Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sept. 15: Planning Commission asked to change Comp Plan for developer

The unnamed developer of "Grand Lake" is Neal Homes.

 More about Neal Homes and developer Pat Neal

Public Notice regarding a proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan,
Sarasota 2050 Resource Management Area (RMA) System policies.
Public Notice

The property owner of the proposed Grand Lake development, located in the South Sarasota 2050 designated Village area generally located east of I-75 and south of Clark Road, has proposed a new alternative form of development called a "Village Enclave" that, if approved, could be applied in the Sarasota 2050 Village/Open Space Resource Management Areas. 

The proposed policy includes locational criteria where a "Village Enclave" could be located and development standards for the "Village Enclave", such as the following:
1. allowing a reduction of open space, 
2. allowing a reduction of Greenbelt Buffer widths, 
3. excluding the affordable housing requirement, and 
4. acquiring density without the use of the transfer of development rights from off-site sources, as well as 
5. other standards found in Village development such as walkable neighborhoods.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing for this privately-initiated Comprehensive Plan Amendment to discuss the standards and criteria on September 15 at 6:30 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible. The hearing will be held in the County Administration Center, Commission Chamber, 1660 Ringling Blvd. First Floor, Sarasota, Florida

Members of the public may direct their written comments on the proposed amendment to:

Planning and Development Services Department
1660 Ringling Blvd, 1st Floor
Sarasota FL 34236

Please call 941-861-5000 or email planner@scgov.net with your questions.

Date:    September 15, 2016
Time:   6:30 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible
Place:   Sarasota County Administration Center, County Commission Chamber, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, Florida
The Sarasota County Planning Commission, acting as the Local Planning Agency, will hold a Public Hearing on Comprehensive Plan Amendment No. 2015-F: A privately-initiated Amendment to the Sarasota 2050 Resource Management Area (RMA) Policy VOS1.2 in Chapter 9 of the Comprehensive Plan. The proposed revised policy provides standards and criteria to support a new alternative development form of a "Village Enclave" planned development zoning district within the Village/Open Space RMA future land use designation.
Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission will forward its recommendation to the Sarasota County Commission. The Amendment relates generally to properties located within the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County and generally shown on the map below:
All interested parties are invited to appear, be heard, and submit relevant evidence.  Copies of the Amendment and supporting documents are available during normal business hours in the Planning and Development Services Department at 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, Florida. Copies of the Amendment and supporting documents will be available to view or download at www.scgov.net, Keyword: Planning Commission the Friday prior to the public hearings. Written comments will be considered and may be sent to the Planning and Development Services Department prior to the public hearing at the above address or by e-mail to planner@scgov.net.  The public hearing may be continued from time to time as announced by the Board. For more information, telephone 941-861-5000.
No stenographic record by a certified court reporter is made of this meeting. Accordingly, any person who may seek to appeal any decision involving the matters noticed herein will be responsible for making a verbatim record of the testimony and evidence at this meeting upon which any appeal is to be based.
Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, religion, or genetic information. Persons with disabilities who require assistance or alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.), or who wish to file a complaint, should contact Sarasota County ADA/Civil Rights Coordinator, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, Florida 34236, Phone: 941-861-5000;
TTY 7-1-1 or 1-800-955-8771,

Planning Services provides unincorporated Sarasota County with land use services in collaboration with businesses, residents and neighboring jurisdictions to build a sustainable, prosperous community that distinguishes Sarasota County.
Planning Services |  planner@scgov.net | 941-861-5000
See what's happening on our social sites:

Accompanying Documents for Amendment 2015-F on Sarasota County Site:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Single-district voting in Sarasota County - Mail-in Petitions

The following was shared by a county resident who believes PAC funding and corporate interests are distorting local electoral politics:

The Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) has launched a charter amendment petition that would change how we elect Sarasota County Commissioners and Charter Review Board members.

Currently these positions are broken down by districts, however they run “at large” which means that if you want to represent District 2, you need to get the majority vote of the whole county because everyone in the county votes for all districts. The petition would change that so they are “single” districts and only those within the district can elect that position.

Why is this a good thing?

This has potential to get non-politically connected people elected to office. It is very costly for someone unknown to run county-wide. Elections for county positions can cost $50,000 and up. If a newcomer only has to canvas the district they will be representing, it will be less costly. Let’s face it, we are up against PAC money from large corporate interests. It is almost impossible for anyone outside the club to either raise funds needed to run or canvass the entire county.

