Monday, February 29, 2016

Proposed changes to DRI Review

Sarasota County is seeking your input on proposed changes to the application and review process for Developments of Regional Impact and Developments of Critical Concern.
What are these development types?
  • Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs):  developments of more than 2,000 dwelling units.
  • Developments of Critical Concern (DOCCs):  developments including 1,000 to 2,000 dwelling units.
Why are changes being proposed?
Because of their large scale, DRIs and DOCCs have historically required a coordinated and clearly-defined review process by local, state and regional agencies.
In 2015, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1216, which eliminated the DRI review process and requirements for new large scale developments:
  • eliminating the existing review process and requirements for DRI applications and
  • instituting a Comprehensive Plan Amendment process for large scale developments.
Sarasota County's DOCC review process was not impacted by this statutory change, but now is ripe for re-evaluation.
What changes are being proposed?
Eliminate a separate DOCC application and ordinance for new projects, and amend the rezone application requirements for large-scale developments (encompassing both DRIs and DOCCs).
The amended application requirements would include:
  • requiring a methodology meeting prior to application submittal
  • an addendum to the rezone application specifically for large-scale projects
  • additional analysis based on the application addendum
How can you share your thoughts on this process?
The Planning and Development Services Department will be collecting public comment between now and March 21, 2016, in preparation for anApril 26, 2016, County Commission discussion. Please reserve time to speak with planning staff about the proposed changes by calling 941-861-5000 or emailing  Written comments will also be accepted at that email address, or mailed to:
Planning & Development Services
1660 Ringling Blvd, 1st Floor
Sarasota FL 34236

Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities. View the complete policy at

Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

PAC money and Sarasota's schoolchildren

Cathy Antunes:

School Board candidate Eric Robinson works for over 40 political committees. A review of their financials raises a number of issues.

Follow the Money! 
This bit of wisdom tells us to take a close look at how money moves through our political system. Understand the money flow and who is involved and you gain clarity around who influences elections and what they may expect to gain from doing so. Simple enough. But these days, following the money is a different animal. Political committees have changed the campaign funding landscape as donations are swapped from political action committee to another. Political committees are exempt from limits on donations, and can stuff voter mailboxes with a barrage of political ads late in local elections. Candidates who don’t attract lush PAC funding are unable to respond to the onslaught. This dynamic is a huge factor in City and County elections. School Board candidate Eric Robinson works for over 40 political committees. A review of their financials raises a number of issues.  Read more . . .

Political Action Committees:

More about PACs and SuperPACs:
Open Secrets 
Federal Election Commission

Eric Robinson

Runs for School Board

Sarasota School Board Background

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Environment Brunch: Protecting our coast from Overdevelopment

From Justin Bloom, exec. director of Suncoast Waterkeeper:

Dear friends and environmental advocates,

On March 13, Suncoast Waterkeeper is joining with Sierra Club and the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) in sponsoring a Brunch to raise money and awareness about threats and progress in protecting our coast from harmful overdevelopment.

Please join us to sustain collaborative efforts by these three organizations on behalf of a community that is energized to protect our coastal resources.

We are currently engaged in several legal challenges at local, state and federal levels to ensure that environmental rules and regulations are respected by developers and regulators. Money raised at this Brunch will support our ongoing joint efforts relating to the challenged Long Bar Pointe and Harbor Sound developments and possible future challenges that arise.

I encourage you to read about the work of Suncoast Waterkeeper on our Website and follow our Facebook posts.

