"The adoption of the 2050 plan itself was a manifestation of this ill-advised shift but it contained some safeguards to protect taxpayers. These safeguards are now being rendered meaningless. -- Former Sarasota County Administrator John Wesley White.
I would like to express my opposition to the changes proposed to Sarasota County’s Comprehensive Plan. I moved to Sarasota County in 1987. At that point, Sarasota County was an award-winning exemplar of sound planning and strong environmental policies. For the first ten or so years of my residency in Sarasota County, the County Commission pursued a balanced approach to growth, development, and environmental protection; however, over the past fifteen years, there has been a steady erosion of those policies as development interests have gained increased control of the local political process.
The adoption of the 2050 plan itself was a manifestation of this ill-advised shift but it contained some safeguards to protect taxpayers. These safeguards are now being rendered meaningless. Public opinion in Sarasota County, as validated by official opinion surveys, has remained committed to protection of vital natural resources and preventing harmful development, yet the Board of County Commissioners has consistently approved development that has ignored its urban service boundary, degraded transportation on state and county roads, reduced fees paid by development, diverted infrastructure resources from correcting decades-old deficiencies to support projects that foster increased development, and sought to shift responsibility for growth impacts from the development interests sponsoring increased growth to current residents and state government.
The proposed changes in the county’s comprehensive plan would continue and exacerbate those patterns and are inconsistent with state policies to manage growth, preserve agriculture, and protect environmental resources. These misguided policies have already cost state government millions of dollars and the proposed changes will greatly increase demands on state financial resources, while also requiring County taxpayers to pay more for the inefficient infrastructure of sprawl. I support enlightened growth management based upon sound planning principles and I celebrate the rebirth of downtown Sarasota during the period since I moved here. There is abundant opportunity for growth and development without these proposed changes. I ask that the County Commission defer these proposed amendments to Sarasota County’s comprehensive plan and adopt a more prudent and balanced approach to managing growth.
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John Wesley White
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
-- E.B. White