Friday, October 17, 2014

Letter from a former Planning Commissioner

October 17, 2014

Becky Ayech
421 Verna Road
Sarasota, Fl.  34240

Sarasota County BCC


Re:  Sarasota County’s proposed changes to Sarasota’s Comprehensive Plan, Specifically 2050

Mr. Eubanks and Ms. Brookens,

I have been a resident of Miakka (also known as Old Miakka) for 34 years.  I am also the president of the Miakka Community Club Inc. (MCC).  The MCC was formed in 1948 to give a voice to the rural residents in Miakka for preserving and conserving the rural Miakka Community.  Since the Growth Management Act required counties to adopt comprehensive plans, MCC has been an active participate.

When the first Comprehensive Plan (Apoxsee) was adopted in Sarasota, there were provisions to protect the rural area of the county.  Apoxsee recognized the need to have areas in Sarasota for food and fiber production.  Over the years this rural protection has been eroded away.  The “food and fiber” protection was removed several years ago.  The urban service boundary has been moved into the rural area allowing removal of prime agricultural lands1 and replacing them with urban development.  The proposed amendments do nothing to further agriculture protection or rural lifestyles.  The clustering of hamlets under the guise of allowing more land available for agriculture is a ruse.  No data or analysis was presented to identify what lands would be used for agriculture and which lands would become the clustered hamlets.  My experience, as well as experience throughout this country, has been for urban developments to drive agriculture away because of neighbors’ complaints about odors, sounds and smells.  To place 2,400 homes, roughly 5,000 people (the average household in Sarasota is 2.2 persons) in the midst of agriculture is a death toll.  The “hamlets” are supposed to represent a transitional area from urban to rural. This volume of people and the urban style development does not represent or function as a transition. 

The proposed reduction in green space between the “hamlets” also is not a functional transition between developments.  Most property in the area identified for “hanlets” is zoned at one unit per 5 acres and one unit per ten acres.  The property sizes are generally 330 feet by 660 feet and 660 feet by 660 feet, with some at 330 feet by 1320 feet.  A 50-foot setback between “hamlets” isn’t indicative of any rural or agricultural lifestyle or practice.  It is merely “urban sprawl” in the rural area.
As a former Sarasota Planning Commissioner, I am cognizant of the requirements of comprehensive plans.  The proposed amendments are not consistent with 163.3177(1), F.S.; 163.3177(1) (a) 9, F.S. and 163.3177(1) (b), F.S. i.e. predictable development standards, urban sprawl and mitigation standards.  The data and analysis as required by 163.3177(1) (f), F.S. were not met. Therefore, DEO has no other alternative than to deny these proposed amendments.

I challenged the 2050 plan per se, and know these amendments would not rise to the “reasonable person” standard in the administrative hearing process.

During a very rigorous DOAH proceeding, there wasn’t any testimony presented to show that these proposed changes were necessary.  Additionally, there weren't any amicus briefs filed to support the proposed changes.

Growth management isn’t about granting privileges to a few but rather about managing growth in a way that protects the existing residents , supports urban infill, protects natural resources and offers a diverse economic base.

Becky Ayech

1 History of Agriculture in Sarasota County.  The Sarasota County Fair Directors and the Sarasota county Historical Commission

Find more letters here, here, and here.

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