What the opposition says:

The opposing view is that the County Commissioner will be voting and deciding on issues that affect all residents and that is why they believe all residents should have a say and be able to vote for them. That is ridiculous. We vote by district for representation in Congress. Congress decides on things that affect all Floridians. How would you feel if everyone in the state got to vote for your congressional district representative? All County Commissioners take an oath to uphold our charter and the state and US constitutions. It makes little sense to have districts if someone could get elected as a district representative without ONE vote from the district they represent – which can happen under “at large” elections.

If you support this change:

Please print out the two petitions at the link below, fill them out and mail them in. Also, please circulate to your friends and neighbors. They need 17,000 signatures. It is not impossible, if we all help out. Please understand that if they get enough signatures, then this issue will be placed on the ballot for the entire county electorate to vote on at a later date.


CONA tackles proposed amendments Sept. 12

- ballot proposals -

state amendments
county charter review board
Lourdes Ramirez - Gerry Swormstedt

On Monday, September 12, join CONA -- Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations --  as we host a discussion of the state and county amendments on the November ballot that will voted upon by all county voters.
  Lourdes Ramirez, chair of the Sarasota League of Women Voters speakers bureau, will present unbiased information about the proposed amendments to the state constitution and the proposal to change the fundamental nature of our county Charter Review Board.  
  Gerry Swormstedt will present information about the jointly-sponsored project entitled the Solar Co-op Program, involving the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club, which she chairs, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and the League of Women Voters. The meeting is free and open to the public.
  Since videos of our meetings are posted quickly to our web site and archived, all of our 2016 candidate forums and discussions will be available through the election in November. 
   See www.conasarasota.org/meetings for more about CONA.
social 6:30 p.m. -  meeting 7:00 p.m.
at the Sarasota Garden Club

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why the Charter Review Board Race matters

Mike Shlasko is one of 5 Dems running for the Charter Review Board. See the list of CRB candidates below. Schlasko's campaign gets to the key issue in the race:

Recently the Sarasota County Charter Review Board has voted to study a proposal by former GOP Party Chair Bob Waechter to turn the Board from an Elected Body meeting several times/year to an Appointed body meeting infrequently. This proposal is supported by several County Commissioners. This is a blatant attempt to turn our Charter Review Board from a Citizens Watchdog into the Commission's Lapdog! 

Bob Waechter

More about Bob Waechter
In 2013 the Charter Review Board also rejected a request to study a Charter Amendment that would elect County Commissioners by vote of their District Constituents rather than by vote of the electorate in the entire county which makes it extremely difficult for candidates not backed by wealthy real estate developers to fund campaigns targeting our now almost 300,000 county voters. 

There have even been recent attempts to require 60% voter approval rather than the 50% to pass Charter Amendments as well as attempts to limit the time to collect signatures for charter change via Citizens Petition. 

All of these actions speak to an attempt to limit the ability of our citizens to have direct and local input into our County Government.

The new candidates

The five new candidates for the Charter Review Board have strong roots in Southwest Florida and a wide range of active community experience. More about them here:

All Charter Review Candidates:

Charter Review Board, Dist. 1Arlene Sweeting (DEM)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 1Joseph Anthony (Tony) Sawyer (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 2Karen Collins-Fleming(DEM)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 2Donna Barcomb (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 2Vic Rohe (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 2Robert Neff (GRE)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 3Tom Patalano (DEM)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 3Pat Wayman (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 4Ray Porter (DEM)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 4Jody Hudgins (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 5Mike Shlasko (DEM)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 5Walt Augustinowicz (REP)Qualified
Charter Review Board, Dist. 5David Samuel (REP)Qualified

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Updates for Sarasota, Manatee, and Three-Card Monte at work

In case you've been away or given up on media, a few recent stories:

In Sarasota County:

UPDATE: Whole Foods lawsuit dismissed

(One has to read the comment thread to understand what actually took place):

Tom Ochsner: To me this doesn't sound like anyone got paid off. What it does sound like is the developers basically threatened to countersue the entire Manasota 88 group for costs and, likely, "damages". My guess is those representing the 1,000 members had to decide if it was worth exposing financially each individual member. I can't blame them, though it is very disappointing and does show that big $ runs the show.

Dark Money Part Z: Eric Robinson finances Holder's Attack on Steube.

Look, we think Steube's gun politics is criminal. But Robinson is Mr. Dark Money. And now he's on the School Board. 

DiCicco: Antidote to Sarasota’s Toxic Commission
"Bottom line: an entrenched political machine has been effective in undermining Sarasota’s quality of life for the last decade, with greater success in recent years. Those who fund and direct this “growth machine” effort are Pat Neal, Carlos Beruff, Rex Jensen and Randy Benderson. A review of local PACs and campaign ledgers reveal their investments in their growth machine candidates."