The Brunch will be at the Bradenton Yacht Club on March 13, from noon to 3pm and will feature a raffle and silent auction as well as some interesting guest speakers and awards. Tickets are $50,
​ half of which is tax deductible.​

More information and ticketing can be found at:

And also at:

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Justin Bloom
Executive Director
Suncoast Waterkeeper 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sarasota EDC settles public records suit

From the Sarasota News Leader:

EDC to pay $50,000 in attorney’s fees to settle public records and open meetings lawsuits filed by Citizens for Sunshine

EDC board voted on the mediation settlement on Feb. 18, following the nonprofit board’s approval

The board of the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) of Sarasota County voted this week to approve a settlement with Citizens for Sunshine, a Sarasota nonprofit organization, involving public records and open meetings lawsuits dating to 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The agreement calls for the EDC to pay a total of $50,000 to Andrea Flynn Mogensen, the Sarasota attorney who represented Citizens for Sunshine in the cases.
The first lawsuit was filed “after the EDC refused to provide access to records sought about its activities, including economic development grants and other incentives paid for with public tax dollars,” says a Citizens for Sunshine press release. The second case followed the organization’s discovery that the EDC was not complying with open meetings guidelines of Chapter 119 of the Florida State Statutes, known as the Sunshine Laws, the release adds.
The settlement calls for the EDC to provide Citizens for Sunshine access to records relating to Project Yellow, “which was a $200 million deal to lure a Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer to relocate to the Sarasota area,” the press release says. “Although the deal fell through,” the release adds, “Citizens insisted that records relating to Project Yellow be disclosed except for those involving trade secrets.”

The EDC board’s action came during a meeting that began at 8 a.m. on Feb. 18, the organization’s attorney, Morgan Bentley of Bentley & Bruning in Sarasota, told The Sarasota News Leader. Michael Barfield, a paralegal in Mogensen’s office — who is also vice president of the Florida Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — told the News Leader that Citizens for Sunshine’s board had approved the agreement earlier.Those documents are to be provided to the nonprofit within 15 days of the effective date of the settlement.
Sarasota County also was a party to the public records case, but the County Commission did not have to vote on the settlement because the amount of attorney’s fees is within the range that County Administrator Tom Harmer can handle without board action, according to county policy, Barfield said.
The agreement was reached during court-ordered mediation on Jan. 21, which lasted all day, Barfield told the News Leader.
The public records case had been set for trial on June 27 in the 12th Judicial Circuit in Sarasota, Sarasota County Clerk of Court records show.
In the release, Mogensen called the agreement “historic,” noting, “[I]t’s the first EDC in the state that has agreed to operate in the sunshine.”

Monday, February 15, 2016

LTE: No more public funds for Benderson Rowing Park

The letter below went to state legislators (links added):,

I support the email below from Pat Rounds opposing any more public (taxpayer) funds for this project.  While I am not questioning the worth or purpose of the Rowing Park, the facts are clear that SANCA promised to raise the necessary funds for completion of the facilities that SANCA also promised, as outlined in Ms Rounds' email.  The taxpayers have already fulfilled their part of the bargain, and now it is time for SANCA to fulfill its part of the bargain.  A deal is a deal, and it is now SANCA's responsibility to live up to the terms of that deal. 
Best wishes for a successful legislative session, 
William C. Zoller
Sarasota, FL

