Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A letter, a video, a petition to save the Celery Fields

A letter sent to the Sarasota County Commission by Adrien Lucas:

Good morning Commissioners,

I am dismayed that I have to begin my day by writing you about the surplus land you are trying to sell off that surrounds Our Celery Fields. With the lands that Mr. Medred and Mr. Bailey are trying to purchase for their clients, plus the new "surplus" acreage that just went up for sale next to the Celery Field, I can only imagine who the next "player" will be in orchestrating the purchase of this new piece of land.  Upon watching county footage where some of you agreed to sell Mr. Gabbert four acres, it was with complete amusement to see Bob Waechter make an appearance to give his two cents to some of you about how he found the sale agreeable and should happen.  Meanwhile, no one in the area had received notice nor could they see the sale sign that had been posted behind signs. It is a very puzzling process you are all becoming involved in, I can only remain hopeful that you will be listening to the voters of Sarasota who are against the county surplus land sales that are next to Our Celery Fields.

Please take the time to watch the video clip I have provided in this email in its entirety.  There are more meat and potatoes of information in this educational video for everyone to use, a jackpot of Celery Field history. How can the proposed types of development and sale of county "surplus" land that surround this preserve ever enhance the Celery Fields or the local neighborhoods?  They cannot.

Restaurant Depot, is a members only club.  How many people live in Sarasota County? How many people in Sarasota County own restaurants?  A "member's only" club open only to restaurant owners does not benefit this particular area one bit.

TST Ventures/Gabbert Recycling: Mr. Gabbert's right-hand real estate man, Bo Medred has stated a few times, "This recycling center will cut down on illegal dumping," it's a bit of a stretch. Can Bo Medred prove this claim?  Has he provided a study to support this claim?  Mr. Medred speaks as if this is a proven fact for Sarasota County.  I am certain that if we, the voters of Sarasota, have to appeal decisions in relation to these sales, that we will have to support every claim that we make.  These burdens should fall upon Mr. Medred and Attorney Bailey who has not fully disclosed the owners who wish to purchase the acreage for Restaurant Depot. We all have a public hearing on March 1st to attend because our Planning Board members failed to ensure that Attorney Bailey follow the rules of our charter. (Anyone can watch that complete hearing here.) It is even stated in the Herald Tribune published on February 14th that the Sarasota County Charter requires persons or entities applying for rezoning to disclose the true ownership interests. If Attorney Bailey has submitted an amended ownership disclosure form, I want to see it.

Our Celery Fields preserve is more than just an important working filtration unit for our county, the educational component with children/students, 7 acres for people to walk/run/bird/walk dogs, MAJOR ecotourism, 400+ bird species recorded - many who are listed endangered or being watched, butterflies (many who have very low population counts), rats and mice that owls and birds of prey eat, photographers, the fish that live in the waters...I could rattle off the amazing and wonderful things about Our Celery Fields all day. (Here's another site made by people who also care.)

I encourage you to watch this video before the March 1 public hearing meeting for Restaurant Depot.

Florida Field Journal 
Published on Mar 23, 2015 
Producer Darryl Saffer talks to Jeanne Dubi, president of Sarasota Audubon about the exciting developments at the Celery Fields, including the new education center under construction. Barry Rossheim brings his Venice High School Zoology Club to the Celery Fields to participate in the Backyard Bird Count.
Please do not vote in favor of Restaurant Depot being built on the property next to the Celery Fields. We need our elected officials to be champions for the county. How about it?  The benefits to Sarasota are numerous and can only grow if you don't mess this up for everyone.  It would be so nice to have leadership we can trust and admire in protecting and growing Our Celery Fields preserve area to accommodate bigger ideas that benefit all.

