Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mobility - ? - in Sarasota: Workshop today

from Dan Lobeck of Control Growth Now:

Sarasota County "Mobility Plan" Moves Forward
(Although We Won't Be Able To If It's Adopted)

Sarasota County government has just revised its schedule for considering its "Mobility Plan" to increase traffic congestion and promote urban sprawl, to the benefit of the developers who control the County Commission, by:

  -- Repealing concurrency, the rule that a developer must produce a traffic study and pay its share of road improvements shown to be needed by that study.

  -- Slashing road impact fees on developers even further in much of the County, while keeping them far below full impact fees everywhere.
  -- Reducing road improvements in most of the urban County while emphasizing the funding of new roads to open up rural lands for development.

   -- Embracing traffic congestion, on the premise we should make more trips by foot, bicycle and buses that get caught in traffic too.

The schedule is as follows.  Concerned citizens should take every opportunity to speak out against this crazy scheme.

Thursday, May 28, 2 pm 1001 Sarasota Center Boulevard (County Operations Center east of I-75 and north of Fruitville Road) - Workshop with public questions and answers following this Powerpoint presentation by Special Projects Manager Jonathan Paul: Mobility Plan Powerpoint.

Tuesday, July 7after 1:30 pm. 4000 South Tamiami Trail, Venice (Anderson Center) - Staff presentation followed by authorization of public hearing.  No public input is scheduled but comment is allowed during Open To the Public at 1:30.

Tuesday, September 8 - time and place not yet determined - Public hearing on adoption of the Mobility Plan.

The consequences of traffic congestion include air pollution, stress-related health problems, increased traffic accidents, ambulance delays, loss of family time and diminished quality of life.  Also, it harms business by delaying the delivery of goods and services, increasing commute times and discouraging tourism.  Here's a report of how traffic congestion is hurting businesses in South Florida: Miami Herald: Traffic Congestion Hurts Business.

We need to speak out about this before uncontrolled growth makes us another Miami.

  -- Dan Lobeck
     Join Control Growth Now

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mobility is the next Comp Plan Cycle - June 17, 20, 25

Comprehensive Plan Update: 
Cycle 2 - Mobility
Mobility refers to the movement of people. It effectively and efficiently moves people and goods, shapes urban form, affects economic vitality and impacts quality of life. Cycle 2 Mobility starts on May 4 and runs throughJune 30, 2015.  This Cycle's topic areas include bicycle and pedestrian networks, trails, traffic circulation, public transit, aviation, water transit and rail. Click here to take the survey! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

AECOM's Mythology of Fiscal Neutrality: Dan Lobeck

The Arduin scam:

See Cathy Antunes

See the Herald Tribune

From attorney Dan Lobeck:

Note: The Sarasota County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Fiscal Neutrality, the subject discussed below, Thursday, May 21, 2015, inconveniently placed near the end of its agenda at a meeting that begins at 6:30 at the Anderson Administration Building in Venice. Although concerned citizens are urged to appear and speak out, unfortunately another commitment prevents my participation at this meeting. Nevertheless, I have provided these comments for the record and urge others to do so, at the meeting or by email to Sarasota County Officials. The County Commission will have a public hearing on the Fiscal Neutrality changes which is tentatively scheduled for July 8.

Please note also that the County Commission has scheduled meetings on its Mobility Plan, a scheme to further slash road impact fees, relieve developers of traffic studies and their proportionate share of road improvements by repealing concurrency, and embrace traffic congestion by those actions as well as by abandoning most road improvements, on the premise that we should be forced to walk and bike wherever we go as well as take buses that get caught in gridlock too.

This outrageous proposal, which Commissioners Maio and Hines say “excites” them, is scheduled for a “workshop” (probably a walkaround to talk with staff) at 2 pm Thursday May 28 at the County Operations Center at 1001 Center Boulevard. A draft of the proposal will then be presented to the County Commission at its June 2 meeting. A public hearing for formal consideration will be scheduled at a future date.