On Feb 15, 2016, at 1:07 PM, Pat Rounds wrote:
To FL State Legislators representing Sarasota County taxpayers:
Please deny any further State or public funding for Benderson Rowing Park, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.  
Recent articles indicate that between $2-$11 million is being requested to support Phase III construction in preparation for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.  Since it was promised over two years ago, the public pledge of corporate support to fully fund Phase III construction has not materialized. (See County Press release at the end of this message.) Only a small fraction of the funding required has been raised with construction deadlines looming on the near horizon. 
Public/private partnerships require both partners to deliver on pledges.  More than $30 million in public revenue was spent on park infrastructure.  $22 million in private sector funding is needed to construct a state-of-the-art finish tower, boat house, grandstands and other amenities. 
In June, 2013, rowing park officials presented renderings of a $10 million boat house to the FISA Site Selection Committee to be considered for the bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.  Recently park officials have suggested that a boat house is optional and merely a "luxury for the worlds".  Poor private fund-raising outcomes followed by a cynical lowering of construction obligations?    
In early 2015, the Benderson Foundation requested an additional $11 million from the State Legislature contingent on their raising a matching $11 million.  They failed to reach that goal by embarrassing numbers, and their request for funding was denied.  The situation is no different today.   
See link to a recent Herald Tribune article regarding the delayed approval for the permanent finish tower.  
Last August, the BoCC and park officials broke ground for the permanent finish tower. It was supposed to be completed in time for 2016 Olympic Rowing Trials in April, 2016.  Backed by $5 million in pledges from Benderson Foundation, the County has only now approved the construction contract----in part because they wanted proof of adequate funding.  So now the Olympic-caliber finish tower will be completed by October, 2016-----six months after the Olympic Trials are over. 
This inexcusable delay makes it necessary to construct a temporary finish tower for the April event.  And who will pay for that structure---SANCA---with County funds or state funds?  And where will the thousands of spectators sit during the Olympic trials---in those rickety bleachers for 100 people currently located at the finish line? 
Over $30 million in public revenue has been invested in park infrastructure (Phases I/II) with a pledge of corporate support for Phase III structures. 
The private sector has not delivered on its promise to make Benderson Park a premiere North American rowing venue.  
The private sector must follow through on their pledge of full support. 
No more public funds for Benderson Rowing Park. 
From a Sarasota County Press Release (Sept. 2, 2103): 
"....More than $40 million in public and private-sector funds have been committed to help transform a former borrow pit into Nathan Benderson Park, the premier rowing venue in North America, capable of hosting an Olympic-caliber event. Sarasota County's investment, $19.5 million, comes from a Tourist Development Tax (TDT), which is paid by visitors to the area. Those funds have paid for Phase I (dredge and fill) and Phase II (installation of park amenities, hardscaping and landscaping). Phase III of the project, construction of a state-of-the-art boathouse, timing towers, grandstands and other amenities, will be funded by SANCA and corporate support..."

Further references provided on request.
Thank you, 
Pat Rounds

Sarasota, FL 34235 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Public responds to FDOT's proposed changes for I-75 at Bee Ridge

via the Herald Tribune


Residents question plan for I-75 and Bee Ridge interchange

Hundreds of people attended an information session hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation about plans for reconfiguring the Interstate 75 and Bee Ridge Road interchange.
Published: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:50 p.m.
SARASOTA - An extensive project to overhaul the interchange at Interstate 75 and Bee Ridge Road went under the public's scrutiny for the first time Thursday evening.
The idea of adding an exit ramp for southbound I-75 traffic at Cattlemen Road and Wilkinson Road generated the most attention, especially from residents in that area south of Bee Ridge who worry about additional traffic on Wilkinson.
“We're dumping traffic on a 30 mph road with one lane each way,” said Tony DeSoiza, a resident of Center Gate Estates who was among the more than 200 people to come during the first hour of the two-hour information session.
He noted that 600 apartments are under construction southeast of that intersection. “That will add 600 more cars” to the traffic the new exit will bring, DeSoiza said.
Staff members of the Florida Department of Transportation displayed diagrams and discussed details with residents wanting to know specifics.
The project, which is still in the design phase and not yet funded for construction, involves:
■ Widening I-75 between Fruitville Road and Bee Ridge Road from three lanes to four lanes in each direction. The right lane in each direction will be exclusively for traffic leaving at the next exit.
■  Redesigning the interchange into a “hybrid diverging diamond” to make easier left turns onto I-75 from the eastbound lanes of Bee Ridge.
■  Creating the new exit ramp at Cattlemen and Wilkinson.
■ Redesigning the Bee Ridge and Cattlemen intersection to divert traffic turning north and south onto Cattlemen to the left.
“I think it's a good plan coming off at Wilkinson,” said Tracy Lux, who resides in the Crestwood Villas at the corner of Wilkinson and Honore Avenue, of the proposed new I-75 exit. “I don't think it will get a lot of traffic down Wilkinson. It's very narrow.”
She would like to see Sarasota County widen the two-lane portion of Honore Avenue between Proctor and Clark roads to eliminate a bottleneck. “That would manage the additional local traffic while this FDOT project is constructed.”
Yet many of DeSoiza's Center Gate neighbors shared his view.
“This is the most insane idea to put an exit on Wilkinson,” resident Marilyn Winstead said. “Webber would be better.”
Sandy Snyder, also a resident of Center Gate, agreed that Webber Street, which is north of Bee Ridge, should have been considered as an option for an exit. “Webber would be the ideal way to come in.”
“The noise level will be tenfold what it is now,” resident Cindy Miller said of the additional traffic at Cattlemen and Wilkinson.
Traffic in the area functions smoothly now, Center Gate resident Bob Pitre said. “My main concern is do we need any of this. We don't have problems now.”
FDOT spokesman Robin Stublen said the agency may be ready for a public hearing about the project in late March. “We'll present the final concept at that time.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sarasota County Commissioners violated County Comp Plan, it seems