And if you have a minute, we'd love for you to join us:

Sign the petition to Save the Celery Fields


Adrien Lucas


bcc'd: to everyone/press/friends/family/bloggers

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Letter to the County re: industrializing public property near Celery Fields

Feb. 21, 2017

To: The Sarasota County Board of Commissioners
RE: Rezone petition 16-33, CAP 83-10-SP, Restaurant Depot, Palmer Blvd. & Apex Rd.
Public Hearing, March 1, 2017
From: Thomas Matrullo

I write as a concerned citizen about a matter of significant public interest:

Two proposed industrial rezonings of public properties at the edge of the Celery Fields threaten to degrade valuable public assets. You’ll be hearing from many concerned residents about the negative impacts a big box Restaurant Depot store and a 16-acre recycling plant will have on traffic, air, water, schools, and a valued bird sanctuary. Let me invite you to step back and consider this from another perspective.You have the opportunity to shape and revitalize a gateway area of Sarasota County. With the wrong decision, a potentially wonderful public outcome will be lost forever.

A bit of background is necessary.

Developers have asked you to approve industrializing a total of about 23 acres at the intersection of Apex and Palmer Boulevard. Two promising, sensitive areas lie near these lots -- The Celery Fields just east of Apex, and the adopted Fruitville Initiative Plan north of Palmer:

Map #1: Apex / Palmer intersection lower left quarter

The Celery Fields began as a regional stormwater project -- it cleanses water, protects against major floods, and manages our stormwater runoff before releasing it to Phillippi Creek and  Roberts Bay. Over time, this public property has evolved into a much loved and used park and recreational facility, and a bird sanctuary listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail, in national and international eco-tourism brochures and tours.

The public properties proposed for industrial use at Apex and Palmer are at the edge of the Celery Fields (Map #2). They should be held to a much higher level of public input and vision. And right nearby, you have a regionally significant example of this higher level of vision in the Plan for the public lands that contain the Fruitville Library. Years of effort on the part of the County, property owners and homeowners resulted in the Fruitville Initiative.

Apex and CF text.png
Map #2 Palmer and Apex Intersection adjacent to Celery Fields

That plan, adopted by this Board in 2014, represents a community consensus. It provides a successful and proven model for planning publicly owned lands -- one that can be used here. The intersection of Apex and Palmer could meet high-level goals including features that would

  • provide high-tech, high-paying jobs in attractive offices
  • promote walkable, mixed use features - cafes, a public garden, art studios, galleries
  • reduce vehicle trips
  • make desirable and truly affordable housing (allowed under MEC) possible.

Such a plan would enhance the potential of the Celery Fields, and the vested Fruitville Plan -- not degrade them.

Now, look at an even bigger picture: You have an opportunity to integrate the Fruitville Initiative, the Celery Fields and the established small business district with Detweilers, the Packinghouse Cafe, and other commerce just to the west of I-75. Thanks to the Palmer Boulevard underpass (a rare East-West connector), the potential for an attractive, unified community -- varied, viable and walkable -- is already there.

Map #3: Overview from Fruitville Init. (Coburn Rd.) to Packinghouse District

As you see: the central connecting link between the three legs of this prospective community is precisely the public acreage at Apex and Palmer Boulevard. County planners and the Duany planning firm noted this in a study more than ten years ago. They called the intersection “The Quad” (see Item #4). Putting a big box store and recycling plant there would create an obstructive barrier at the center, generating truck traffic and dividing the three key assets: the Fruitville Initiative, Celery Fields and Packinghouse District. Did you bother to ask the people who live and work there before putting the public properties out to bid?

To neglect this chance to shape a well-planned community of substantial historical, natural and economic value would be a new low for Sarasota planning. You’ll devalue the unique adjacent ecosystem, and miss the obvious opportunity to bring together a vibrant community stretching from north of Fruitville Road down to the Packinghouse District. To discard it in favor of accommodating a low-leverage recycling operation and a big box wholesale store would border on an abdication of public policy.

A matter of serious public concern is at stake in your decision. You can help create a vibrant new locale by integrating significant assets in a comprehensive way. You could make Sarasota again renowned for careful yet creative planning. Should you choose to ignore this opportunity, the loss to us all will be incalculable.

One final thought: As the letter from the Sarasota Audubon Society (see item #6 ) makes clear, development in Sarasota is marching eastward. The Celery Fields will become an ever more valued green space as it is surrounded by homes, commerce and industry. Audubon likens it to Central Park in New York City. Think big -- the future will thank you.


