Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jono Miller, March 9, CONA

Acquisition of conservation lands 
guest speaker  -  Jono Miller

Update: Jessica Salmond at the Observer wrote about Jono Miller's talk at Cona here.

On March 9 at CONAspeaker Jono Miller reviews the history of conservation land protection efforts in Sarasota County. He will discuss some of the county's impressive successes as well as current challenges faced in keeping Sarasota wild. 

Jono Miller has been working both as a volunteer and professionally for more than 35 years to protect Sarasota's natural areas. He has chaired six different county-created advisory boards related to local wild lands and has provided leadership in several local land acquisition referenda.
The meeting will be held at the Sarasota Garden Club on March 9, at 7 pm. A social gathering precedes the meeting at 6:30 pm. 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Date Changed: Save the Date for Integrity in Sarasota: April 1

You are receiving this invitation because, April 1, we will need your help!

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, at 12:45 p.m. in downtown Sarasota, a
diverse and non-partisan group of Sarasota taxpayers will shine a
bright spotlight on the conflicts of interest and lack of integrity
plaguing Sarasota County government.

This community-powered "bright light" will focus first on a Sarasota
County Commissioner who is now simultaneously employed as the paid
executive director of an influential local lobbying organization.

As one Sarasota County Commissioner and another former County
Commissioner recently noted, the job of commissioner is far more than
a full-time job, one saying it demands 60-80 hours/week.

We believe it is untenable and unseemly for a commissioner to be
serving “two masters” in this brazen arrangement, and we also ask,
which of the two masters is getting short shrift?

If you share our incredulity at this and other local examples of the
misbehavior and blatant conflicts of interest that seem to be
increasingly on display in our county government, then on March 24th,
we will need an hour or two of your valuable time, in order that you
can add your voice to our clarion call, when we will demand INTEGRITY
in our county government!

Please plan to join us on April 1 at the County Administration building
when we will debut our challenge to the developer-coddling
politicians and the cynicism and disillusionment they foster in our

On this day, we will demand genuine "integrity" from our elected
officials as well as the other public servants and county staff who
work on our behalf.

Please stay tuned for further information, which will be shared in the
weeks ahead!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,
Your energized and motivated neighbors and friends.

Please RSVP to my Facebook address or Thank you!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Alternative Visions Forum: Hines, Thaxton, Zoller

Video clips from the "Alternative Visions of Sarasota" forum organized by the Better Government Association, and held at the new Gulf Gate Library on Feb. 21, 2015.

The panel included Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines, former CONA president Bill Zoller, and former Sarasota Commissioner Jon Thaxton.

Introductory remarks from each speaker below.

Commissioner Charles Hines

Former Commissioner Jon Thaxton

 Community Leader Bill Zoller

Thaxton answers question

Friday, February 20, 2015

Visions of Sarasota County - A forum on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015


WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 21, 2:00 to 4:00 pm.

WHERE: Auditorium of new Gulf Gate Public Library, Curtis Ave.

Panelists: CHARLES HINES, Sarasota County Commissioner, JON THAXTON, Former Sarasota County Commission, BILL ZOLLER, Past President of CONA.

Moderator: Wade Matthews, Vice Pres, Better Govt. Association.


Free and public invited. Presented by the Better Government Association of Sarasota County, a non-partisan, non profit organization. Questions and discussion will follow the presentations.

For more information , please call (941) 923-0671.

Feeling a little penned in? Talk Traffic!

via the SH_T: 

