Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Neighborhood opposes Benderson at Stickney Point - Update

A neighborhood workshop on Monday asked area residents for their wish lists of feasibility studies for a planned development at the key intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.

But most of them just wish the project wouldn't move forward at all.

Siesta Promenade, a hotly contested mixed-use development, was back in the public eye Monday for the first time since early October, when Sarasota County tabled the discussion to set a Critical Area Plan boundary. The public workshop was designed so the Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co. and Sarasota County could collect public input about what would be included in the scope of work for the project that's expected to break ground sometime next year.


Photo from Herald Tribune

A citizen's response to the Siesta Promenade traffic issue, sent to the HT reporter:

I went to two of the Benderson meetings and signed the sheet for continued updates and received nothing.  Therefore, I missed this last meeting.  Not happy! 
Benderson has a history of morphing situations into what ever they want.  Look at the original proposals for the town center.  It was supposed to be a smart growth development. Here we go again with Siesta Promenade. Traffic studies are antiquated and the community and visitors are left with ever increasing safety issues. I attempted to get the latest comprehensive plan update to recognize this and put effort in developing a more relevant/ safety conscious traffic study connected directly with the building approval process. People have listened but the many stakeholders have no impetus to take the necessary steps. I've explored many avenues. 
I have come to the conclusion that a state comprehensive plan amendment will force the need. 
Data presently isn't designed for the need.  I've tried for months to get at the requirements for evacuation routes and who is in charge and monitors these .  Yes, there seems to be some requirements and Siesta Promenade, Fruitville, Bee Ridge and others all are designated evacuation routes. 
There are silos of interests here that are not combining efforts to put safety first.
Maybe this is some fuel for future articles. 
Vicki Nighswander MAT, MPH

Monday, December 19, 2016

Updates: Go Solar -- Learn How on January 4 at Florida House


1. The co-op will need 40 participating households to start in earnest, and information sessions will be held over the next couple months to inform interested residents. Events scheduled so far include 
  • January 18 at 1 pm at the Venice Community Center
  • January 19 at 5 pm at Selby Library 
  • February 24 at 11 am at Twin Lakes Park.


The Florida House Institute, in coordination with the Sarasota League of Women Voters, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and other local partners, is working with the Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (http://www.flsun.org/sarasota/) to engage Sarasota County homeowners to create a solar cooperative. 

Interested homeowners across many Sarasota neighborhoods would form a cooperative using the expertise of the FLSUN sponsors to develop construction standards and engage qualified contractor(s) for the installation of solar panels. 

The cooperative would use the buying power of scale to get a discounted price for solar panels for participants.

Go Solar

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mele on mining, development, and environmental peril

Andy Mele, vice-chairman of the Sierra Club, Sarasota Manatee Group, and Suncoast Waterkeeper, offers some honest words about the phosphate industry, about freewheeling Sarasota developers, and the dire impacts on the environment now, with worse in the years to come.

Mele was interviewed on WSLR on Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

Excerpt on development and Comp Plan machinations in Sarasota County (6 mins)

Full Interview: Phosphate Mining in Manatee - Mosaic hearing Jan. 26, 2017 - Democrats' failure - current developer activity in Sarasota and Manatee counties - Pat Neal, Carlos Beruff, Benderson - future "feeding frenzy" east of I-75. (26 mins)

Audio interview thanks to:
WSLR Peace and Justice Report 9am on Wednesday
wslr.org 96.5 LPFM

Photo credit: Sarasota Observer

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Late Waldo Proffitt Jr. on Growth

Longtime editorial writer and managing editor of the Herald TribuneWaldo Proffitt Jr. died Dec. 6. This reflection was shared with us by Dan Lobeck:

Waldo Proffitt Jr.

October 8, 1924 - December 6, 2016

As Managing Editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune from 1961-1998, and as a columnist and editorial writer,
Waldo Proffitt  helped shape Sarasota County for the better (together for most of that time with Publisher David Lindsay).  

He always favored carefully managed and controlled growth, as reflected in these interview excerpts.
Waldo Proffitt is greatly missed.

From an Interview – 10/16/2013:
 … growth is not necessarily good, it’s only the right kind of growth that will help the community remain a good place for people to live and that is the product that Sarasota has to sell: that this is a good place to live. And I believe that that idea has become fairly widely circulated, I certainly hope so.


Well, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by density. I mean that’s not easy to do, because the more people you can pack into a given area, the more money you can make.