Thomas Matrullo
Lake Sarasota
Citizens for Sarasota County

cc: Media, HOA's, Civic, Business, Political, Environmental organizations

Notes and Images

Item #4: Fruitville Initiative planned at cost of $499,000, adopted 2014
Has the County helped it succeed? See this editorial.

The quad .JPG
Item #5: Early envisioning of “The Quad”at Apex & Palmer
Duany Plater-Zyberk Co.


Item #6:  Herald-Tribune, Sarasota Audubon Society LTE 2.16.17

Fight Celery Fields project
Sarasota Audubon's mission is public education and conservation of wildlife habitat. We are aware of Sarasota County's plans to sell two parcels on Palmer Boulevard near the Celery Fields. The proposed uses entail a restaurant-supply facility and a construction material/yard waste storage/recycling facility.
The Celery Fields storm-water facility is a major attraction for citizens, outdoor enthusiasts and schools and is a worldwide destination for eco-tourism.
Sarasota Audubon opposes the sale for these reasons:
1. The lots contain enough acreage for a permanent fire station and additional park/recreation/wildlife habitat.
2. Proposed businesses are not compatible with recreation and eco-tourism and will add hundreds of daily auto/truck trips through strained and inadequate neighborhood roads. This increase will have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of wildlife and humans in the area. Also, thousands of tourists coming yearly to explore the Celery Fields stimulate the local economy.
3. As development surrounds the Celery Fields, available green space will become increasingly necessary to preserving this jewel. The Celery Fields is considered by many to be the "Central Park" of Sarasota County and a major economic driver. Jeopardizing this funding would not be a wise use of county resources.
The public should make its voice heard by contacting county commissioners at 941-861-5000 or
Jeanne Dubi, President, and Robert Wright, Conservation Chair, Sarasota Audubon Society

Item #7: Portion of Celery Fields Hill

celery fields undulation.jpg

Thursday, February 16, 2017




RALLY MARCH 1, 2017, 9 am

From Adrien Lucas:

I need as many supportive warm bodies and minds to join me in protest for the following:

Date: March 1
Time: 9 am
Location: Sarasota County Administration Center in the County Commission Chamber at 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota, FL 34236

Why: Our County Commissioners are holding a public hearing regarding Proposed Amendment to Critical Area Plan No. 83-10-SP and Rezone Petition

What this means: Restaurant Depot wants to build on county-owned land that has been deemed “surplus and salable” and this land is directly across the street from the Celery Fields Preserve.

Restaurant Depot

How does this impact Sarasota: Should the County Commissioners approve this request the effects to the area are vast and grim. Home values in local neighborhoods will fall, traffic on Palmer Road will become even more congested and dangerous for road emergencies, the ecosystem will be further burdened by noise and traffic, numerous birds who frequent or live in the Celery Fields and are listed as endangered will become even more challenged by humans and their ever shrinking natural habitat.

More about the Celery Fields here

Our County’s Zoning mission states that: ZONING’S FUNDAMENTAL PURPOSE IS TO PROTECT A COMMUNITY’S HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE.” This sentence in caps was taken directly from the counties “What is Zoning?” guide. And let’s be clear, our county Planning Board Members, Charter Members and County Commissioners are failing us greatly.

We, the people of Sarasota, are granted three minutes to speak in opposition of granting Restaurant Depot this amendment change, rezone and sale of county owned land. I encourage you to exercise your right to express your opinion and speak to the County Commissioners at this hearing. You will need to sign a public comments sign in card when you arrive.

I will be outside the building at 8 a.m., and hope you will pick up a sign from me or a friend to hold in protest during this meeting.

If you cannot attend, please, please, at the very least, email our County Commissioners and simply tell them that you do not approve any surplus sales of county lands that surround the Celery Fields.