I will seek to keep you posted.

-- Dan Lobeck
Control Growth Now Website

Gutting Fiscal Neutrality

After gutting the rest of the Sarasota 2050 Plan and some parts of fiscal neutrality, the County Commission hired political consultant Donna Arduin to review fiscal neutrality, the requirement that Sarasota 2050 developments (urban growth allowed in rural lands) pay their own way. She recommended that it be repealed, as well as virtually all other controls on development in the County. (The County Administrator Randy Reid had recommended that a neutral expert academic be hired for that review, but he was fired for that and for other postures that did not please the big developers). Next, the Commission hired AECOM, which has a history of giving a pass to developers in its “independent” reviews of their fiscal neutrality reports, despite demonstrated flaws.

Now as the County’s fiscal neutrality consultant, AECOM has produced a revised “methodology” for developers to prove their Sarasota 2050 developments are not a burden on the taxpayers. It is more a mythology than a methodology, a fiction designed to insure that developers pay no more than other developers in the County, which is far too low to make growth pay its own way, as evidenced by ever-growing shortfalls today in meeting the demands of new development.

Consider for example that the County Commission recently concluded that it is $350 million dollars short in funds for needed expansion of administrative and justice facilities, evidence that County impact fees for those purposes are inadequate. And the lack of sufficient impact fee revenue for a new fire station near the University Town Center Mall. And on and on. Impact fees are demonstrably insufficient for fiscal neutrality. That is why fiscal neutrality was created in the Sarasota 2050 Plan, to add revenue to that produced by impact fees in order to achieve true fiscal neutrality. Now AECOM, and the County Commission if it adopts its report, would throw fiscal neutrality in the trash.

For operating expenses in a fiscal neutrality report, AECOM requires merely a simple “per-capita” analysis. That simply divides the total County budget for each category of expense (law enforcement, fire and rescue, general government, etc.) by the total County population and then multiplies that by the number of residents in the new development, or the proportionate property value of nonresidential development.

AECOM rejects the “case study” approach which it says is used in some fiscal neutrality analyses, saying that is “difficult” for a developer because it “requires an ample amount of time and budget to conduct.” However, that ignores the fact that urban development in rural lands will be more expensive for the County to service in many regards, such as longer trips for law enforcement, fire and rescue, code enforcement and other purposes.

For capital expenses, AECOM says that impact fees will be deemed sufficient, except where County staff somehow identifies an “extraordinary expense” which it requires the developer to pay. Again, no specific study is required to determine each capital facility impact of the development.

This directly and indisputably violates Section 11.2.14.b.3 of the Sarasota County Zoning Code, which provides, “Fiscal Neutrality shall be determined for each development project on a case-by-case basis, considering the location, phasing, and development program of the project.” So AECOM rejects the “case study” approach to fiscal neutrality because it is difficult and expensive for the developer, even though the County Code requires it!

AECOM’s rejection of the “case study” approach also violates Policy VOS 2.9 of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan, which requires a detailed report of anticipated facility needs and expenses for each proposed Sarasota 2050 development “on a case-by case basis” for its impact on a list of public facilities depending on the location, phasing and program of the development, according to procedures adopted by the County. Very significantly, that legally binding and mandatory Comprehensive Plan policy then states: “For off-site impacts, the procedures will require that the total proportionate share cost of infrastructure be included and not simply the existing impact fee rates” (emphasis added). Not just “extraordinary expenses”, as AECOM would require, but all expenses for the expansion of public facilities.

For example, if impact fees for courts, jails and administrative facilities are too low, as is evident by the current large shortfall for those needs, a Sarasota 2050 developer would be required to pay nothing for those facilities beyond the lowballed impact fees, unless an “extraordinary expense” for those purposes was identified by County staff to be specifically triggered by that particular development. And the same for roads throughout the County and for all other facilities.

