Saturday, April 23, 2016

Who decides what is "reasonable" land use?

Cathy Antunes on Whole Foods Market's proposal to destroy a healthy wetland:
Why do you live in Sarasota? Whether natives or transplants, if you ask us why we chose to live here most Sarasotans list the natural environment as a major reason. Sarasota residents value our water and green space, so much so that we tax ourselves extra to purchase land for preservation. Weaving environmental preservation into commercial and residential development is a community value, so it is critical that standards and ordinances created to achieve sound environmental stewardship are upheld and not redefined by outside interests. The recent approval of a Whole Foods development on a preserved and functioning wetland and the subsequent litigation around this approval highlight important questions: Whose interests are going to be paramount in defining Sarasota County’s environmental standards—those who live and work here, or those who wish to profit? MORE . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

LTE: Whole Foods' Trophy

Whole Foods' Trophy

When defending a proposed Whole Foods parking lot on University Parkway that will destroy a long-protected and functioning wetland, Whole Foods’ spokesperson Tony Lesley said the company will “hire an arborist to identify trees that, once removed, can be repurposed into tables and wall art” for the new store.
This is akin to repurposing Cecil the Lion by hanging his trophy head on the wall.
Whole Foods as a corporation may support laudable “green” values but clearly does not understand or support core environmental values important to Sarasota County residents.
Whole Foods’ eco-friendly actions in energy efficiency and recycling will occur at any location. But they should happen at a different site — one without wetlands or other environmental features our community wants to protect.
Susan Schoettle

Sarasota's Intentional Sprawl

Sprawl is like pornography, you can easily recognize it when you see it, as one can from an aerial or by driving through it. For the most part it should be called suburban sprawl

Admittedly there are lots of poor definitions, and debate over the exact meaning but it is pretty universal in conveying what it is. For example, it is not unplanned, haphazardly developed or unattractive to most people. In the case of Sarasota not only is it planned it is mandated.

The problem is not that it is unplanned but that the geography is not comprehensively planned; it is mostly a plan for developers and their interests. For example, in Sarasota County there is no comprehensive agriculture or natural resource plan for land uses or systems. All lands that are not publicly owned have some type of development designated including all the rural area.

"Sprawl" conveys that suburban and urban land use designations cover all the land -- even the agriculture and natural resource based lands. It basically renders the agriculture and natural resource base uses unaffordable, since the high price of development rights makes them financially unfeasible, and encourages strong pressure to develop the land.
The natural resources and ecological infrastructure are not planned holistically. They are done piecemeal with the hope that everything will fit together. In effect, the developers are given all the responsibility for planning natural resources and agriculture within their developments, which is impossible because there is not even a blue print for them to fit into and and much of the development is grandfathered in, so there is no requirement for natural systems to ever be developed as a system. We instead end up with natural resources being covered, fragmented and unmanaged thanks to development, except to prevent environmental risks such as flooding. We even do that poorly.

I like the term "sprawl" because it illustrates the spreading out of very low density, single use and ineffective development patterns and systems, highly car dependent, requiring highly ineffective transportation and public facility systems. It also conveys the lack of planning for an area's natural resources and agriculture.

There is much more interesting discussion on sprawl in Wikipedia.

Maynard Hiss

Letter to Sarasota Planning: Traffic and construction

It is time that health and safety be at the front end of ANY building proposal and approval process. Although there are other health and safety needs, the traffic issue needs to be on the forefront. Nothing should be considered or approved without a thorough look at the proposed impact on traffic. The data is there but hasn't been used in that fashion. It's time that the County and the FDOT traffic and accident data be studied together for this purpose. 
It must become a priority component of the building approval process.
If you have thoughts on how to make this happen, I am all ears.
This step is a win win for all. The developers can't say it's a costly study because it isn't and the data just needs to be pulled in that fashion so the planners shouldn't complain either and the residents and visitors all benefit. And instead of spending additional tax payer dollars to modify high accident intersections and roads after a tipping point of accidents occur, new building will be approved on the merits of it not adding further burden to high traffic/ high accident areas. 
I have yet to hear any good reason why this shouldn't happen. 
The only feedback I have gotten is that one entity feels this change fits better with another entity. In other words they say, I don't know what to do with this and it looks like it's someone else's problem to fix. Please take this on! 
Vicki Nighswander MAT, MPH

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Differentiation and Networking: The Amplification of being Loosely Joined

When an individual or single group voices its concerns, it's often speaking to its own choir, and the message, while valued, is contained within its own circle.

Imagine many such individuals and groups, all speaking in isolated fashion:

The overall effect is random. No one is hearing, or acknowledging, anyone else, even though all are using a shared, vast network of unprecedented suppleness and power.

Now consider what happens when some of those "dots" form even loosely joined* groups:

In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. Wikipedia.