I’m very fond of Siesta Key but the fact is that now it is getting overpopulated and unless we are very careful about what we allow to be built in there, it can have an negative impact on the quality of life, and that is, I think, a statement that I think could be applied to almost any waterfront community— they are very sensitive to density.

From an Interview – 8/27/2003:


I always tried to sell the concept that growth is good up to a point … I can tell you what the maximum population [of Sarasota County] will be. I figured it out to be 1.6 billion. The population of Sarasota County would give you twelve square feet for every person to lie down in the sun, and you couldn’t have any double decking because everybody wants to get the sunshine. … then you can start asking the question, how much growth should we have? Then you start asking a whole different set of questions, and then you’ve come to the concept of sustainability. How much growth can we sustain over the long haul based on the resources available? The truth is we don’t know, and people have thought about this and they still don’t know. We will never get a satisfactory answer to that question, but as long as you keep asking the question, you get people in a mind-set where they are not afraid to say, no, you can’t do that because that is something we can’t sustain over the long haul. We can’t follow this precedent.

Question: In very specific cases, if we look at Southwest Florida, already there are issues of water, pollution, and traffic. Once that starts impacting the life of an average citizen of this community, they are going to start complaining.

WP: Yes, and [they] have.

Question: But the power of the developers is that they will say, look, we want to expand, that’s jobs, more people come, more businesses, it helps the economy, more taxes, better schools, that growth is not only essential but beneficial. How do you counteract those kinds of statements?

WP: In the first place, you go back and examine the tax history in the county, which I don’t think anybody has done recently but I did several times and printed the results. The truth of the matter is that as the community grows, the per capita tax rises. Growth doesn’t lower your taxes; it actually raises them. I think in most any situation, you can check the tax records and that is what happens. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Planner responds to Sarasota Survey on Affordable Housing

A recent Sarasota County survey on affordable housing recently circulated. Daniel Herridges, a member of the Citizens for Sarasota County group on Facebook, posted his responses. Herridges is doing graduate work in Urban and Regional Planning.

The County survey is open to all citizens through Dec. 12. All residents are urged to take the Affordability Survey here.


Sarasota County Affordable Housing Survey Responses


1. Do you believe it is important for housing to be affordable for people who work in our community? Why or why not?

It is extremely important. Sarasota's quality of life depends on broadly shared prosperity. Our region's economy is heavily dependent on service-industry jobs. If enough affordable, decent housing is not available for those who work those jobs, we can expect to see worse traffic and environmental impacts as workers commute from far from their jobs; higher cost of living combined with slower economic growth; increased health problems as more people live in housing that is in poor condition; increased homelessness (already a pressing quality-of-life issue in downtown Sarasota and elsewhere); and potential negative effects on schools, crime rates, and neighborhood stability resulting from high socioeconomic inequality.

2. What type of workers is it important to have housing for? ( i.e. teachers, nurses, construction, manufacturing, government/private sector, etc.)

All types of workers need reasonable, healthy, safe housing, whatever their occupation or income level. I see the most dire need in Sarasota County being among low-wage service-industry workers, however—retail salespeople, servers, bartenders, customer service / receptionists, etc. I am dismayed that nearly all of the discourse around affordable housing from the County centers around "workforce housing" for moderate-income teachers, police, firefighters, etc.—while these groups do need housing as well, this focus is limiting. The most dire housing need is among residents with low and very low incomes (under 80% of AMI). I understand the political palatability of "workforce" versus "affordable" or "low-income" housing, but I hope County officials can also show the political courage to pay due attention to their neediest citizens. 

Affordable Housing
3. What makes it difficult for these workers to find affordable housing?

Wages in Sarasota County, as in all of Florida, are below average for the United States. The region has a disproportionate concentration of low-wage jobs in the service industries, and a relative dearth of scientific and technical jobs. This means there is structurally high demand for affordable housing. At the same time, with high migration driven by retiring baby-boomers, there is steady demand from outside the region for larger and more expensive homes, thus our home builders see little incentive to build "starter homes" or apartments when they have a profitable business model in higher-end, single-family subdivisions. Finally, the region's land-use policies stifle the organic growth of an affordable housing stock by largely disallowing "missing middle" housing types (buildings with 2-20 units), disallowing multifamily housing entirely in many locations, disallowing ADUs almost everywhere, and making it difficult to economically build small "starter" homes on small lots due to lot size and setback requirements. Sprawling, low-density suburban growth and a lack of infill development means that transportation costs eat up a high share of many households' budgets. Finally, the large-scale subdivision growth model (as opposed to incremental infill) means that whole neighborhoods are built out at the same time and age at the same rate; thus, almost nowhere in Sarasota County is there a diversity of housing age, size, condition, and thus affordability within one neighborhood like you find in many older U.S. cities. This makes it hard for young professionals to establish themselves here and for older people to downsize and age in place. 