Email:                              Al Maio                              Charles Hines                           Mike Moran                           Nancy Detert                       Paul Caragiulo         County Administrator Thomas Harmer: 

Also, if you have a spare minute, please sign the following petition:

Thank you,

Adrien Lucas
Bird Nerd and Citizen Activist

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sarasota Audubon Speaks Out against Industrial Rezoning at Celery Fields

In a strong letter to the County Commission and head of Sarasota County Planning, the Sarasota Audubon Society left no doubt about the prospects for harm, and loss of potential good, that would come from the County approving the sale and rezoning of two rural lots it owns to industrial developers:

1. A 12-acre recycling plant proposed by James Gabbert, and

2.. A 60,000-square-foot wholesale restaurant supply store proposed by Restaurant Depot.

The lots sit at the intersection of Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road. Both industrial rezonings have already drawn sharp criticism at crowded hearings and workshops. Gabbert's recycling center, which would generate 100 trucks per day on Palmer, received a barrage of opposing comments from local residents and business owners, as well as from residents who fear for the long-term health of the Celery Fields. This county park features an unusual (for Florida) hill that serves as a recreational area. It also has substantial wetlands that function both a stormwater control facility, and a bird sanctuary.

The sanctuary has become a hub of eco-tourism, drawing birders from out of state and even internationally. A nature and educational center operated by Audubon opened there recently.  A new site, just launched to gather support for the sanctuary.

Restaurant Depot

Restaurant Depot's proposed store would generate traffic and operate 7 days a week. It passed the pro-development Planning Commission with a non-binding clause that could allow for other, even more intense uses of the land.

The Audubon Society's letter below articulates the problems and the potential that would be lost if these two lots, amounting to about 20 acres, were rezoned from rural to industrial use.


Join us in opposing development next door to the Celery Fields


Many of you have asked about Sarasota Audubon's position on the county developing parcels near the Celery Fields.


The County plans to sell two of three parcels of "surplus" land located at the intersection of Palmer Blvd. and Apex Road just west of Celery Fields Park. Current bids have come from a 60,000 sq.ft. restaurant supply facility and a construction material and yard waste storage and recycling facility.

Sarasota Audubon Society OPPOSES this.  

Here is why: 

Since its inception, the 360-acre Celery Fields area has become a major attraction/recreation area for local citizens, outdoor health enthusiasts and school groups; as well, it is a worldwide destination for Eco-tourism and Birding in addition to the primary function of retaining and cleaning storm water entering Phillippi Creek.  

With the frantic pace of current development in the area, we oppose these land sales and rezoning for the following reasons:
  1. The three lots in question, already owned by the county, contain enough acreage to provide a permanent fire station, additional park/recreation facilities for public use and create a planted wildlife habitat buffer zone from existing industrial uses.  
  2. The proposed businesses are not compatible with existing and increasing recreational use and Eco-tourism in the area. The proposed recycling/processing facility and restaurant supply depot will add hundreds of daily car, van and heavy truck traffic onto already strained and inadequate neighborhood roads. The increased traffic, debris, noise, vibration and exhaust fumes will have a major detrimental impact on the health and safety of birds and wildlife in the area as well as the humans who come to recreate and enjoy nature. Tens of thousands of tourists come each year to explore the Celery Fields and spend money locally, bringing a significant economic benefit to the county.
  3. As development continues to surround the Celery Fields, available "Green Space" will become more and more valuable and necessary to preserving this "Jewel" of Eco-tourism. The Celery Fields is considered by many to be the "Central Park" of Sarasota County and a major economic driver for the future. Any action jeopardizing this funding source would not be prudent or a wise use of County resources.
  4. These land sales are openly opposed by all conservation/citizen groups and nearby neighborhood associations. The citizens of Sarasota County, as the current owner of these properties, should be the driving force in determining how the land will be used in the future.
NOW IS THE TIME to make your voice heard on this issue by contacting your Sarasota Board of County Commissioners listed below to express your views. We appreciate your support.  

Jeanne Dubi, President
Robert Wright, Conservation Chair
Sarasota Audubon Society
999 Center Rd. Sarasota, FL 34240
How to contact your County Commissioner:

Michael A Moran, District 1,
Paul Caragiulo, District 2,
Nancy C. Detert, District 3,
Alan Maio, District 4,
Charles Hines, District 5,

(We favor sending the email to all Commissioners at the same time so they can each see that their colleagues received it. We request that communications from our members be civil, courteous and respectful.