Time to talk traffic

Convene broad-based group to tackle Ringling Causeway congestion

Traffic backs up on the Ringling Causeway on Wednesday, Jan. 14. City Commissioner Eileen Normile has called for a "traffic summit" of local and state officials to consider solutions for the causeway's seasonal traffic jams.
Published: Friday, February 20, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.
Talk about the Ringling Causeway traffic usually involves a lot of waiting. Waiting in your car or truck for the line of vehicles in front of you to start moving. Waiting for the city, county or state to do something to relieve the congestion.
But some of the Sarasota city commissioners are tired of waiting.
One of them, Eileen Normile, suggested at Tuesday's commission meeting that the city convene a "traffic summit" of local and state officials, urban design experts and others.
The intent would be to explore ideas about how to get traffic moving on the causeway and at its intersections with U.S. 41 at one end and St. Armands Circle at the other.
Two of Normile's colleagues -- Susan Chapman and Suzanne Atwell -- voice support for the summit.
It's an idea that the public, public officials and local businesses should get behind.
Inconvenience and safety
Vehicle counts on the causeway and its main intersections are rising higher than normal for the tourist season, as noted in an editorial last week and in a recent story by the Herald-Tribune's Josh Salman.
The traffic tie-ups are not only an inconvenience for drivers -- turning what is normally a 10-minute trip on the causeway into an ordeal of an hour or more. They pose a safety issue for residents of -- or visitors to -- St. Armands, Lido and Longboat who need emergency medical care on the mainland.
With major residential and commercial developments underway or planned, on and near the U.S. 41/causeway intersection, the time to seek solutions is now.
A traffic summit is a good place to start, and, as Normile said, the sooner one is held, the better.
As we said last week, studies should be conducted to determine where most of the traffic is coming from and where it's going. Among many other questions are whether existing roads and other infrastructure can be adapted to accommodate more traffic, what compromises are acceptable and what is the cost of doing nothing.
Roundabouts are planned for the U.S. 41/causeway intersection and nearby U.S. 41/Fruitville Road, but those would be built years from now -- if they're ever built.
Normile suggested that some "short-term mitigation" is needed now, perhaps a right-turn lane from U.S. 41 to Fruitville. Chapman said mass transit must be part of any solution.
Both those ideas and others should be explored at the traffic summit.
Many potential participants
Normile proposed that the summit include the city's engineering staff and urban design studio as well as representatives from Sarasota County and the state Department of Transportation.
We would add that an official with the county's transit system should be part of the mix, along with Longboat Key officials, St. Armands and downtown merchants, real-estate developers and brokers, community activists, and the operator of the popular shuttle service that serves Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
All interested parties should participate, and all ideas should be on the table.
Just make sure the traffic summit is scheduled at a time that will allow everyone to get there. That might take awhile.

Comment from Bill Zoller:

Well, in reality, it was time to talk traffic a long time ago...before it became untenable! Just as it was time to talk traffic before the comp plan amendments and rezonings for the UTC were granted. Just as it was time to talk traffic when most large projects were being considered. It is inexcusable for our elected officials to approve these sorts of things before they have figured out the impacts. One may ask: is there even a shred of integrityamong our county commissioners who continue to foist these situations on the citizens in order to benefit ... their major campaign contributors? Perhaps their integrity is on the level of a commissioner's thinking that heading up Argus, a major lobbying group here in Sarasota, while serving on the BCC, is not a conflict of interest. How about the fact that, while counties and municipalities around the area are raising their impact fees now that the "crash" is behind us, Sarasota County Commissioners seem content to keep their rates artificially low ... in the face of these untenable traffic situations? Is this what they call "Integrity"? What is wrong with this picture?

Can you think of what this county needs, in one word? Hint: it begins with "I".

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Green Necklace

While Sarasota County (FL) connives to install shooting ranges within Pineland Reserves, cities with something like forethought are devising urban farming business models. Check out this very cool piece out of Baltimore:

This sprawling six acre farm is carved out from the park, sits next to a school and looks more rural than the others due to ample open space and a mix of fields, an orchard and more hoop houses which here are called "high tunnels." A food truck of sorts gets dispatched from here as a mobile supermarket and brings
This fledgling urban "farm" is more like the urban gardening
that many imagine when they hear about urban food
 the products of this farm deep into the eastern food deserts. This non-profit organization, too, has a mission statement:
Real Food Farm works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector.

The Pinelands Reserve: Questions about Transparency

Cathy Antunes has questions for the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners regarding the publishing of all emails related to the County's application for a shooting range in the Pinelands Reserve.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Further responses to the Sarasota County Approval of a Shooting Range in Pinelands Preserve

An exchange between homeowner Josh Wynne and Argus ceo / County Commissioner Christine Robinson:

Mrs. Robertson,
You did not address the supposed errors in my correspondence because you are unable. Your petition was adequate for you because it was, in fact, your petition.
I did not ask for anything unreasonable. Taking some extra time to allow expert review in the interest of public health and safety would not have created an issue for anyone in this matter considering that the current pending lease agreement is valid through October of this year. I suspect that you are fully aware that given a bit more time, your petition would have failed.
I am currently in communication with officials from the FDEP. They directed me to the following information:
"...shooting ranges in Florida are potentially liable to the State of
Florida and third parties for causing any pollution or discharging
pollutants or hazardous substances into the environment. In response
to reports of violations, in recent years, the FDEP stepped up its
investigation and enforcement of these laws at several shooting ranges
in Florida. In response to the increased enforcement by the FDEP, gun
clubs in Florida, many of them allied with the NRA and NSSF,
counterattacked by introducing legislation in 2004 intended to
prohibit state enforcement of these environmental laws at shooting
ranges and imposing severe criminal penalties on any governmental
officials who targeted shooting ranges for enforcement."…/1f6ace344c94334485257178006c0fe…*
Strange though, I seemed to have missed that in your petition info pack. It must have been in that information that you read and that I did not.
It was clear and apparent to the entirety of the public during yesterday’s hearing that you are clueless as to the realities and/or the requirements surround lead and noise mitigation. It will soon be obvious to them that you are clueless because you neglected to request a proper proposal. You allowed your decision in this matter to be made based on testimony from the party with vested interest. There were ZERO third experts on hand to provide any evidence that any of the Comp. Plan Requirements in FLU 1.2.1 were addressed, or met. Is that how “quasi-judicial hearings” work? You are an attorney and you are gaming our political process at the risk of public health and safety. Negligence.
Again, my request for expert involvement in the design of this facility and for inner-County oversight is not a an unreasonable one. I will absolutely expose this entire incestuous process and your flagrant disregard for public safety in a manner and with the result the likes of which you have never seen in any local public forum.
I am currently rallying my neighbors and the County at large. My neighbors feel betrayed and mis-led. The County, once properly informed of the risks and my requests, will back me overwhelmingly.
My resolve in this matter outweighs yours by every test. Your negligence has placed my family at risk. Every member of this commission will look back at that hearing as the defining moment of their tenure if no adequate efforts are made to address the obvious noise and health concerns associated with this project. Do not underestimate me.
I invite any or all of you to a public debate on this topic. No “quasi-judicial” nonsense. Just a good old-fashioned talk on the stumps so that you college educated folk can put us ignorant, non-credible types in our place.
My next steps will involve an official complaint to the FDEP and a full and absolute records requests to begin an investigation into potential Sunshine Law violations and ethics violations related to the double standard evidenced by your premature approval of an incomplete submittal, initiated by this very Board.
Since you enjoy family anecdotes, I will share one of mine with you. My dad always told me, “Son, you can do this the easy way or the hard way. Either way, you are going to do it.”
I look forward to a productive conversation on how this Board can adequately address the public concerns.
Josh Wynne
Native, Resident, Tax Payer, Business Owner, Veteran, Hunter, Outdoorsman, Conservationist, Knight’s Trail Supporter
On Feb 11, 2015, at 6:33 AM, Christine Robinson <> wrote:
Dear Mr. Wynn,
There are many, many errors in your comments below reflecting that you did not have the same information that is in the record and that I have read.
I respect that you have a differing opinion from mine. I gave the petition much thought and review. I based my decision upon the testimony, evidence, and credibility of those testifying. Credibility played a big part in this decision. I will let the record stand for itself.
Best Regards,
Christine Robinson
Sarasota County Commissioner
Sarasota County Government
1660 Ringling Blvd
Sarasota, Florida 34236
Assisted by Robin Bayus
Adrien Lucas

Pinelands Reserve email to the County Commissioners Commissioner Christine Robinson, Commissioner Paul Caragiulo and the rest of the CC's:

County Commissioners,

I was going to write another email after watching yesterday's county meeting regarding the Pineland chop down but why bother when a friend of mine has been so eloquent and accurate. So I will just cut and paste Josh Wynne's letter and say this letter is making the rounds in social media.

This was a sealed deal when you used the shield of "Quasi-Judicial Hearing" and while that was a clever move. The Office of the County Attorney is paid by us, the taxpayers, your constituents. The attorney should not be working to protect your private desires or gifts you bestow upon the Big League Developers or your friends.