The former head of Sarasota County Natural Resources Dept. says the Board of County Commissioners violated the Comp Plan when it gave Whole Foods Market permission to turn a living wetland into a parking lot.

Letter to the Editor, Herald Tribune

Wetland worth saving
A recent letter writer asserted that Tom Lyons added spin to his column on Whole Foods’ planned destruction of wetlands. Perhaps as author of many of Sarasota County’s environmental regulations, I can show that facts do not constitute spin.
While it is true that Sarasota County changed some of the environmental provisions in its Comprehensive Plan over the last 17 years, it did not change them to the extent that allows a developer to take out a functioning wetland just because it’s in the way.
Here’s the revised language (Environment Chapter, Management Guidelines): “In cases where a wetland is no longer capable of performing defined environmental functions and providing defined environmental values, or in cases where no other reasonable alternative exists other than disrupting a wetland, as determined by the County, some alterations may be allowed.”
The main difference between the 1999 rule and the current one is that the former rule required swamps to be preserved while the current one lumps in swamps (the habitat on the Whole Foods site) with all wetlands and allows them to be disrupted only if they meet the standards in the above-cited provision.
This wetland remains in good ecological condition — even Whole Foods’ environmental consultant agreed with that — and still provides environmental values and functions as defined in the Comprehensive Plan.
County ecologists are responsible for determining the quality of a wetland. County staff opined correctly that removing this wetland would be contrary to Comprehensive Plan provisions, but the board ignored that recommendation.
Gary S. Comp, former director
Sarasota County Natural
Resources Department

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Destroying Tenure Tip of Poisoned Iceberg

This piece by Dennis Maley is reprinted from The Bradenton Times in full, because it offers a clear and important overview of the political landscape right now; developer-driven, and serving a far right-wing agenda. The original piece can be found here.

SCF Trustees Want Respect But Earn Laughter

Dennis Maley
Sunday, Jan 31, 2016

On Tuesday, I went to the State College of Florida’s Board of Trustees meeting to watch them cast their final vote on abolishing the practice of "continuous contracts," a less-than-tenure protection for a select group of the school’s top educators that is in place, at least partly, to prevent good instructors from being victims of political agendas—though ineffective instructors could and have been removed for cause even after attaining it.

It was no secret how the vote would go, but I wanted to see for myself. A lot of people had contacted me to tell me they had planned to show up to oppose the vote, hoping the trustees would come to their senses and realize that the policy had the potential to be utterly destructive to the quality of education at what has for decades been an exemplary institution of higher ed.

For 40 minutes, former and current professors, students, parents and members of the community gave seething public comment. How could you do this to our beloved school? Why would you deliberately create a policy that had no discernible benefits but a host of obvious negative ones? 

The questions were rhetorical. The speakers knew why, and they let the trustees have an earful on that front as well. This was a political move, orchestrated by a political boss, for political benefit, through a board that is little more than a political conduit.

Millionaire developer Carlos Beruff is one of the most powerful political figures in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. He and his frequent business partner Pat Neal largely control Republican politics in the local area. Aided by a handful of other development interests—Benderson Development, Schroeder Manatee Ranch, etc.—they organize and distribute much of the campaign cash that decides who sits where in local government.