Want to talk to us?
Contact Conservation Chair Rob Wright at (941) 587-9665

Sarasota Audubon Society (SAS), headquartered in the Sarasota County Celery Fields Park, has a primary mission to advocate the conservation of habitat and educate the public on the value of these natural areas and the wildlife found there. 

Photo Credit: Mary Smiley


The County Commission will hold a public hearing on Restaurant Depot's plan on March 1, 2017. Cathy Antunes has written about the flaws in the Planning Commission hearing. 

March 1 Hearing on Restaurant Depot - 9 am.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Herald Tribune finds lawmakers work for paid lobbyist lawfirms

State Sen. Greg Steube works for lobbyist
lawfirm Becker & Poliakoff
Once viewed as an "inescapable" conflict of interest, some state lawmakers are on the payroll of firms that actively lobby the Legislature

The law firm of Becker & Poliakoff has an extensive legislative lobbying practice that netted $1 million to $2 million in 2015.
The firm employs 10 registered lobbyists who represent dozens of clients, from hospitals to electric utilities, liquor stores and city governments.
The firm also employs Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube.
As an attorney, Steube is supposed to look out for the best interests of his firm's clients. As a lawmaker, Steube is supposed to do what's in the best interest of his constituents and the people of Florida.
The Florida Bar once viewed this dual role as an "inescapable" conflict of interest, an ethical conflict so "clear" that the Bar issued a formal ethics opinion effectively prohibiting lawmakers from working at firms that lobby the Legislature.
That ethics opinion was rescinded in 1999 and now at least six Florida lawmakers — including the speaker of the House — work for law firms that lobby the Legislature, according to a Herald-Tribune analysis.
But there is renewed scrutiny of such employment.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Adrien Lucas: Sarasota County alert: Impending harm to Celery Fields and local nighborhoods

From Adrien Lucas:
Restaurant Depot/TST Ventures Recycling Call to Action: 
I encourage all of you to write to our County Commissioners:,,,, and Tom Harmer, 
This is the very long-winded letter I emailed today. I hope you will all consider emailing the people listed above and let them know you are following county activity about these surplus land properties and you do not support the proposed rezones or sales. 
Bird Nerds Unite! - Adrien Lucas

February 9, 2017 

To: Sarasota County Commissioners

Bcc: SRQ Press Outlets, Citizen Activists and every friend/acquaintance who has expressed interest in what I have been talking endlessly about for two weeks. 
From: Adrien Lucas, Sarasota County Resident

The future of the Celery Fields is under threat from overdevelopment and traffic. How is the County selling out our premier wildlife site and public safety? I invite you to listen this Friday, February 10th, 2-3 pm. 1220 am, 106.9 fm, 98.3 fm. Or stream it live at, I will be a guest along with Tom Matrullo to share what we have learned about the what may be one of the county’s biggest eco-blunders ever.

Tom and I are just two of many Sarasota citizens, who are working together to educate the public about the county’s attempt to rezone and sell county surplus land that surrounds the Celery Field preserve. We are just two, of many and growing in number, who will try to stop both the Restaurant Depot and TST Ventures from ruining the future of Sarasota’s growing eco-tourism and quality of life shared by the people who live in the neighborhoods near the Celery Field.

I attended last week’s second neighborhood workshop held by James Gabbert and Bo Medred in relation to TST Ventures' request for a rezone in consideration of purchasing county owned surplus land in close proximity of the Celery Fields. It is there I learned of the Restaurant Depot rezone/sale too. I also watched the February 2, 2017 County Planning Commission hearing regarding the rezone request for the Restaurant Depot. With all due respect, the only thing that the Planning Commissioners got right was the Pledge of Allegiance.  
TST/Gabbert Neighborhood Workshop

Listed below are items that are of deep concern.
There are so many problems with both TST and Restaurant Depot’s requests, I will do my best to list the biggest issues I have found thus far:


  1. As presented by Attorney Charles Bailey, the  Restaurant Depot development concept plan is “non-binding” this means that the unknown owners of Restaurant Depot can change their mind upon the completion of the land sale and build anything they want as long as it fits within the new zoning codes. This is not acceptable.  