Further, Commissioner Robinson, your attempt at shaming the respected Jono Miller, as if it were his fault that the public didn't respond to the Commissioners muddied petition was difficult to sit through. It is your job, all of you, to write transparently, in an understandable manner when posting items of importance for public record. Item 28 - Ordinance No. 2015-002, approving Rezone Petition No. 14-34, may as well of been written in Latin. The words "Pinelands Preserve" were not mentioned. You know, we know, and the petition was filed by you, not by the shooting range which indicates to me,that some of you are very close chums with the gentlemen who run the not-for-profit Knights gun club.

Just for the sake of argument and worst case scenario: if a wild pig eats some clay pigeons (we all know how gluttonous pigs are) and prior to getting sick and poisoned by one, a hunter happens upon it, shoots it in the forest, cooks it up for their family and they all get sick, are county and taxpayers liable for that type of poisoning?

And the SRQ specialist, Matthew Osterhoudt -- the current Manager of Sarasota Conservation and Environmental Permitting -- said that he had not observed any of the endangered species or any species for that matter on the Pineland Reserve inspection he did. Did he go for one day? Did he camp out for 24 hours on an off day? Surely as a Conservation expert he is aware of how difficult it is to observe certain animals in nature. Is his report available for public consumption? Is there a standard observation process that has been created by Sarasota County or is it a state process someone in his position uses to asses animal counts?

We are watching, we will continue to observe and we will continue to protest.


Adrien Lucas
Sarasota County Resident

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Petition to Keep Guns out of Pinelands Reserve

Protect Sarasota's Pinelands Reserve!

We, the signatories, oppose the Sarasota County Commission decision to approve a shooting range on 43 acres of Pinelands Reserve conservation land. 
The Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan requires “recreational uses implemented on the Walton Tract [Pinelands Reserve]....shall be limited to activities which are ecologically benign, non-consumptive, and resource-based." 

A shooting range employing lead shot and clay pigeons will introduce hazardous substances found to be carginogenic and otherwise toxic. 

UPDATE: Pinelands Reserve Hearing: Afterword by Josh Wynne

Mr Wynne followed up his initial response (see below) with a letter to the BCC:

My letter to the Board of County Commissioners. I intend on following this letter with multiple blogs and printed media stories until the Board concedes the need for an administrative action related to this issue or forces legal action. Feel free to copy my sentiments or echo them in your own emails to the county at
I was disappointed in today’s ruling in favor of the variance request formulated and approved by the this Board. I cannot, however, say that I am surprised. This process appeared, in structure, to be as incestuous as it was represented at today’s hearing. There is no doubt that this board intended on approving this measure, without delay and regardless of sound, albeit brief, testimony as to why it should be further investigated prior to approval.
Regardless of Mrs. Robinson’s efforts to dismiss my testimony as an “opportunity to make changes at the last minute” my sole effort was to plead with the Board to hold themselves to a higher standard prior to the execution of this variance approval. It seems apparent that this board was more concerned with rushing this issue through than with getting this right. I have no doubts that had this been a private developer’s request, you would have required an actual study on the potential effects to the site, the potential for stormwater contamination, the potential for costly mitigation should the site no longer operate as a range, the potential for catastrophic and debilitating ground water contamination to the rural residents nearby, as well as the right to enjoy a peaceful and quiet Sunday afternoon on the back porch of our “rural” homes.
You required nothing. There were no scientific studies. There were no considerations given to neighbors. There are no plans that are laid out intelligently based on thoughtful feedback. It is not an exaggeration to say that it would it would require more information for someone to be granted a variance for a tool shed than you required and/or provided in this matter. This is an epic failure on the part of this Board.
It was apparent that you had already justified this expansion with the fact that “there is already shooting in the area.” This is flawed logic and I would invite you into a very public discussion regarding the use of this concept in other public matters. Let’s use parking for this example. Siesta Village has a very real problem with parking. You most certainly would not allow a very significant expansion of public space without stopping to reconsider new parking and traffic impacts. You would require a study and a plan. Why not in this case? Parking is a heavily contested issue in the area, but I would like to think it is of a lower priority than your concern for the health and welfare of the community and its aquifer. The fact that you have allowed a facility to be built and operate under certain terms should not relieve you of the duty of holding newer facilities to a higher standard. This concept can be evidenced in the way the State handles building codes. It is always improving. That is my point. The fact that the existing range operates without having been properly conceived does not give this Board license to approve another that is not conceived at all.
The risks are real. Lead contamination and risks associated with chronic loud noises are inherent with gun ranges. There are dozens of “Erin Brokovitch” style litigation cases on line. Many of them against negligent county administrators. Despite Mr. Black’s erroneous testimony to the contrary, shotguns are among the loudest of all small arms. That is evidenced in the Attachment C Acoustic Report that I submitted to the clerk and will again attach to this mailing. The primary factor, aside from the actual sound wave the gun produces, in deterring the heard sound at a distance is the direction of fire. In other words, the direction they are firing is the loudest. 180 degrees from the direction of fire is the quietest. You would know this had you required ANY amount of diligence be performed prior to this variance being approved. Also contrary to Mr. Black’s testimony, this new range will be much closer to my home and the homes of my neighbors. This is a fact that can be easily proved using Google Earth or would be evidenced in any basic diligence report.
I was pleased to hear from your lessee that they follow Best management Practices. I knew many of the guys from the Skeet club and they are certainly, "good old boys.” I mean that sincerely. Still, not one of them is qualified to ensure the safety of my family as it relates to lead. I was dismayed to hear that there is minimal to no oversight from the County with regards to ensuring Best Practices are being complied with. Every building inspector in Sarasota County knows I build a fine home, and yet they still inspect my homes each an every time. I expect the same oversight on this matter. Certainly the risks are greater.
As I stated today, my effort is not to thwart this range’s approval. My issues are not with Sarasota Trap and Skeet. My issues lie with the less than honest information portrayed to my neighbors by the Petitioner (YOU) as related to who was requesting the variance, where this was occurring, and how it would be managed. I take special exception the absolute fact that no information regarding design standards, safety practice, ongoing monitoring and sound mitigation was provided by the Petitioner (YOU) or required by the deciding entity (YOU). This is a clear conflict and the negligence resulting from the lack of oversight of these issues puts my family at risk. This is unacceptable. Rest assured, you will be in for a very public battle if you do not formulate an administrative requirement outlining a real standard for design, performance, conduct and monitoring related to this project, PRIOR to touching dirt.
I want to believe this is a matter of this Board simply not knowing what is does not know. Now you know.
I look forward to your comprehensive proposal.
Here is another fine example for what a real gun range proposal looks like:


This is a copy of the Comprehensive Plan Requirements related to this variance application

The following “Primary Components” of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan area Applicable to this petition.
FLU Objective 1.2.
Protect the quality and integrity of established residential neighborhoods from adjacent incompatible development.
FLU Policy 1.2.1.
Potential incompatibilities between land uses due to the density, intensity, character or type of use proposed, shall be mitigated through site and architectural design techniques including but not limited to any or all of the following:

provision and location of open space, perimeter buffers, landscaping and berms;
the location and screening of sources of light, noise, mechanical equipment, refuse areas, delivery areas and storage areas;
the location of road access to minimize adverse impacts, increased building setbacks, step downs in building heights; and
increased lot sizes; and lower density or intensity of land use

There is absolutely no information provided by the petitioner of this variance (The Board) that evidences that any of these terms are met. Oddly, the deciding body (The Board) still managed to find sufficient cause to approve the application. This is negligence. It may also be illegal.


Mr. Wynne's initial response (2.10.2015) to the Board of Sarasota Commissioners after they approved the clearing of acres of Pinelands Reserve for the purpose of installing a new shooting range:

As many of you may know, I spoke out against a variance, proposed by and ultimately approved by, the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners. The process was an apparently incestuous one. The land impacts are severe and the legality of the use of the land for the intended purpose is very much in question. The intended use is to expand a shotgunning facility along side Knight's Trail Park and into the Pinelands Reserve, an area designated for environmental management practice.

My efforts were to ask the Board to hold off on a ruling until they provided the community and neighboring residents with detailed information regarding how they intended on managing the use to minimize the absolute risk of lead, arsenic and heavy metal poisoning into our water supply and estuaries (by way of Shakett Creek) as well to study the noise impacts on the community and design the facility in a way that would minimize adjacent disturbance. Currently, the County has no watchdog procedures in place to ensure that the club is actually performing Best Management Practice as required in their lease. They seem like great guys. That is good enough for this Board, I suppose.