Carlos Beruff
It was Beruff, one of nine trustees for the college, who suggested out of nowhere last fall that the school dump continuous contracts and consider having instructors bid for their jobs, or at least indicate what the least amount of compensation they’d accept would be. Beruff gave no argument as to why it would be in the college’s best interest, beyond a few platitudes equating policies in the business world, with those at the educational institution—a field in which he has no expertise to speak of.

The rest of the board, which is largely made up of other local Republican political types—including several who have their own political ambitions or are married to someone holding or seeking public office—eagerly went along.

Everyone from the college’s president to other institutions of higher learning quickly lampooned the idea. What kind of candidates will we attract when we’re the only college in the state that doesn’t offer the opportunity to achieve continuous contract status? Will the best students want to enroll in a college that clearly doesn’t seek the best instructors?

There was no real dialogue as the plan moved forward over several months. There were no workshops with faculty and the community. There were just a bunch of public comments, limited to a maximum of three minutes each at the beginning of the meetings, followed by a few board comments at the end, defending their decision in vague and hollow terms without bothering to explain it.

That’s because no one has the political courage to give the real reason: Mr. Beruff would like it to be this way, and we would all like to remain chummy with Mr. Beruff and his various political action committees and campaign fundraising devices.

Why does Mr. Beruff want to screw with a highly-successful institution against the advice of those with infinitely more experience and expertise on the subject? My guess is that it has nothing at all to do with SCF or what may or may not be best for it, or even what Beruff himself thinks about the matter. Reforming the liberal education system is a huge pet issue on the far right, one that Governor Scott—who appoints the trustees of Florida’s 28 state colleges—is rather fixated on.

Scott already ended tenure for Florida’s public school teachers in 2011, a promise he made while campaigning the year before. SCF is the first college in the system that he has now appointed a majority of the trustees to their board. I doubt it’s a coincidence that it’s also the first to take this step, or, for that matter, that it was one of his close political allies who carried the water for him on it. Why is Scott so concerned with this issue? Because it is a popular one for him to laud to the far right as he tries to advance his political career, possibly in a 2018 Senate run. I wrote more on the ideological component of this issue in a previous column that can be found here.

The question on so many minds on Tuesday, however, was why were so many people following Beruff. That goes back to the point about political ambitions. The chair of the board of trustees is Ed Bailey. When Bailey ran for Manatee Supervisor of Elections as a Republican in 2012, Beruff was his biggest supporter, giving maximum contributions from multiple LLCs set up for his Medallion Homes operation. Bailey’s wife is currently running for school board in Manatee County.

SCF Trustee Lori Moran is married to Mike Moran, a Republican running for the Sarasota County Commission. Moran has also received a number of contributions from LLCs under Beruff’s umbrella and the rest of his hefty campaign account is largely funded by a cadre of influential local development interests. Another trustee, Robert Wyatt, is the treasurer of the Republican Party of Sarasota. Wyatt had planned to run for the Florida House this year when it looked like incumbent Ray Pilon would be redistricted, but stepped aside when Pilon remained in district 72. Clearly, he has political ambitions.

Eric Robinson is what’s known as a bag man in local politics, though to be fair, Robinson usually carries much bigger bags than the term typically implies. A Venice-based accountant, Robinson is the go-to treasurer for local Republican candidates who’ve received the blessing of the local development cartel.

Even more importantly, Robinson is often chosen to manage some of the biggest shadow PACs in state politics, expertly using technically-legal sleights of hand to obscure the money trail, blocking the intended transparency of such contributions, while often making it impossible to determine who exactly has funded nasty attack ads. He’s built a profitable little niche in this role and is obviously intent on staying tight with the people who provide the beans he counts.

Robinson himself is running for the Sarasota County School Board this year, and his campaign war chest is a veritable Who’s Who of the local development establishment. His wife is Christine Robinson, an incumbent on the Sarasota County Commission. Commissioner Robinson, who came under fire when she took the job as head of a special interest group that routinely lobbies the board she serves on for pro-development issues, will be forced out by term limits at the end of this year. She too has benefited significantly throughcontributions from Beruff and the other local developers.