    Who in their right mind in the county would accept a non-binding agreement in relation to county real estate? The Planning Board members did. This is unacceptable. 

  1. The application discloses that JDMH Real Estate of Sarasota, LLC is the owner who wants to buy this land but the Sarasota Charter clearly states that “true ownership interests in any property sought to be rezoned and shall further disclose the true parties in interest in any corporation, trust, partnership, limited partnership, or any legal entity of any type in their zoning application.”

And yet, even with the interoffice memo from Alan Roddy, Deputy County Attorney, dated 1/24/17, stating as such, Planning Board members voted unanimously to proceed with recommending the rezone, even when Attorney Bailey could only disclose that there were too many people involved in entities that were owned by JRD Real Estate of Florida, such as investors.  

I want to see a list of every person who is related under the helm of JRD Real Estate. Don’t you? And unless Attorney Bailey has changed the The Sarasota County Charter this rule is applicable to the buyers he is representing. I’m sure Mr. Gabbert who sits on the Charter Review Board will be happy to change Section 3.8(1) of the Sarasota County Charter, but as of today, this item, legally, is applicable to documentation that must be transparently supplied by Attorney Bailey.  Otherwise, find another suitable buyer.  
Exhibit “B” Supplemental Ownership Affidavit Information does not satisfy the Sarasota Charter either.  It’s too vague. Again, the burden to disclose the buyers in full is the applicant's responsibility. To name just a few in Item (3) lists one of the potential owners as:
“Abu Dhabi Investment Authority” a Google search states: The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is a sovereign wealth fund owned by Emirate of Abu Dhabi founded for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
“CCMP Capital Investors” a Google search states they are one of the leading private equity firms in the nation.

I don’t care if Attorney Bailey thinks it is too difficult to meet the current Sarasota County Charter rules of full disclosure, the onus falls upon him to provide every investor’s human first and last name. Corporations are not people and the county Charter of Sarasota reflects that. Further, Attorney Bailey’s unsolicited opinions about the Sarasota Charter during the Planning Board meeting, whether he finds the charter archaic or not, his opinion does not matter. Attorney Bailey still must comply with the existing charter; at the meeting his opinion shows his clear contempt for the county charter and is unacceptable. The Planning Board members should all be fined, penalized or fired for not adhering to the Sarasota County Charter too. I am being very serious and this is applicable to the proposed Benderson Stickney/Tamiami property, but I digress. So many issues, so little time.
Apex is vertical on left, runs north/south, Palmer runs horizontal east/west

In relation to the property related to Restaurant Depot where the temporary firehouse sits: Per documentation and at the meeting, Attorney Bailey states the Sarasota firehouse will remain at the Apex Road property and lease .47 acres for a term of two years for $1 per year. The Lease shall provide for three one-year renewals provided  fair market rent is paid to JMDH by the County annually.  Estimated fair market rent for the third year equals $9,225 per year, the fourth year equals $9,502.00 per year and the fifth year equals $9,787.00.

Are you kidding me?  Clearly with the housing in that area, the school and local businesses that exist (hello Packinghouse Restaurant fire), why doesn’t the county just build the fire house there instead of selling the property?  

A “spine” road does not exist and as stated by county staff, no funding is available and expansion of Palmer Road is not in the five year plan.  So at peak hours in and out, should an emergency occur in one of the neighborhoods, local businesses, a tourist has a heart attack while visiting the Celery Fields, or a child at the nearby school with a peanut allergy who accidentally eats one, any “life safety” issues do not appear to matter that much to the Planning Commission who unanimously agreed to allow the requests for Restuarant Depot to proceed. These potential emergencies, that will occur, are applicable to the TST Ventures rezone as well.  Traffic congestion is going to be a major indisputable issue.
I do not find the above worst case scenarios fitting into the marketing fluff found in the county's zoning guide, that states: “ZONING’S FUNDAMENTAL PURPOSE IS TO PROTECT A COMMUNITY’S HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE.”