Below is a note from Euan Semple, one of the early leaders of social media at the BBC. His point about difference is well taken - and can be applied outside of a single corporate realm:

When we got going with blogs inside the BBC we had seemingly endless conversations about whether bloggers should be able to use their own designs and add their own plugins etc. I was all for it, believing that differentiation makes it easier to navigate not harder. Others felt that it was important to make them all look the same in the name of some ideal of consistency. 
Reminds me of the analogy I used to use. Networks of blogs linking to each other become like old villages. No one enforces an overall architectural style or signage, but we find them easy to navigate because there are well worn paths between the church and the pub for instance. We feel comfortable with the human scale and quickly learn our way around. Over controlled shiny corporate blogs, and most intranets, are like Milton Keynes. Efficient on the face of it, but bewildering if you don't understand the system. I get lost in Milton Keynes every time I go there even with a sat nav! 
I occasionally hear of marketing or internal comms teams trying to assert control over individual bloggers who have "found their voices" and in some cases attracted significant audiences. In doing so they risk compromising the very qualities that made the bloggers trusted, successful and, most importantly, discoverable in the first place. 
What are they so afraid of? That we won't be able to work out that the blogger works for them? That we will think that they have lost control and staff are running amok? 
We love differentiation. Why not embrace it and try to get good at it?

Anyone who has a blog or other Internet presence (Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) can amplify a network of others by linking to those that are consistent with their purpose and values.

When one person writes something, it's a single light source. When a network relays it, it becomes a constellation.

Consider how we can amplify our distinct voices and the reach of our shared ideas through the range, variety and consilience of a responsive network.

*See David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gentleman Jensen of SMR / Lakewood Ranch

The villages are coming — at last. 
Delayed by nearly 15 years of political and legal battles, efforts to get the design and building regulations in working order and an economic recession, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch — developers of the 48-square-mile Lakewood Ranch — broke ground Tuesday on its long-anticipated villages development. 
Waterside, formerly called the Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, becomes SMR's first residential development in Sarasota County. Tucked on 5,490 acres southeast of the University Parkway and Interstate 75 interchange . . . MORE

In the context of today's tale of the first sighting of the Villages of Lakewood Ranch, one might do well to remember this exchange from 5 years ago:

Dan Lobeck's email and Rex Jensen's response

Published: Friday, November 4, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
From: Dan Lobeck []
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:11 PM
Subject: [SarasotaVoices] Selling Out Cheap To Developers and Shorting the Environment
There is a second issue to come to the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners this afternoon which is of enormous importance.
Again, there is no public hearing but comments may be made under Open To The Public.
The BCC is being asked by staff to sell “development rights” on County land to developers at rock-bottom prices, significantly below their actual value. They would then be used by developers to build intense urban developments east of I-75 under the Sarasota County 2050 Plan.
The worst thing about this is if developers can buy those rights cheaply from the County they will have no incentive to transfer them from Greenways, which is the other way they can develop under the Sarasota 2050 Plan. This preservation of Greenways was one of the big selling points when the County sought public support for the Sarasota 2050 Plan.
The staff proposal is to set the price of a development right per unit to 2.5% of the price of an affordable housing unit, that is one which is very cheaply priced.
The County’s consultant admitted in his report that this came from the recommendation of “one particularly successful Sarasota and Manatee County developer,” which is likely to be Rex Jensen of Schroder-Manatee or Pat Neal.
Once again, we have a case of the developers determining development policy, shorting the taxpayer and the environment in the process.
The consultant’s report at one point discusses charging 5% of the actual sales price of each unit but then cuts that in half as a “discount” to make it cheaper for developers. The report also discusses basing the charge on actual market prices but staff has cut the price further by basing it on affordable housing.
The consultant also provided the option of basing the price on the County’s cost of acquiring the land, which for the Walton Tract would be a higher price of $6,615 per unit. That could be even more, the consultant reported if ten years of maintenance cost was added.
The County Commission should not adopt staff’s recommendation but should either set the higher price based on the County’s acquisition cost or send the matter back for further study.
-- Dan Lobeck
From: Rex Jensen []
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:36 PM
The next time you take my name in vain and in error, be prepared for a series of very bad days you walking manure pile.
Sent from my Blackberry. Please excuse brevity, abbreviations & misspellings.

Lakewood Ranch's Rex Jensen

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Open Space to be less open

Sarasota County Planning to hold "informational" Public Meeting (not a Public Hearing) to show public the reasoning for a proposed reduction of open space in East County to no less than 33% - this is a considerable reduction from what the 2050 plan originally designed. Tues. April 26th, 6 pm at Twin Lakes. (Click on image to enlarge):

State House Forum at CONA 4.11.16

The first Election 2016 Debate at CONA Sarasota offered more than enough sparks flying -- on guns, abortion, regulations, state vs. local power, and much more. Only three candidates attended: James T. Golden and Steve Vernon running for State House Dist. 73 (East Sarasota), and Edward James III, a candidate for State House Dist. 72 (North Sarasota).

(CONA videotapes these forums with thanks to Pete Theissen.) The videos are below in sequence.