AECOM states in its initial draft that a detailed study should not be required because that would be costly to the developer and as such might “have the effect of deterring development.” Can the bias for the developer and against the taxpayer be any more evident?

Section 11.2.14 of the Sarasota County Zoning Code also provides at substantial length the requirements for a detailed analysis of the facility and service impacts of each Sarasota 2050 development, including a specific assessment of each facility impacted by the development according to the County’s adopted levels of service. It further provides, “The [Fiscal Neutrality] Plan shall include reasonable estimates of the cost of such facilities, prepared by a civil engineer, registered in the state of Florida.”

Indeed, AECOM itself, in providing a required independent review of one fiscal neutrality report, faulted it for failing to include those cost estimates by a civil engineer. (The County Commission ended up approving that report despite that legal violation, against the recommendation of its Planning Commission, which sought denial because of that violation and others).

It should also be noted that County financial staff, in reviewing a fiscal neutrality report by Henry Fishkind for Village of Lakewood Ranch South, faulted his conclusion that impact fees are adequate for fiscal neutrality, observing that in fact they are not because impact fees have been proven over time to produce inadequate revenues to pay for all required new public facilities.

Further, the Sarasota County Commission has never implemented full impact fees, most recently slashing already reduced road impact fees by 50% and now proposing to cut them even further, including for “mixed use” developments which may include Sarasota 2050 Villages.

AECOM even states that if impact fees are “temporarily” suspended or reduced even below the artificially reduced rate at which they are adopted, revenues from full impact fees shall be assumed. Although AECOM now states in its revised report that the developer in that instance shall provide a plan to “mitigate” that circumstance, it gives the developer an out. It provides that the developer, as an option to paying higher impact fees, may propose that the County reduce capital facility expenditures – even though that may inadequately handle the development’s impacts -- or “identify other revenue sources.”

Further, by accepting impact fees as adequate to pay for roads, other than “extraordinary expenses” of the County which immediately serve that development, AECOM ignores the requirement of the Comprehensive Plan that fiscal neutrality pay for “Countywide impacts on County, City, State and Federal transportation facilities.” Impact fees are levied only for County-funded roads, excluding for example I-75, on which Sarasota 2050 developments will have a huge impact. The Comprehensive Plan requires that Sarasota 2050 developers pay the County for those impacts, which the County then would contribute towards needed improvements of those state and federal roads.

Although AECOM states that if a developer is required to pay a proportionate share of the cost of any specific road improvement, that will be added to its fiscal neutrality payment. However, in its pending “Mobility Plan”, the Sarasota County Commission has proposed to repeal the current requirement for a developer to identify and pay for such costs, known as concurrency. Also, although that requirement was also contained in the state law for a Development of Regional Impact (which Sarasota 2050 Villages are generally big enough to fall under), that law was repealed by the 2015 Florida Legislature. So that proportionate share requirement will soon be meaningless.

Although the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan explicitly requires that each fiscal neutrality analysis conduct an inventory of the facility improvements required for each Sarasota 2050 development, AECOM in its initial report dismissed that legally binding requirement as not “feasible” due to the time and cost of that study by the developer.

AECOM also violates the Comprehensive Plan by excluding public hospitals and transit as expenses for which the developer must pay its share, in AECOM’s latest draft of its Fiscal Neutrality Guide. Although AECOM begrudingly revised its Analysis to acknowledge that hospital and transit impacts are required (after its omission of those expenses in its initial draft was criticized) it continues to omit them in the AECOM Fiscal Neutrality Guide itself. Even in the revised analysis, AECOM states that only a “marginal” consideration of hospitals and transit should be provided, after interviews with hospital and transit staff, not based on a professional study of the development’s impacts on hospital and transit needs, as required by the Comprehensive Plan and County Code.