The above sentence is taken directly from the counties “What is Zoning?” guide, link to source:

The Planning Board has faied the citizens greatly and I think it is in the interest of Sarasota county residents to consider shelving the Planning Board.



Seriously, a recycling business is going to protect the local communities' health, safety and welfare?  I think not and neither do the homeowners associations in that community, along with the Audubon Society who have clearly stated at the neighborhood meetings and planning commission meetings that the introduction of businesses such as The Restaurant Depot and TST Ventures Recycling will most definitely negatively impact the ecosystem of the Celery Field and its native inhabitants and local neighborhoods.  

Again, traffic is a major consideration in relation to safety and I am not only referring to vehicle crashes, I am referring to increased road rage, quality of life, time lost in transit, additional padding to transit time for families who drive to work, take kids to school, etc. Can the Planning Board and County Administrator Harmer really claim that is quality community health?  

Environmental studies provided thus far are laughable and by visiting the Facebook page “The Celery Fields," there is indisputable daily documentation about the birds and wildlife that inhabit the Celery Field and surplus land areas that you are trying to sell off. I have asked members of this Facebook page to document birds and wildlife that they photograph on the surplus lands in question and will be providing data on this at a later date.

Link to FB The Celery Fields group:

According to the Florida Wildlife Services:

Sandhill Cranes carry the FL Status of State-designated threatened and the diet of the Florida sandhill crane primarily consists of grain, berries, seeds, insects, worms, mice, small birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs. The Florida sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule

Audubon's Caracara, they too carry the  FL Status of State-designated threatened
and the diet of Audubon’s crested caracara primarily consists of carrion (dead animal carcass), amphibians, reptiles, mammals; eggs; and other birds. The Audubon’s crested caracara is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and they are also protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule

As a matter of fact, you may visit the FWS website and I can assure you almost every bird listed as threatened in Florida you will also be able to find at the Celery Field and most likely the surplus land you wish to sell.  CLICK HERE:

Shoddy Sarasota Science.  Preliminary environmental studies provided by county environmentalists and hired ones to study “life” on these properties is shoddy science.  Considering what many of these birds eat, to say nothing lives on these surplus lands is simply a falsehood.  Those flat fields are filled with anoles, snails, bugs, mice.  Oh and that leads me back to the recycling plant who will be receiving land waste. Land waste is notorious for bringing in rats and mice.  Rats love to eat bird eggs.  

I have not delved further into the Florida designated threatened or imperiled lists because I remember how cavalier Sarasota staff environmentalist, Matt Osterhoudt was when he failed the Gopher Tortoise at last year’s give away to Christine Robinson for her beloved gun club expansion on Knight’s Trail.  Mr. Osterhoudt’s recommendations based on his lame “eco-observations” of the area were environmentally criminal in relation to the Gopher Tortoise, American Kestrels and Bald Eagles. I have seen practically all three at the entrance of that gun range and have friends who live off of Knight’s Trail who see all three often.


It was terrific amusement that I read and then reread the new and improved Sarasota County Surplus Land Code that was adopted by the County Commissioners on January 10, 2017.  Full disclosure, I am not an attorney, but it appears the document gives County Administrator Tom Harmer way too much power and the County Commissioners full authority to do whatever they please upon receipt of the Planning Board’s recommendations.

Per the current Sarasota County Surplus Land Code, just a few items of interest were: 

On Page 6, item (e) County Sale, No. 2 Standards - “...In no event shall the uses permitted by any such lease, sale, conveyance or development agreement violate the County’s zoning regulations or comprehensive plan. 
Page 10, item (f) Determination as to Estimated Value of Land…”the County Administrator will determine the estimated value of Surplus Property…using evaluations such as configuration of property, location, upland/wetlands, environmental concerns, ability to develop the parcel in accordance with applicable regulations, current zoning on the parcel, access, highest and best use of this parcel...:” 

Which leads me to believe that County Administrator Harmer is perhaps challenged or not working at his best and most honest capacity when it comes to environmental concerns or best use of the parcels that are under sale and rezoning considerations as they relate to TST and Restaurant Depot. Mr. Harmer also appears to be challenged in charging true real estate dollar value for the surplus lands in question; it would appear he is under-valuing real estate to assist his business friends in Sarasota rather than really determining the best use of these parcels as they relate to the local homeowners and Celery Field preserve.