As you can see, there’s plenty of incentive for those sorts of people to be thought well of by Beruff, while demonstrating that they are extremely receptive to whatever ideas he might have by not even attempting to discuss them before falling in line, as was the case with continuous contracting. And even if they aren’t able to get Beruff behind their ambitions, they surely know that it would be even more unwise to encourage him to be standing in the way of them. As much as Beruff can propel a willing surrogate to victory, he’s even more adept at knocking down enemies.

In 2012, Beruff trained his sights on 22-year Manatee County Commissioner and TBT publisher Joe McClash. McClash was a socially-conservative Republican but ran afoul of Beruff’s litmus tests at two points. While he’d consistently been pro-growth, McClash was a staunch believer in smart growth policies and the idea that new growth should pay for itself. He also saw our environmental resources as an important component to an economy dependent on tourism and migration, as well as a key quality of life component for current citizens.

McClash was rarely against a development in general, but when it came time to ask for permission to destroy wetlands that got in the way of adding a few extra houses, amending the county comp plan to increase density in rural areas that lacked the infrastructure to accommodate it, or increasing development intensity in floodplains or evacuation zones that could affect public safety, McClash was often the lone voice of dissent.

Of course, he almost never got his way. Beruff and other developers had stacked the board with a majority of commissioners who would do as they were told, but his mere calling attention to the issues was enough to inspire Beruff to fund one of the most expensive and vitriolic attack campaigns in Manatee County history, which you can read about here. McClash lost the seat by 494 votes, out of more than 25,000 cast, and Betsy Benac, a development consultant Beruff sponsored for election, was able to win the countywide seat.

Beruff also spent heavily on getting and keeping District 1 Commissioner Larry Bustle in office. Bustle will retire at the end of this year, and a potential candidate speaking under the condition of anonymity said they were told not to bother running for the seat, as the development cartel had already anointed former State Rep. Ron Reagan as their guy.
Reagan has already received several max donations from SMR related entities. SMR-related interests also paid for Vanessa Baugh’s East Manatee seat in 2012, and Pat Neal and company have sprinkled money over several campaigns in both counties to make sure their county commissions continue to see things the same way as developers.

When a Manatee County School Board seat was vacated last summer, it was Neal and Beruff who did the vetting of nearly two dozen applicants who wanted the governor’s appointment to the seat. The timing was crucial, as that board would soon be voting to reinstate impact fees, which had been inexplicably abated since 2009.
The developers tapped John Colon, who’d challenged Baugh for the county commission seat in 2012 with strong support from Beruff's LLCs. Unsurprisingly, Colon was the most vocal advocate for not having developers pay the impact fees prescribed in a taxpayer-funded study that detailed their need. 

It’s not just the elected officials who can help the developers. Some of the boards have considerable power, like Swiftmud, our regional water management board. Until recently, Beruff also served on its board—again surrounded mostly by those who seemed eager to appease him. On the same day he resigned, Beruff motioned and voted for the approval of a permit that would allow Neal to destroy high-quality wetlands for a development on Perico Island.

When Neal goes before Governor Scott and his cabinet—who have final say on land use disputes since the governor gutted the Department of Community Affairs in 2011—he’s arguing his case in front of very friendly faces. Neal has been very generous in fundraising for both Scott and Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, who quickly ruled in his favor on the Robinson Farms issue, even after an Administrative Law Judge’s recommended order was to do the opposite.

If these boards and bodies seem incestuous, that’s because they are. It’s all part of a game where the deck is stacked in favor of those who grease the skids to keep the gravy train rolling. When Neal’s wife resigned as a trustee from SCF in late October, the governor replaced her with Peter Logan, who happens to be the President of Beruff’s company, Medallion Homes. Perhaps more than any other trustee, Logan definitely has reasons not to rock the boat when it comes to Beruff's wishes.
So, there you have it teachers, students, parents and community members. It isn’t about education. It isn’t about efficiency. It isn’t even about the State College of Florida. It’s about politics—which is why when Wyatt suggested with a straight face to SCF President Dr. Carol Probstfeld that now that this matter is behind them, he would hope she could get the faculty to start showing the board morerespect, the room literally burst into laughter. 