4. What creative ideas do you have to removing the barriers to finding affordable housing?

Dedicate county-owned properties acquired through tax forfeiture to permanently-affordable housing. Seek to create a permanent, replenishable fund at the county level for gap financing to help nonprofit developers make affordable projects pencil out (meeting the “gap” between federal / state subsidies, the developer’s own financing sources, and total development costs). Reform land-use policy to broadly allow small, inherently affordable housing types like ADUs. Couple mandatory inclusionary zoning with density bonuses / exemption from things like setback requirements to incentivize the building of smaller housing units. Identify infill opportunities for larger multifamily projects on key transportation corridors (such as aging shopping centers in places like Clark Road and Tamiami Trail), zone these sites in advance for high-density mixed-use to ease the regulatory process, and work with land owners and developers if and when redevelopment occurs to ensure that plans have a housing component. New supply overall will help restrain prices in the region's housing market, but priority should be on encouraging rental housing, smaller units whether rental or ownership, and infill rather than greenfield development. "Affordable" housing in remote areas of North Port or east of I-75 is NOT affordable once transportation costs are factored into a household's budget! Do not let developers use "affordable housing" as a pretext for accelerated greenfield sprawl or exemption from the letter or spirit of 2050 requirements. 

5. What are the five most important reasons having housing affordable to these workers positively impacts the community?

Less inequality is associated with stronger economic growth. Workforce housing helps area employers attract workers and diversify the regional economy. Diversity of housing types and price points will help Sarasota weather boom-and-bust cycles better. Affordable housing near jobs restrains sprawl, resulting in less traffic and cleaner air. It's the right thing to do. Everyone should have access to adequate, safe housing.

6. Are there any particular areas or locations that make more sense than others to encourage or allow additional housing? (i.e. address, parcel, new developments, in existing developments, west of I-75, etc.) 

Along existing major transit corridors (coupled with increased transit investment to meet mobility needs that come with greater population). In existing neighborhoods in the form of ADUs. In older retail centers ripe for redevelopment—many of these have huge parking lots that are sparsely used even at peak hours and could be partially redeveloped as housing. Near major job concentrations (downtowns, hospitals, on the mainland near barrier islands). West of 75 almost exclusively! (Only exception: Lakewood Ranch) We have so much room for infill that it is environmentally and fiscally irresponsible to allow continued sprawl into greenfield areas, whether in the name of affordable housing or not.

A citizen's questions about Sarasota County traffic & safety

Traffic is probably the highest priority concern for residents of Sarasota County - it raises issues of safety, civic welfare, and quality of life.

Vicki Nighswander has been highlighting road safety and traffic for some time, and had researched many relevant aspects of this problem that is worsening with overdevelopment, as we see every day.

Below is Nighswander's email to the Sarasota County Commission. Her questions are in italics, with inline responses from Paula Wiggins, transportation manager for Sarasota County, indented.

Wiggins prefaced her inline comments as follows:
Thank you for voicing your concerns about the mobility and safety of Sarasota County’s transportation network. Please know that the safety of the citizens and users of the county’s roadways are of the utmost importance to our Transportation staff. That being said, please see staff’s responses to your questions below. Should you have additional questions regarding this information, please contact me.

From: Vicki Nighswander <nighswan1@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2016 3:34 PM
To: Allen Parsons; Alan Maio; Paul Caragiulo; Charles D. Hines; Carolyn Mason; Christine Robinson
Subject: Comprehensive Plan Update Input

Dear Planners And Commissioners,

I have spoken with County Staff, City staff, emergency management staff, FDOT, MPO and communication with the MPO, politicians and most recently with a consultant to the Regional Planning Council and still don't have answers to some very basic questions that should form the basis for decision making if safety's truly on the forefront of decision making which should be guiding growth decisions.

What are the construction requirements for designated evacuation roads?  One engineer mentioned that they are supposed to be Functionally Classified Routes but who monitors this?