Certified mail notice to adjacent property owners is ambiguous and really assists Mr. Harmer as to keeping rezoning and sales of surplus property on the down low from local property owners.  At the TST public meeting last week it was repeatedly stated that “notification to property owners is set at a zone of 750 feet circling the property that is for sale and/or to be rezoned." 
It would be prudent to add this information into the county Surplus Land Code manual as there is no reference to the 750-foot notification zone to be found anywhere in it. But that’s just me, I am a stickler. What I did find in the Surplus Land Code was:  

On page 11, item (4) Mailed notice to adjacent property owners….

Nor did I find any reference to a 750 foot area of notice in the 2015 Florida Statutes that is attached and referenced in Sarasota counties 1/17/17 ratified document by Gov. Scott.  

Now this may appear as nitpicking, but seriously, with expansion east of I-75, most of it is still rural. How can we expect homeowner’s and business owners to be properly notified by the county about rezones if the proximity of notification is only 700 feet? And let’s face it, most people do not read public notices in newspapers or bother to check on a weekly basis our counties roster of surplus land or rezone petitions.  And, in my opinion, if a rezone or sale is occurring right next to a Sarasota Preserve, I think everyone in the county should be notified because we are all affected.

Also, FYI, the SRQ Planning Committee website marketing piece on “What is Zoning,” that too only states on page 4, “A neighborhood workshop is required with surrounding property owners. A county planner will attend this meeting to explain the process. There is a $215 fee.”

But nothing about the notification of the workshop needing to be within 750 feet.

However, in this document, bingo:

You must do at least two things to notify affected property owners: a) place an advertisement in a newspaper with general circulation in the subject area, and b) send a notice to all property owners within 750 feet (1500 feet in semi-rural and rural areas) of the subject property. Please see Notices in the Neighborhood Workshop Guidelines for details. If your application involves a telecommunication tower, the radius for the notice is extended to the equivalent of eight times the height of the tower. Planning Services will provide the mailing labels. If any dwelling unit is within a Property Owner's’ Association, the Association must also be notified of the workshop. Link to source

I think the county has failed greatly in notifying the homeowners of developments such as Meadow Wood and LIST them.   

750 to 1500 feet for notification in rural and semi-rural areas simply is not enough and I suspect you all know this.  It’s a great buffer rule to protect the county and leave the masses in the dark as to what changes are going to occur in their neighborhood.

For the record, Mr. Gabbert appears to be building a road that we believe is not on the four acres he owns but is on the acreage he is trying to buy. I have aerial photos that I will share soon, also I will be making a request to the county for public records as soon as I gather the required information needed for my request.  I just wanted to put this in writing that if it is indeed Mr. Gabbert and the county has hired Mr. Gabbert to contour the south border with berms and grass sod and the county wants Mr. Gabbert to have raised berms to protect the site in the rainy season from pollution to the watershed, the county is putting the cart before the horse.  The rezone and sale for TST are in the beginning stages or this is beginning to look like another SRQ county backroom deal.

I’m going to end this letter because I suspect I will be writing many more and seriously, there is just so much to cover!  This is just the beginning of my research. I am working with like-minded citizens from a wide spectrum of neighborhoods and coalitions who are very concerned about the surplus sales discussed in this letter.
On January 30, Gabbert’s second neighborhood meeting was packed by people from the local neighborhoods who were incredibly angry with Mr. Gabbert and the county. A court reporter accompanied me when I attended Gabbert’s second neighborhood workshop and I am happy to share the report with you when it arrives, compliments Mr. Hugh Culverhouse.  

I thank you in advance for your serious consideration of this letter.  Please feel free to call into the radio show this Friday at 2, 941-373-1220, we’d love to hear from you!


Adrien Lucas