AECOM also violates the Comprehensive Plan by omitting water supply and delivery, sewage transmission and treatment, solid waste and storm and surface water management from fiscal neutrality analysis, again on the basis that there are impact fees for such facilities and that they are funded by utility rates. What this disregards is that taxes and utility rates are also used for those purposes. Fiscal neutrality requires that the applicant demonstrate that taxpayers and ratepayers will not have to pay for facility improvements required to serve the Sarasota 2050 development.

AECOM allows a developer to overestimate income by assuming tax revenues in the year occupied, even though AECOM acknowledges that “there is typically a ‘lag’ of one year” after occupancy for taxes to begin to be assessed. This is typical of AECOM overstating revenues and understating expenses, to the benefit of the developer and the detriment of the taxpayers. Because of the one year lag, tax revenues should be counted beginning in the year following occupancy. AECOM offers as its only explanation for its recommendation that it is a matter of “simplicity”. Starting tax revenues in the year after occupancy is not only also simple, it is by contrast accurate.

AECOM allows a developer to assume revenue from commercial development based on the gas tax and telecommunications tax paid by the employees. While there is some basis to allow a count of some portion of an employee’ gas tax, it overstates revenue to allow all of that gas tax because only part of the employee’s driving is to and from work. And there is no basis whatsoever for counting the telecommunication (phone and Internet bill) tax paid by the employees.

This gutting of fiscal neutrality, if approved by the County Commission, is a betrayal to the taxpayers as and a threat to the adequacy of public facilities. It well serves the big developers who are so influential in recruiting and bankrolling County Commission candidates but it ill serves those who our public servants are supposed to be elected to serve.

-- Dan Lobeck

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rick Scott makes Contributor-Developer head of Hospital Board

via the Herald Tribune:

Developer, a Scott loyalist, at helm of hospital panel

By Dale White , Herald-Tribune

Friday, May 15, 2015

As a political supporter of Gov. Rick Scott and already a gubernatorial appointee to several regional boards, Manatee County-based developer Carlos Beruff is regarded by political observers as an unsurprising choice by Scott to head a new state panel looking into hospital profits and health care funding gaps.


As a major supporter and confidant, Carlos Beruff already casts considerable influence with the state’s chief executive. (H-T ARCHIVE)

During Scott’s re-election effort, Beruff donated nearly $100,000 to Scott’s campaign and political action committee Let’s Get to Work. Since 2002, Beruff has been a major Republican Party donor, giving more than $330,000 to state candidates through his various holdings. He also served on Scott’s transition team after the governor’s first election.

As a major supporter and confidant, Beruff already casts considerable influence with the state’s chief executive.

Scott’s critics regard his appointment of Beruff to the new Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to be based strictly on political favoritism rather than expertise. Beruff is a home builder, not a health care expert.

“Rick Scott has appointed a banker, a builder, an integrated beef consultant — whatever an integrated beef consultant is — to this committee who clearly lack the qualifications to solve the problems in Florida’s health care system,” said Joshua Karp, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party. MORE...

More about Carlos Beruff

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Numbers: A profile of Benderson Development's impact on our area

By Cooper Levey-Baker for Sarasota Magazine:


No. of properties owned by Benderson Development Company
40 million-plus
National square footage owned by Benderson
14.2 million
Square footage of property owned by Benderson and related companies in Sarasota County
$55.4 million
Just (market) value of those Sarasota County properties
22.5 million
Square footage of property owned by Benderson and related companies in Manatee County
$176.4 million
Just value of those Manatee County properties
Total minimum acreage of properties in both counties
Source: Sarasota and Manatee County Property Appraisers


Square footage of The Mall at University Town Center
Source: Benderson and Taubman Centers press release
$315 million
Cost of mall development
Source: Benderson and Taubman Centers press release
$7.1 million
Total impact fees paid by Benderson, Taubman, Macy’s, Saks and Dillard’s to Sarasota County for the mall
Source: Sarasota County
Property taxes paid on the mall by Benderson and Taubman in 2014
$7.1 million
State’s total design cost for the diverging diamond interchange at University Parkway and I-75
$83 million
State’s total estimated cost of diverging diamond interchange
Benderson Sarasota


There's more - much more -- to Cooper Levey-Baker's research at Sarasota Magazine. Read it here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hines and Fitzgerald at Cona

A few highlights of the discussion of the state legislature's debacle and its impact upon local government, held by CONA on May 11, 2015. The speakers were Sarasota Commissioner Charles Hines and former Florida State Rep Keith Fitzgerald, and the discussion was moderated by Bill Zoller.