James T. Golden


Steve Vernon

Edward James III

Dan Lobeck moderated, and CONA President Kafi Benz did the intro and audience questions.

Dan Lobeck
Three other candidates did not attend: Alex Miller, Sara Kathleen Blackwell, and Joe Gruters.

See Herald Tribune - Zac Anderson's story:

SARASOTA - Republican state House candidate Steve Vernon told a crowd gathered in Sarasota Monday for a candidate forum that he "absolutely" believes large donors corrupt the political system and campaign finance reform is needed. 
Vernon's Democratic opponent, James Golden, took the opposite position, saying: “I'm not concerned about the money; what I'm more concerned about is the apathy.”
It was among the many sharp — and sometimes surprising — divides between the three candidates for two Florida House races in a forum at the Sarasota Garden Club hosted by the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations. 
Three candidates — all Republicans — skipped the forum, leaving two Democrats and Vernon to answer questions in front of about 50 people. More here.

Tom Lyons on the Whole Foods Wetland Mitigation Fiasco

Follow-up via the Herald Tribune:

The decision to allow the total destruction of a long-protected 4.5-acre wooded swamp to accommodate a parking lot was an unpleasant surprise to some local environmentalists, only in part because the mitigation project offered in return wasn't in the same county. It was in Manatee County. Nothing about the mitigation site sounded like it would entice Sarasota County commissioners with visions of a local restoration project to point to as a worthy swap. 
But as reporter Emily LeCoz revealed in Sunday's Herald-Tribune, that wasn't the half of why this mitigation deal looks really bad.

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Schneider files to oppose Vern Buchanan

via The Bradenton Times

Jan Schneider Files to Run for Vern Buchanan's U.S. House Seat

Staff Report
Tuesday, Mar 29, 2016
Sarasota attorney Jan Schneider has filed to run for the District 13 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. A candidate for local offices in the past, Schneider's opponent in November is Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan.

Schneider graduated with a bachelor's from Brown University and a master's in international affairs from Columbia University. She also has a Juris Doctor and a PhD in political science from Yale. As an author, Schneider has written books on protecting natural resources as well as on global warming.

Schneider mounted two considerable challenges to Katherine Harris in 2002 (losing 54.8 - 45.2 percent) and 2004 (losing 55.3 to 44.7 percent). She ran for what was then the District 16 seat in the 2006 Democratic Primary, losing to Christine Jennings; in 2008, she ran as an independent for the same seat but withdrew before the election.

Speaking over the phone on Monday, Schneider said that she was currently only laying the groundwork for a campaign, but would make an announcement soon.

Pat Neal Grabs Land

Pat Neal grabs more Manatee land

Corona Creekwood LLC, a Dallas company managed by Tony Koeijmans and two partners, sold 88 acres off 44th Avenue E in Bradenton to Neal Communities of Southwest Florida. Centex Homes paid $13.3 million for the land in December 2005 and transferred it to Corona Creekwood in March 2008. 
For Neal - the region’s largest homebuilder - the purchase is at least his 21st in the past two years. During that time, he has shelled out more than $60 million to acquire 1,800 acres and 205 vacant lots.
Here’s a list of its other purchases:
[eds. note this is only through Nov. 2014]
1) 28 acres at 6451 Prospect Road in Southern Manatee County for $1.7 million
2) 47 acres at 2004 Pope Road in East Manatee County for $1.8 million
3) 368 acres off Border Road in Nokomis for $12 million
4) 52 acres off Border Road in Nokomis for $1.43 million
5) 36 acres off State Road 72 in Sarasota for $3.66 million.
6) 269 acres of vacant land at 10525 and 11333 Moccasin Wallow Road for $2.75 million
7) 32 acres of land off Pinebrook Road in Nokomis for $2.5 million
8) 106 acres at the Colonial Lakes community in Fort Myers for $3.025 million
9) 53 vacant lots in Estero for $1.24 million
10) 47 building lots in the Country Club East neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch for $5.225 million.
11) 71 acres off North Rye Road in Parrish out of foreclosure from Liberty Savings Bank for $650,000
12) 60 vacant lots in Palmetto’s Sugar Mill Lakes for $1.245 million
13) 23.6 acres of land off Stoner and Englewood roads in Englewood for $420,000
14) 41 acres at 1401 Village Green Parkway in Bradenton for $1.8 million
15) 45 lots off Spanish Harbor Court in Fort Myers for $2.25 million
16) 333 acres at the Boca Royale Golf & Country Club in Englewood for $1.643 million
17) 124 acres at 2192 Border Road in Venice for $1.6 million.
18) 110 acres near the Central Park neighborhood in Lakewood Ranch for $8.3 million
19) 82 acres of land in Manatee County for $2.73 million.
20) 43 acres of vacant grazing land on the southeast corner of Prospect Road and Whitfield Avenue in South Manatee for $1.4 million.
21) About 40 acres at 4215 Pope Road in Bradenton for $3.2 million.