           In Sarasota County, designated evacuation routes are to be built so they do not flood in a 100-year storm event.  A 100-year storm event means that there is a 1 percent chance of a 100-year storm occurring in any given year.   Evacuation routes are designated by county emergency management officials.  See below link for further details included in the State of Florida Administrative Code. 

Shouldn't there be a study on how to move people around most effectively and efficiently with each new building and development approval process?

·         Developers are required to submit traffic studies for developments that generate 100 pm peak hour trips or more to determine their impacts on the roadway network. For those developments generating less than 100 pm peak hour trips, staff evaluates those impacts. As part of the evaluations crash data is reviewed.

For that matter, when was the last time the traffic analysis process evaluated for validity and whether it meets present needs particularly around safety?

·         Every five years the Sarasota Manatee MPO evaluates the roadway network for the two counties and their respective municipalities. This information is used to determine the Needs Plan for the bi-county region. The most recent analysis occurred last year, with the adoption of the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan. In addition, Sarasota County Transportation Department evaluates crash data and levels of congestion on thoroughfare roadways annually.

Shouldn't comprehensive crash data and trends and analysis for the last 5-10 years be an integral component of the building and development approval process and include both county and state data?  Still County data doesn't include on and off ramps to 75, nor 75 and probably not other state roads.  Once again, I requested such data with now basically a run around and even a referral to a private service that charges $90.00/hr.  for this public data.

·         Crash data is considered as part of the traffic analysis when considering new developments and we do have access to data on I-75 and the on/off ramps as well.

Until ongoing needs are routinely captured and addressed, I see this comprehensive Plan as a stagnant bible falling short of what it could be. I do see promise in what's coming down the pike the National Performance Management Measures that will force decision making to be more strategic regarding highways and traffic.  I have been asking the question for some time "how do you measure success?"

·         Sarasota County does have performance measures related to traffic.  These are as follows:
  • o   Crash Rate by Population ≤ to 3%
  • §  For calendar year 2015 this was 2.4%
  • o   % of Lane Miles that Meet adopted LOS
  • §  For calendar year 2015 this was 90.06%

At this time, I wish to go on record with a vote of no confidence in the Boards action on the 2016 Comprehensive Plan update.

Vicki Nighswander 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Two visions of East Sarasota County

Last week, the Sarasota County Commission approved LT Ranch -- a 3,450-home project to occupy 1,700 acres a little bit east of I-75 on Clark Road. The vote was 4-1.

Many questions about the exceptions, bent rules, and questionable environmental judgments surround that approval -- more may be forthcoming (Video BCC, Nov. 9th). What deserves mention just now is not the plan, but rather the plea put forward by Commissioner Charles Hines. Hines voted against the project, though he said many of its elements were "great."

Charles Hines
 Photo from SarasotaNewsLeader.com
The reason for his vote was simple: The developer wanted to come in east of I-75 on Clark Rd, which currently has the look and feel of an old country road, and remove a 500-foot buffer requirement in order to locate a 300,000-square-foot shopping center at roadside with a 10-foot buffer.

Such a radical change would destroy the entire look of the road, said Hines. It would also set a precedent for future developers who will seek the same exemptions, exceptions, and bent-out-of-shape-rules for their projects east of the Interstate. There is no need for giant Walgreen signs looming over Clark Road -- the eastern sector of Sarasota county was supposed to be different, Hines said.

Charles Bailey, attorney for the Turner family that is selling the parcel to Taylor Morrison, one of the largest homebuilders in the nation, huddled for a few minutes with his clients, then returned with a counter-offer -- instead of a 10-foot buffer, he said, how about 20 feet?

Hines looked stunned. Red-faced. "I'm offended," he said.

Hines went on to describe a vision of an old country road -- you drive along, heading to Myakka and Arcadia, and as you look from your car, you see open fields, or homes in the distance. It sounded idyllic - but with a shopping center 20 feet from the curb, not very likely. The Turners and Taylor Morrison - and the four other Commissioners - Maio, Caragiulo, Mason and Robinson - didn't seem to get it. Sure, maybe the 2050 Plan had called for a 500-foot buffer, but when has that ever stopped a wonderful project?

In brief, there is an ontological gap between the vision of old Florida, as it still remains, both in memory and in a few places in real life, like Clark Road -- between this Florida and the ambitions of folks like the Turners, Taylor Morrison, and the four Commissioners, who see real estate, widened roads, and commercial buildings in place of vacant pasture.