As could be expected, my testimony was dismissed by Commissioner Christine Robinson as that of a scorned new neighbor wishing to take a last effort at disrupting the process. Mr. Paul Caragiulo did offer a small consolation prize in the form of a water well for contaminant testing to be added to the stipulations but Mrs. Robinson quickly shot that down as it would interfere with apparent need to put this matter to rest quickly. He said he would follow administratively. Obviously, the need for an expansion of an existing facility is of a higher priority than the health of County Taxpayers like myself, my neighbors and anyone who uses the bay. My entire purpose was to revise the agreement to demonstrate checks and balances that ensure public safety, health and use. TOO MUCH TO ASK.

I intend on seeing this effort through and holding the County to the same standard that they would have held a private entity to, if this request were generated differently. I provided them with examples of what a true proposal for a gun range looks like, as evidenced by the many professional applications made elsewhere in our region. By not making such requirements on this parcel, the Commission is demonstrating the following:

- They feel they are exceptional and not subject to the standards they enforce on other development requests
- They are more concerned with feeding their own needs to see this project unfold than they are with the health and welfare of the surrounding community and Sarasota at large
- They are not concerned with the legal burden they are placing on the backs of taxpayers should this matter becoming a civil legal action.

This is what a REAL public proposal for a gun range looks like:

The Commissioners made no such efforts.

Please write to your commissioners today and express your discontent. The collective email is 

Let them know you oppose their decision to push their Pinelands Reserve agenda through without taking the proper measures. Feel free to copy this body and send it if you cannot express your frustrations your self.

I may decide to run for Commission when this ends. I think the the Board could use a pissed off Sarasota Native on the side of fairness. What do you think? Who has my vote?

Antunes: Letter to Sarasota County on Proposed Shooting Range on Pinelands Reserve

Via Cathy Antunes' site, The Detail:

Dear Commissioners,

Good morning!  I may not be able to give public input during agenda item 28 today due to a prior commitment, so I am sending you my written comments.

I urge you to reject the petition to approve Pinelands Reserve conservation land for a shooting range.  The petition ought to be rejected for the following reasons:

According to the Comprehensive Plan (Recreational and Open Space Chapter 1),  “recreational uses implemented on the Walton Tract [Pinelands Reserve] and T. Mabry Carlton, Jr.Memorial Reserve shall be limited to activties which are ecologically benign, non-consumptive, and resource-based."  This wording is also found in the Sarasota County Land Management Master plan and the Pinelands Reserve management plan.  A shooting range on the Pinelands Reserve violates these requirements.

  • A shooting range employing lead shot and clay pigeons will introduce hazardous substances found to be carginogenic and otherwise toxic.  I refer you to the references provided in the correspondence background materials for this agenda item.  Such harmful substance are the antithesis of ecologically benign.                                                                                                                                                                   
  • A shooting range employing lead shot and clay pigeons will generate significant noise which will discourage or eliminate nesting birds.  Not ecologically benign.
  • Clearing substantial acres of conservation land for a shooting range is neither resource-based, non-consumptive, nor ecologically benign.
  • The submitted permit fails to include best planned management practices addressing the planned use of lead shot & clay pigeons.  The permit itself doesn’t comply with County requirements for approving land use changes. 
  • The submitted application fails to include Disclosure of Ownership form.  Again the permit itself doesn’t comply with County requirements for approving land use changes. 
  • The submitted application fails to include an Owner Affidavit form.  Again the permit itself doesn’t comply with County requirements for approving land use changes. 
  • The submitted application fails to include a Billable Fee Pay Agreement.  Again the permit itself doesn’t comply with County requirements for approving land use changes. 
  • The submitted application fails to indicate that the soil (pineda soil) is subject to flooding/standing water.
  • This land use change will effectively privatize public land.

It has been reported that the neighborhood workshop held on this issue failed to notify residents that the lands in question are conservation lands, specifically Pinelands Reserve.  Today’s agenda item description also fails to identify the land in question as Pinelands Reserve conservation land.  This is a substantive omission.  Failure to communicate clearly on this subject with the public calls into question the validity of the outcomes of the ensuing meetings.  

Is it true that County employees have refrained from bringing these and perhaps other concerns forward regarding the shooting range application for fear of reprisal?  Reports of County employee intimidation are reminiscent of the reported “marked for death” County culture which existed under Jim Ley.  Will you be initiating an ethic investigation into these concerns? (I refer you to the background correspondence document for this agenda item).

