Last Modified: Friday, October 24, 2014 at 6:28 p.m.
Builders run the show
Dismay doesn't begin to describe my reaction to attending my first Sarasota County Commission "hearing" on the 2050 resource management plan. Builders sought a green light to develop rural land east of Interstate 75 without constraint.
All interested individuals were invited to comment but, given the board's discernible disinterest, may as well have saved their collective breath.
My husband and I moved to Sarasota a year ago, seduced by its brand: a vibrant, walkable core with great cultural and educational resources and spectacular natural resources. We can walk to stores, movies, the library and restaurants, and shop the farmers' markets for locally grown produce. We were less familiar with Sarasota's local political realities.
Speaker after speaker expressed concern over sprawl, congestion, environmental harm, cost to taxpayers and overbuilding, potentially setting off another destructive bubble. They suggested that builders should instead focus on infill, where infrastructure already exists, no additional environmental havoc can be wreaked and studies demonstrate all generations prefer to live.
The 2050 plan requires "fiscal neutrality," i.e., growth revenue pays for infrastructure costs. Instead, the builders proposed that their designated expert determine the formula for calculating "neutrality." Significantly, neutrality will be determined at the outset and will not be monitored. Affordable housing required under 2050 will be offset against infrastructure costs.
In other words, we don't know the formula but the board is unconcerned: The builders will determine the formula -- and don't need to track it anyway. The taxpayers will take care of it.
Susan Holik, you're dead-on about 2050. Depressing, isn't it? I would add that the kind of sprawl that folks like Pat Neal seem to be itching to build is essentially incapable of paying for its own infrastructure costs. It's too low-density, hence too many feet of new road, sewer pipe, etc. per taxpaying resident (all of which has to be maintained over time once it's there). This is why the developer community has been so adamant about changes to 2050 that amount to a subsidy for them: they cannot make a profit building single-family subdivisions without (implicit or explicit) taxpayer subsidies. The math pencils out better with infill, but the obstacles there are greater regulatory burdens, NIMBY property owners, and, I sense, an outdated mindset among the developers themselves that sprawl subdivisions where you're completely dependent on your car to get anywhere of interest are the future and the city is the past. How 1980s of them. Never mind that actual, nationwide market trends show the opposite.