Amendment 1: Both Hines and Fitzgerald agreed that they doubted the special session called to resolve the budget gap would even address Amendment 1.

l. to r.: Hines, Fitzgerald, Zoller
Fitzgerald noted that beginning in the 70's, Florida "started comprehensive planning" and led the way that other states followed. "Now we are laggard," he added, thanks to the rising influence of large developers and their allied industries.

The State government, now a one-party entity, does the bidding of developers, he continued. For example, the State removed regional review of large developments (DRIs), eviscerating the development review system. This lets large scale development off the hook. If governmental protection of quality of life is toothless, developers no longer need to be responsive to the aesthetics, environmental values, and infrastructure needs of the population.

Development deregulation: "DRI is gone - up to local government to manage the process," said Hines, adding that he was "not sure whether legislature will even deal with Amendment 1 in the special session."

Fitzgerald: "We know developments aren’t going to pay for themselves -- even if you don’t care about environment or aesthetics. The County Commission has no backstop -- it would help to have some regional support."

Hines: "It used to be if a road was failing, you [i.e., local government] could just say no. Now you can’t say no. If a road is failing, they’ll [developers] sue the county and say here’s your check for proportionate share."

Significant issues that the State will probably not tackle in Special Session:

Hines - The Legislature will not get to address:

Fitzgerald agreed that Amendment 1 and Medical Marijuana would not be addressed. Also, he added
  • High-speed rail 
  • "We need a statewide plan for sea level rise - we have none."
  • Water 

Both said there are significant healthcare issues that should be on the table in Tallahassee, but won't be.

Fitzgerald, who teaches Political Science at New College, then offered his take on how it is possible for a state legislature to act like a tinpot potentate on crack (he didn't exactly put it that way):

"We have one-party government in the state of Florida, because the vast majority of legislators are in districts that are not electorally competitive - they don’t answer to anybody," he said.

In addition, Fitzgerald sees "systematic corruption from gerrymandering" that skews votes so that elections are no longer elections, but safe bets.

"Neither party has politicians responsible to the electorate," he said, adding that "to begin to set things right would require serious campaign finance reform."

But how get even that, if the legislature is locked up by a cabal that has rigged the system?

Charter Amendment

Bill Zoller threw out an idea. How about a Charter Amendment in Sarasota County that would require Open Primaries? That is, every voter in Sarasota could vote for the candidate of their choice in primaries. Candidates would still have party labels, but all parties, including independents, would be able to vote in all primaries in Sarasota County.

There are plenty of places around the country where elections are structured as open primaries, said Fitzgerald. Such a move, he added, "would change politics fundamentally in Sarasota."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just a few of the 304 comments by Citizens of Sarasota about Argus and Robinson - have you signed?

Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government
Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government

The obligation of a Sarasota County Commissioner to serve the public interest must not be compromised by competing responsibilities to a special interest group. We the signatories call upon Christine Robinson to step down as Argus Foundation Executive Director, or resign the Sarasota County Commission. It is an unacceptable conflict of interest to do both jobs at the same time.

Background: Last November, Christine Robinson accepted an offer to serve as executive director of the Argus Foundation in 2015. The Argus Foundation represents the interests of over 170 members from development, legal, financial and other business sectors. Argus lobbies County government on a variety of issues, including impact fees, land use decisions and SRQ Airport governance. Argus also lobbies the City of Sarasota on issues including elected mayor, strong City manager, Newton redevelopment, and Downtown development. The executive director of Argus frequently weighs in with City and County Commissioners on these and other issues.