My input is informed by my service on the board of the Council of Neighborhood Associations since 2011, during which time I have studied the Comprehensive Plan and given input to the County Commission regarding land use issues.  I have written various columns and guest columns addressing land use issues, as well as blog entries on my website,  Thank you for your consideration.


Cathy Antunes

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lucas: Letter to Sarasota Commissioners regarding Pinelands Reserve Shooting Range

Letter from Adrian Lucas to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners regarding a proposal to use 11 acres of Pineland Reserve for a shooting range. A public hearing will be held Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at the County Admin Building in Venice, FL:

Sarasota County Commissioners,
Although I believe in my heart this email will fall on blind eyes, I am hopeful tomorrow you will consider not voting in favor of the Comp Plan / Pinelands Reserve's 11 acres being chopped down for a shooting range. We have an accessible, fabulous shooting range in Manatee County; the Manatee Gun and Archery Club, within driving distance for all who live near the Pinelands Reserve and who wish to practice shooting their guns, bows or taking out clay pigeons. An additional shooting range just seems like another unnecessary redundancy and waste of important land when the Manatee G&A is just about an hour's drive away, and a pretty drive at that.

What I DO know is each time Sarasota County commissioners' green lights the continued slicing and gutting of this counties natural assets, it is you, our Commissioners' who are adding additional stress to the wildlife residents of this county. And planet for that matter. Yes you.

We are all in this ecosystem together and each time a swath of land is cut down, any sporting activities, be it hunting, bird watching, butterfly observing, hiking, is being diminished. Not all of us have the luxury to travel to another state to hunt or watch birds and wildlife; we are fortunate as residents of this county to be able to do this. 

The Pineland Reserve is a local treasure as showcased on the Sarasota County website under Pinelands Preserve "Natural Lands" and while there may be 6000 acres, each time you chip away, you chip away the wildlife that lives there. Considering the beautiful pamphlet by Sarasota County showcasing the birds who live there, "Birds of Pinelands Preserve" by eliminating 11 acres to a shooting range, the sound of bullets/noise pollution coupled with the potential lead pollution is a scientifically sound argument that a vote in favor of the shooting range will hurt wildlife in the surrounding preserve.
I won't waste your time with the consideration of privatization of public conservation lands, I know that will fall on deaf ears and with all due respect, I know who your real constituents are, it certainly isn't nature or to an average person of Sarasota. So let's get back to the land, enough of my jabs.

11 acres may not seem like a huge chunk of land to you but in consideration of the wildlife that lives in this Pineland Reserve, it's a huge chunk of land for the species who live there. When Audubon reports for the past 50 years show a massive decline in their annual bird counts and the Monarch butterfly is being considered for addition to the U.S. endangered list, it indicates there is a problem. When the SRQ County pamphlet shows that there are just "limited sightings" of certain birds, some of those birds are shy and difficult to view, however, a large number of the birds on the county list (if not all) are declining in number nationally. And the problem exists from lack of places for these species to live and eat. And the places that do exist for these creatures are being dangerously impaired and harmed by pesticides.

The Pinelands Preserve is an oasis for numerous creatures. We, and you, are responsible to ensure that these species exist for future generations.
If you all continue to chop, hack, slice and dice public conservation lands then you are in deep denial of the legacy you leave for your own children and the people of Sarasota County.


Adrien Lucas

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sarasota County "needs our voices" on the Comp Plan

Now that the Comp Plan has been amended, Sarasota County seems to want to introduce citizens to its concept
Would it not have been more logical to get the people's' input before huddling with the developers and amending the plan beyond recognition to favor those same developers?
Kinda sounds like . . . poor planning.