Between these two opposing imaginings of Sarasota East, you might think there could be some bridge, some mediating point. But attorney Bailey wasn't going to let his clients down. They came back with the offer of a 50'-foot buffer and a tall hedge. Hines opposed, got no second -- the Commission was not going to postpone approval -- those pasture lands were itching to be developed. The plan with its 50-foot buffer was approved, Hines dissenting.

Hines in fact admired much about the LT Ranch proposal. He just didn't want the entire look of the County to resemble Fort Lauderdale.

"This was such an overreach to jam this commercial right up in front, right on that road," said Hines. "I don’t see the benefit."

This approval was but the crack in the seawall. More developers will soon appear before the County, seeking to bend the 2050 Plan to their profit-driven "density needs." Led by a monolithic Republican business cadre, developers and government will make each other happy as cows leaping for joy. They'll just do their leaping in a Publix parking lot.

We appreciate Commissioner Hines' solo effort to get a developer to honor the 2050 plan and a vision of East Sarasota County. Commissioners Robinson and Mason are gone due to term limits. Commissioners Caragiulo and Maio will stand for election in 2018, when Sarasotans can decide their "future development."

LT Ranch on Clark Rd.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Impact Fees, Large Development, Celebration for Wade Matthews

from Dan Lobeck

Important Meetings of the Week

Tuesday, November 8, 1:30 pm, Anderson Center, 400 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice
Sarasota County Commission
Public Hearing on Increasing or Delaying Various Impact Fees

The County Commission will act on a consultant’s recommendation to finally update and increase – after 10 years – impact fees on new development to help pay for expansions of various facilities to serve that development.  The fees are for parks, libraries, fire, emergency medical services, law enforcement, justice (courts and jails) and general government.  They do not include impact fees for schools and transportation, which remain seriously lowballed.

The consultant has recommended that the miscellaneous impact fees rise for an average single family home less than 38%, from $4,397 to $6,061.

The County Commission has delayed this adjustment repeatedly over the past year but is finally poised to vote. 

The biggest problem is that although staff has for many months recommended full funding without delay, they are now proposing that the adjusted fees be phased in over three years (80% effective April 1, 2017, 90% April 1, 2018 and 100% April 1, 2019), based on push-back from some County Commissioners. 

This comes at a time when the County Commission plans to borrow tens of millions of dollars, to be funded with probable tax hikes over time, for expansion of government facilities for which there is insufficient money due to the impact fees being too low for too long.  The borrowing will be divided by projects to fall below the bonding cap beyond which the County Charter requires a voter referendum, which the County Commission previously planned but abandoned.

A further delay will cost the taxpayers substantial needed funds, just to serve the developers who control County government.

Wednesday, November 9, 1:30 pm, County Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota

Development East of I-75: LT Ranch
Sarasota County Commission
Public Hearing on LT Ranch/ Clark Road Properties Village Development

This huge Sarasota 2050 “Village” would be east of I-75 south of Clark Road where it meets the Bee Ridge Extension – 3,450 dwellings and 300,000 square feet of nonresidential development (mainly a large shopping center on Clark Road) on 1,725 acres.  Severe traffic problems would be created on Clark Road from Proctor Road to the Bee Ridge Extension and on Proctor Road from Cattlemen Road to Clark Road, requiring the widening of those roads from four to two lanes.  The development would however only contribute a share of that expense, leaving the rest on the taxpayers. It also is not clear who would pay for a southern extension of the Bee Ridge Extension to serve the development.  Also, the Greenbelt setback along Clark Road would be reduced from 500 to 10 feet (a matter within the discretion of the County Commission), destroying the rural ambiance which that setback is intended to serve. 

The development would destroy much natural habitat, including 20 acres of mesic hammock, 86 acres of mixed wetland hardwoods (100% of the ones on the property), 30 acres of freshwater marsh,11 acres (again 100%) of streams and waterways, and apparently an eagle’s nest on the commercial site.  This is in addition to the fact that the County Commission previously excused this development from getting its densities by buying and transferring them from off-site Greenways, just giving them to the site instead when the developer complained that the Greenway requirement was “too expensive.”