Wyatt looked genuinely hurt and perplexed as to why they were all laughing at him, but the answer was simple. The SCF Board of Trustees is nothing but a bad joke. If he wanted the respect of a community of highly-competent educators, he should have earned it by standing up for common sense and voting against the new policy, or at least forcing a discussion on a meritless plan that wouldn’t have stood up to debate.

Instead, the board—every single one of them this time—showed political cowardice, something I’ve yet to see inspire respect from anyone.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Whole Foods responds - Wetlands paving "within current regulations"

From the Citizens for Sarasota County Group on FB:

A response from Whole Foods Market to Tom Lyons' editorial:

Whole Foods was challenged to respond to a Herald Tribune editorial critical of Sarasota County's decision to allow a 4.5-acre wetland to be paved over for use as a parking lot for a new Whole Foods outlet on University Parkway:

Whole Foods Market
January 28 at 10:56am

If social media has any value to Whole Foods other than advertising its wares, perhaps someone from the local store will address this editorial:

Lyons: Wetland to become Whole Foods parking lot
Gary Comp recalls how right it seemed in 1999 when his environmental assessment of a wetland full of maple trees helped sway the Sarasota County Commission not to let it become a parking lot.


Here is the comment from Whole Foods Market:

Hi Tom, Thank you for your concern regarding this matter. we are very sensitive to environmental sustainability, and one of Whole Foods Market's core values as a business is to practice and advance environmental stewardship. While we are not the site developer, we understand, the city, county, and federal agencies have all agreed that the developer’s plans for the space we and other retailers plan to lease are within current regulations. The developer has also gone above and beyond what is required by purchasing a large tract of pristine wetlands within the watershed and donating it back to the public to ensure it is preserved for generations of Sarasotans.

Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr

Linda K I appreciate the additional land was purchased and donated for preservation. HOWEVER...right here we have a prime example of just how "preserved and protected" these lands ACTUALLY are if a developer wants them! I also had to either laugh or cry at the "within current regulations" WF ACTUALLY so naive that they don't know that the City Commission is OWNED by the developers??? Need a regulation changed...just mention it and it's a done deal....
(Thank you, Commissioner Hines, for your "no" vote...It is appreciated and will be remembered...)

Like · Reply · 47 mins · Edited

Gini H - Whole Foods could have built a parking garage, like Publix at Bay St/41 did . I won't be shopping there anymore. BTW, Florida lost more than 260,000 acres of freshwater, emergent wetlands during 1985-1996, and the rate of loss of this wetland type more than doubled as compared to the rate during the 1970's-1980's period. Wetlands, particularly freshwater emergent wetlands, are essential for waterfowl and other wildlife, yet losses continue. Since Florida became a state, total wetland area has decreased by approximately 44%.
Wetland habitat in wintering areas such as Florida is important in the overall annual cycle of migratory waterfowl. Habitat conditions during this non-breeding period affect waterfowl survival and reproduction in subsequent years. Ducks must maintain or improve their body condition during winter to avoid mortality during spring migration and to meet the physiological demands of the nesting season (i.e., egg laying, incubation). The FWC's waterfowl staff devotes considerable resources to monitoring and managing these migrant birds and providing quality habitat for them in Florida.
Managing wetland habitat is critical to providing the greatest quantity and highest quality of habitat possible to support Florida's waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Without a large habitat base that includes breeding, migration, and wintering areas, waterfowl populations will decline despite any attempt to restrict sport harvest. Wetland habitat management has importance beyond its value to waterfowl by benefiting many other Florida plant and wildlife species.

Like · Reply · 1 · 27 mins