the Board can come back on Wednesday Nov. 6 at 1:30 pm and direct the Planning Dept. to rezone these parcels for industry, offices, or affordable housing.

There are a lot of reasons why industry is wrong here. Here are two:

First, anything like what Gabbert wanted, or like the warehouses Bob Waechter owns, or a Restaurant Depot, would involve more big trucks or car traffic. Gabbert’s rising WTF there will soon be adding 100 trucks a day to Palmer Blvd., in and out, all day long.

Second, this is a gateway. Gary Walsh and others have noted the dramatic impact that they experience when, heading west on Palmer Blvd, they come through the underpass -- the world suddenly changes. The cramped corridors west of I-75 open up, turn green, then suddenly it's wetlands, birds, a huge open space and that radiant hill. 

Gary Walsh

This landscape is telling us a story - it’s introducing us to East County, to the rural Sarasota that's ranching, nurseries and farms, but increasingly getting sold and subdivided into single-family gated communities. East Sarasota's rural life is disappearing -- although Becky Ayech and others out East are fighting to protect it, with intelligence and determination.

If we rezone this gateway to allow industrial uses, this beautiful introduction to East County could also disappear. Instead of entering a prelude to a pristine open space, we’ll find a concrete barrier of 80,000-square-foot-buildings and parking lots. Instead of a walkable central open space drawing people and nature into communion, we’ll have Gabbert’s WTF, So and So’s What the Hell, and some other guy's Vision of Mordor piling on noise and traffic, devouring the light, and despoiling our landscape's story.

On Wednesday Nov. 6, the Board can try to “split the difference” by taking parcels 1 and 4, east of Apex, out of surplus lands and designating them for passive recreation or an urban forest. Great, so long as that’s a permanent and irrevocable designation.

But it’s still not adequate. Parcels 2 and 3 west of Apex should not be rezoned for industry, or for anything except simple uses that serve the community. They are public land.

Here's the chess game we're dealing with:

If the Board orders Planning to rezone parcels for industrial use or offices, the process will take several months, and then return to the Board for a vote. At this point, a public hearing will be necessary.

Note: the Lambert Advisory report the Board paid for to justify sale to industry did not consider actual conditions - neither surrounding land uses, such as the nearby Celery Fields, nor the poor roads, nor the community's input, nor the market's trending toward residential in the area. Its spreadsheet price study is also out of date.

Here's the big thing: The public hearing for the rezoning is likely to be entirely gratuitous -- that is, there will be no applicant. The Board will simply be voting on an application originated by itself. And yet, if for example they vote to approve industrial rezoning on Parcel #2, then it's a fait accompli: Gabbert, Waechter or someone else can buy the land from the County and build, so long as it meets whichever zoning the Board has approved. 

We see what they are doing here. They are pre-approving the sale of rezoned public land to a private developer, and once that rezoning is approved, the public has no further say, no public hearing. 

That's why, if the Board votes to rezone in ways the community feels are inappropriate, it will be essential to step up when Planning brings its plans back for approval. With no specific applicant named, Bob Waechter can wait in the wings till it's a done deal. This is just one way it all can go down. Let's call it the Waechter way.

Here's the thing: We've told our elected officials all this and more repeatedly over the past 35 months. We've told them that our wildlife area will need to expand and evolve to accommodate more visitors, some who come from overseas to explore this treasure.

We need to keep saying it:  Keep these parcels for public uses. We need our public lands to remain free from an industrial zoning concocted in 1975. For our central park to fully realize its potential, our planning process must totally be free from the degradation of developer greed and backroom cronyism.

We might have to give our commissioners hell so Sarasota’s Celery Fields can remain a heaven.

Elian Rosaire
Let's do all we can protect this beautiful place, and secure a healthy future for all of Sarasota County. We can start by sweeping out those who think it’s still 1975, and bring in people of vision, spirit, integrity, and common sense. 

Think of this not as our last stand, but as the first spark of restoring human sensibility and intelligence to Sarasota County in 2020.

Board rezoning and sale of public lands at the Celery Fields
Wednesday, Nov. 6
1660 Ringling Boulevard
1:30 pm

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Board discounts voters, moves to redistrict

Sarasota County redistricting map crafted by political dirty trickster makes final cut 
Black voters worried they will be disenfranchised. 
Critics also complained about using a redistricting map drawn by a GOP operative convicted of a political dirty trick 
And concerns about flawed population data underpinning Sarasota County’s redistricting effort remain. 
Bob Waechter
But the majority of county commissioners pushed past those criticisms Wednesday and voted 3-2 to advertise two redistricting maps for a public hearing, including a map based on one drawn by former Sarasota GOP chairman Bob Waechter.
Waechter’s map was heavily promoted Wednesday by Commissioner Mike Moran, who also may have the most to gain if it is enacted. . . .
Newtown resident Barbara Langston, who is African American, complained that redistricting is “about voter suppression and it is about racism." . . . 
Nobody from the crowd spoke in favor of redistricting. 
Read More . . .

Quick cuts from the 10.30.19 Board meeting:

R.N. Collins

Lourdes Ramirez


 Adrien Lucas


Two maps chosen by Board for advertising ahead of final public hearing, and more map analysis here.

Kurt Spitzer Associates

Bob Waechter map modified by Spitzer