The requirement that Sarasota 2050 Villages be walkable New Urbanist communities would be destroyed and replaced with a standard subdivision and shopping center by 15 “modifications”, including by allowing gated communities, changing public civic uses to private clubhouses, allowing longer cul-sacs and dead-end streets and changing requirements for setbacks, block configurations, intersections, roadway designs, alleys, street trees, multiuse trails and sidewalks and the public greens, square and plaza for the commercial center.

The fiscal neutrality analysis employs tricks to conclude that the development will pay its own way by the usual taxes and impact fees, such as by assuming no special costs for law enforcement and emergency rescue to reach this eastern sprawl, and assuming no need to contribute to capital repairs and renovations of existing schools despite the fact no new middle or high school is planned for the development, from which 598 new public school students are expected.  Also as to schools, impact fees are deemed fully adequate for the development’s share of the seven new elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools which the School District projects will be needed by the time this development is built out, even though the School Board and County Commission have only set school impact fees at 26% of what the consultant says is needed for that purpose.

Thursday, November 102016, 7 pm
Michael's on East Wine Cellar, Midtown Plaza,1283 Tamiami Trail South, Sarasota 

Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations 55th Anniversary Party,
A fundraiser benefiting CONA’s college scholarship fund, honoring Wade Matthews, retiring Sarasota Audubon Society conservation chair -- hors d'oeuvres, music, c ash bar, special door prizes.  Ticket donation: $50/ person.  RSVP to CONA Here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Antunes on Benderson and the Ballot

Cathy Antunes: The Detail
Important Sarasota races will be decided on November 8th. As party lines blur nationally, local elections may be similar. Party affiliation may not be the best guide in identifying who will effectively steward our community, especially since effective oversight of development decisions is no longer found at the state level. Important decisions lie ahead, and they will be decided by the County Commission. Siesta Key’s south bridge at Stickney Point and US 41, a major gateway to a local economic engine and prized beach, may suffer a suffocating traffic future. County government is responsible for creating safe and economically viable development. The County Commission election matters.
We used to be able to count on the Department of Community Affairs for wise development standards in Florida.* The state agency, established in 1969, worked to reduce sprawl and congestion for 42 years. DCA was abolished in 2011. In Sarasota, the most obvious evidence of the absence of DCA oversight is traffic at University Parkway and I75. Without DCA’s usual oversight requirements (e.g. a DRI – Development Regional Impact study), Sarasotans have seen the new mall create dangerous congestion and siphon retailers from existing commercial centers. The traffic fix—a cumbersome diverging diamond—comes with an $80-million priceYou may remember that when approving the new Benderson mall, the County removed a requirement to build over 400 affordable housing units. Affordable housing for those working nearby could have alleviated some traffic near the mall. No affordable housing is planned at Stickney Point and 41.

In the County Commission race between Fredd Atkins and Mike Moran, Benderson’s choice is clear, as evidenced by Moran campaign signs at Stickney Point and 41.  Fredd Atkins has pledged to listen to the people.  Who will you support? tag.
More on the Benderson plan for Stickney Point in this interview with Sura Kochman.

Moran was appointed by Rick Scott to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud).

*The DCA was abolished by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011:
Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill (SB 2156) Tuesday that dismantles the growth management agency and merges it with several other agencies, such as the Agency for Workforce Innovation, to form a new state agency. The Department of Economic Opportunity will officially be created on Oct. 1, [2011]. Source.

Letter to the editor: Cassia Cay

via Herald Tribune

Another development on US 41
The proposed Siesta Promenade at Stickney Point Road and US 41 will create terrible traffic problems, but it is not alone!
Cassia Cay, a proposed development with approximately 200 housing units and 170,000 square feet of commercial space, is proposed a mere two miles south on Tamiami Trail, just north of the intersection of Beneva and Vamo roads.
The 32 acres are on pristine land along Little Sarasota Bay, adjoining a county preserve with an active eagle's nest. In addition to the environmental degradation this will cause and the question of overbuilding shopping centers, the traffic situation on Tamiami will be horrific.
The proposed traffic light will be only about a half-mile from the existing one at the corner of Vamo. Even without the additional traffic, if Siesta Promenade is approved, congestion on South Tamiami Trail, which is an evacuation route, will pose a serious threat to public safety.
Why does Sarasota County keep approving developments without regard to traffic congestion? We already have empty storefronts in the Landings and the former Albertson's shopping plaza across from Publix. Do we keep building more shopping centers and let existing ones die? And what happens with the next downturn of the economy?
I urge every concerned citizen to appear at the county Planning Commission hearing concerning Cassia Cay on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and tell them what you think. Our voices must be heard!
Ruth Brandwein, Sarasota

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tapping the potential in social media

Social media is free, easy, and can be powerful. All it takes is a smart phone (and a savvy smart phone user).