The Argus website states "The Argus Foundation has established liaisons with city, county, state and federal governments.....Activities of the various governmental bodies are monitored and positions are taken on selected issues. With the broad background and practical expertise of the members of The Argus Foundation, we are in a position to advise and assist public officials in decisions that will affect the life-style, environment and economic well-being of our area now and in the future."

Argus is a long established local lobbying organization. This is Conflict of Interest 101. In DC elected officials leave office before working as lobbyists. This ill-considered move by a Sarasota County Commissioner sets a much lower standard.

As Mollie Cardamone, former Mayor of the City of Sarasota put it "Christine Robinson cannot represent both the citizens who elected her and the Argus members, the employers who are paying for her support and leadership in accomplishing their goals. Will she go out front to the podium and state the case for Argus like [former Argus Executive Director] Kerry [Kirschner] did and then run around to her commission seat and vote? It is my opinion she cannot serve two masters!"

Mrs. Robinson cannot faithfully execute her duties to the public free from undue influence while she is also Executive Director of Argus. We call on Christine Robinson to do the right thing. Embrace sound ethical standards. Resolve this conflict of interest. Step down as Argus Foundation Executive Director, or resign the Sarasota County Commission. It is an unacceptable conflict of interest to do both.


February 17
We are now live!


    John C. Minder

    Feb 17, 2015

    Argus Foundation, Inc. Executive Director or Sarasota County Board of County Commissioner but not both at the same time. I have been a member of the Argus Foundation Inc. since 1985 and I have lived in Sarasota County for the past 34 years . I am a Registered Professional Engineer and a Registered Professional Surveyor in the State of Florida. I am the President of Minder & Associates Engineering Corporation, a 29 year old Consulting Engineering, Landscape Architecture And Surveying & Mapping Firm located in Sarasota County. I am appalled at The Sarasota County Attorney advising Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson that she did not have a Conflict of Interest by accepting the Professional Position of Executive Director of the Argus Foundation, inc. while continuing to serve as a Sarasota County Commissioner. I have told Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson that I will support her as the Executive Director of the Argus Foundation, Inc. or I will support her as Sarasota County Commissioner but I will not support her as serving in both positions at the same time. I have served on numerous Argus Foundation, Inc. Committees and I have served on Numerous Sarasota County Committees in the thirty four years I have lived in Sarasota County and it is my professional opinion that Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson has a Direct Conflict of Interest by serving as a Sarasota County Commissioner while also serving as the Executive Director of the Argus Foundation, Inc.

  • charles hickey
  • Apr 19, 2015
  • resign
  • Apr 16, 2015
    business as usual in Sarasota County
  • Apr 16, 2015
    politics as usual in Sarasota County
  • Apr 15, 2015
    You cannot ethically serve two masters
  • Apr 14, 2015
    A 5 year old can see this is an obvious conflict.
  • Apr 14, 2015
    let her be with argus, and run her out of office.
  • Apr 14, 2015
    Keep up the good work.
  • Apr 14, 2015
    Appears that this is a conflict of interest
  • Apr 12, 2015
    I have much respect for the volume of knowledge and hard work which Commissioner Robinson brings to her work: but the appearance of impropiety is undeniable and should be eliminated. One job on behalf of her constituents is all the people of Sarasota require -- and desire.
  • Apr 11, 2015
    You have no shame, however, WE do and you are an embarresment.
  • Apr 11, 2015
    Beyond anyone's idea of reasonable ethics.
  • Apr 07, 2015
    She must resign,not hang on.
  • Apr 06, 2015
    Make a choice.
  • Apr 06, 2015
    Please step down from the County Commission. It is way too clear with whom your loyalties lie;
  • Apr 04, 2015
    It is time to choose one
  • Apr 04, 2015
    This is wrong on its face. Blatant disregard for Ethics 101.
  • Apr 04, 2015
    Please resign from one of them