SARASOTA COUNTY - Sarasota County will kick off the next Comprehensive Plan Update with a public event from 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, in Conference Room AB of the Gulf Gate Library, 7112 Curtiss Ave., Sarasota.
The Comprehensive Plan is updated regularly to reflect existing community characteristics and demographics changes, with an understanding of anticipated future trends. It also guides future development and growth.
"Over the coming years, southwest Florida anticipates an influx of new residents and seasonal visitors who will bring with them the need for commercial and residential development," said Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer. "Planning for this growth is a vital part of ensuring a good quality of life for those living and working in Sarasota County."
The goal of the update process is to encourage healthy dialogue between citizens and government, and help citizens understand the importance of the plan. The kick-off event is just the beginning of an 18-month-long series of cycles that will address individual themes ranging from environmental systems to quality of life.
"We want to emphasize that the Comprehensive Plan is not just about land use and urban design," said Planning Division Manager Allen Parsons. "Planning for a successful community is just as much about the future of our libraries, educational systems and infrastructure. Each priority fuels the others, and no community can call itself a success unless it carefully considers how each theme can ultimately serve all of its citizens. The Comprehensive Plan is a tool we use today to plan for a resilient and thriving community that will serve all of our citizens into the future."
The update begins in March with the first of seven cycles which address major community themes such as environment, mobility, economic development, public utilities, land use, urban design & quality of life. Each cycle will last approximately eight weeks (although some may last longer) and will begin with an online survey and materials to educate the public about the plan and gather input on the respective cycles.
After each cycle closes, staff will evaluate the goals, policies and objectives for that cycle, combine all the public feedback into an end of cycle report which will be loaded to the website for review. The end of the cycle reports will inform the Comprehensive Plan.
The county will allow distance participation via a website that will illustrate each cycle of the update and include a survey section, public meeting announcements, an events calendar and documents pertaining to the update process.
At the end of the process in 2016, staff will use all the feedback gathered to draft a Comprehensive Plan that is simpler to use and understand.
For more information about the Comprehensive Plan update call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sarasota County to consider Private Shooting Range in Public Pinelands Reserve

via Andy Mele: (snipped in places):

Next Tuesday there is a Sarasota County Commission meeting to discuss re-zoning 44 acres of conservation lands in the Pinelands Reserve so that a private shooting range, blasting lead shot and PAH-laden so-called clay pigeons across the countryside, can be established. If this goes forward uncontested, the way will be clear for the rezoning, reclassification, recertification, re-what-have-you of any conservation lands in the county. The County is nominally the applicant, a feeble stab at establishing a public benefit component to this flagrant privatization of public land. I urge you all, and anyone else you can bring, to join me at this meeting to speak our piece.

What is our piece, exactly? There are two parts:

1. First, and most important, is the precedent this will set if it is allowed to move forward. All the protections afforded to Conservation Lands will have been swept aside, and pieces will be carved out until the county is unrecognizable
Voters again and again taxed themselves to conserve natural lands. The purpose of conservation land, (the Pinelands Reserve is listed, page 3-39, LMP) is "for the conservation of Sarasota County’s natural heritage.” (see below, LMP, page 3-15)

Pinelands Reserve, Sarasota County
2/ Second, to legally get this ill-considered measure through, the County will have to argue that the gun range is an environmentally benign activity. Here's why that argument falls apart before it even starts:
1. Lead shot. Nationwide, 9,000 gun ranges shoot 100-150 million pounds of lead shot every year. While best management calls for periodic soil scraping, separation of the lead, and then replacement of the soil, many ranges have always left the lead in place, and continue to do so.
There are three sources of lead in humans. Paint, dust & soil, and drinking water. Two of those three are present at a shooting range.
Lead shot oxidizes and becomes water soluble. In that state, it will attach to molecules in storm water, and migrate into both ground water and surface waters used for drinking. Florida's sandy soil is highly conducive to this migration.
2. Clay pigeons. These targets are not clay any more, but are made of some 30% petroleum pitch or coal tar products. They contain such high loads of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that UK oil seed farmers have filed injunctions against farmers shooting skeet over oil seed fields. Very high levels of PAH in the oil seed resulted in thousands of tons of the agricultural product being incinerated as hazardous waste, at great expense. Remington. a major manufacturer of targets, claims on the box that they do not biodegrade. Gun magazine blogs say that the best way to get rid of the shattered targets is to crush them with your boots or run over them with your ATV until they are reduced to grit.
A single firing position will contaminate 2-5 acres. Most ranges have several firing positions. The clay target fragments are found in a fan shape 65'-250' from the firing position. Lead shot accumulates in a fan 375'- 600' out.
So far, only wild pigs have been observed eating the targets and gradually becoming sick. That said, EPA risk assessment has been performed for the humans who use or live near these facilities, and the results indicate significant risks to human health.
Please join me at the Board of County Commissioners meeting. Register to speak. If someone steals your thunder, or you change your mind, you are not obligated to speak. But this is a bad one. I hope to see you there.


Editor's Note: See also Jono Miller's Blog Post about this issue.

The County has a brochure about the Birds of the Pineland Reserve.