Arlene Sweeting, a candidate for Charter Review Board, produced her "Home Rule Minute" videos sharing valuable information with the public. She then posted them on Facebook, and on Youtube, as well as on related websites.

Arlene used tools readily availble to anyone with a smart phone to become a one-woman social media production team:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Beruff Saga continues

County Investigates Possible Illegal Land Clearing Near Long Bar Pointe

The Bradenton Times
Dennis Maley
Wednesday, Nov 02, 2016

BRADENTON — Suncoast Waterkeeper has filed a complaint with Manatee County, alleging that developers of the controversial Long Bar Point project in southwest Manatee County have illegally cleared land that doesn't belong to them in connection with a forthcoming subdivision.

The complaint alleges that part of a county conservation easement, as well as property belonging to an adjacent development—Legends Bay—were cleared along with Long Bar Pointe property, in violation of county ordinances.

Residents of Legends Bay recently began noticing that some of the most attractive green space property in their development had been cleared—property they had understood would forever be preserved. ...

"You've got this giant Bald Eagle nest that all of a sudden just vanishes," said McClash. "We're talking about branches as big as six feet long, and every one of them is suddenly gone from the tree . . . 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Medallion Home investigated after knocking down conservation area

Before and After: Carlos Beruff's Medallion Homes has reportedly destroyed a conservation area - via the Bradenton Herald:



Although the neighborhood of Legends Bay is still under construction, it still can be an environmental getaway for the few who call the gated community home.

A trio of otters played in the creek. A bald eagle’s nest sits on top of a tall pine tree. Even coyotes have been seen.

But a sizable chunk of the protected conservation area on Legends Bay’s property that divided it from Medallion Home’s Long Bar Pointe development, west of the property along El Conquistador Parkway, has been bulldozed over and ripped from the roots. The county is investigating how this happened.

The homeowner who lives directly in front of the affected area, who asked not to be named, said she first saw a bulldozer going after one of the tallest pine trees — a “landmark tree,” neighbors called it — on Oct. 17, and she started wildly waving her arms to get the worker to stop
“He stopped ... for a couple of minutes and then he continued,” she said.

The homeowner and her husband moved to Legends Bay three years ago, choosing their house specifically because it was in front of the thickest portion of the conservation area.

She took photos of the destruction and said she tried contacting Medallion, but to no avail.

A letter sent out to Legends Bay residents by Bruce St. Denis, the senior manager of the Development Planning and Financing Group Inc. and manager of Legends Bay’s community development district, said they had asked Medallion to stop clearing land until ownership could be confirmed.

“(Medallion) responded they would have the area resurveyed to make sure they were not on our property, but that they would not stop the clearing activities,” St. Denis wrote in the Oct. 25 letter.


Manatee County Code Enforcement was notified about the violation and is continuing the investigation.

“In (the code enforcement’s) opinion, the clearing had damaged a wetland and conservation area on Legends Bay property for which Legends Bay had provided an easement to Manatee County for preservation purposes,” St. Denis’ letter continued.

The company’s founder Carlos Beruff, president Pete Logan and attorney Ed Vogler III could not immediately be reached for comment.


An eagle's nest has mysteriously disappeared from another Beruff property:

More on Beruff:

Long Bar Pointe reapplies for mitigation bank state permit 

Long Bar Pointe withdraws plans for ‘mitigation bank’ 

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse
Read more here

Monday, October 31, 2016

CONA 55th Anniversary Party Nov. 10th

CONA Sarasota invites you:

CONA logo graphic
Sarasota County Council of 


please join us
55th Anniversary Party
    a fundraiser benefiting our college scholarship fund

Wade Matthews
retiring Audubon Society conservation chair
November 10, 2016 at 7:00
Michael's on East Wine Cellar
in Midtown Plaza at
1283 Tamiami Trail South, Sarasota, Florida
▪  hors d'oeuvres  ▪  music  ▪  cash bar  ▪
▪  special door prizes  ▪


$50 per person

check Box 15788, Sarasota, Florida 34277
use the Paypalink on our web site contact page
for more details about CONA see
neighbors helping neighbors since 1961