Sarasota County Commission candidates trade jabs

Again, the comments provide the insight:

Ray Porter: The same Republicans who cry and moan about influence peddling and corruption at the federal level are so quick to deny that anybody is influenced by developer cash at the local level. Why the double standard? Government closest to the people is the MOST vulnerable to political influence and favoritism. We should move toward district-only voting for county commissioners - level the playing field; encourage more candidates to come forward; and make the elections winnable through grassroots campaigning in limited geographic areas. Someone could win with good ideas and $20,000 in contributions, as opposed to buying a seat with $150,000 in developer money.

Eric "Dark Money" Robinson

Dark Money Sarasota Manatee II: Who is Trying to Buy Your Vote?

"By the way, remember that $50,000 donated by Robinson Hanks Accounting to Manatee Against Taxation on June 5, 2013? On July 3, 2013, Manatee Against Taxation turned around and paid Robinson Hanks $50,000 for accounting services. It’s interesting that a political committee required accounting services valued at 43% of its total 115K in assets, and remarkable when a company can make a 50K political committee donation and then one month later charge the same political committee an exorbitant 50K accounting fee, recouping its original donation. Even more remarkable how the PACs treasurer, chair and registered agent are one and the same – Mr. Robinson. Now Sarasota has Mr. Robinson’s accounting prowess at the helm on the Sarasota School Board."

In Manatee County:

Mosaic Phosphate Mining Operation allowed to go forward despite concerns about water contamination.
BRADENTON — At Thursday's Special Planning Commission meeting, Mosaic Fertilizer LLC requested the commission recommend an ordinance to rezone 3,596 acres from General Agriculture (A) to Extraction Zoning District (EX) and extend their mining permit through 2037.

Phosphate mining creates “moonscape” in Florida - 

A WMNF podcast presentation by Andy Mele of Sierra Club on gypsum stacks.

See also this excellent reporting by the Herald Tribune:

Florida Mental Hospitals 

Florida’s state-funded mental hospitals are supposed to be safe places to care for people who are a danger to themselves or others. But years of neglect and deep budget cuts transformed them into treacherous warehouses where violent patients roam the halls with no supervision and workers are left on their own to oversee dozens of people. Now, no one is safe inside.

The only uncertainty is whether the piece concerns actual mental hospitals, or Rick Scott's funny farm. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Developers want last site on Sarasota Bay

Core Development and Naples-based Apogee Realty Advisors LLC are seeking to develop the last open space on Sarasota Bay, according to the Business Observer.

Sarasota resident Ruth Brandwein provides information about this pending development, known as Cassia Cay.
The proposed site is on South Tamiami Trail, north of Vamo Rd., abutting the Presbyterian Church and the County's Bayonne Preserve; it runs to the west borders of Little Sarasota Bay.
I chaired the Pelican Cove Government and Neighborhood Liaison Committee that was charged with exploring this development that is only 1/2 mile from our property. Our board ultimately wrote a letter to the county expressing concerns about traffic, but did not take a position on the actual development. Now I and others who had been on the committee are acting as individuals, not official representatives. 
This is the last undeveloped piece of land on the Bay and the Bayonne Preserve has an active eagles' nest. The preserve is also the site of Indian Mounds. 
Tamiami Trail is an evacuation route, and you are probably aware of the proposed large Benderson development just about two miles north at Tamiami and Stickney Point Rd. Together, these two developments would exacerbate the already congested traffic situation, especially during the winter months. 
The Cassia Cay development comprises two adjoining parcels--18.27 acres is zoned Commercial General and they are proposing mixed used development, but they are asking for certain waivers and exceptions--one to increase the minimum height of at least one of the buildings and another to allow only apartments, instead of mixed use in another building. The second parcel of 13 acres is along the Bay and is zoned high density residential with 98 units, for a total a total of 158 residential units. More details can be found in this pdf.
Update: The County Planning Commission hearing that was scheduled for Aug. 18 has been canceled. As of now, we have no information when the hearing will be held. We will inform you and strongly encourage all residents who are concerned about traffic, the danger of congestion of a hurricane evacuation route and the loss of natural habitat on Little Sarasota Bay should plan to attend. Numbers matter!

Artist's rendering courtesy of the Herald Tribune

More here and here.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Block Beruff's Boat Channel in Sarasota Bay - UPDATE

NEWS: This story now has an important update.

It seems developer Carlos Beruff wishes to create an artificial break in Sarasota bay:

Long Bar Pointe developer Carlos Beruff has convinced the state to permit a mitigation bank that he wants to use to help him destroy local wetlands.

Please read this editorial from the Bradenton Times, which is reproduced below in case the site is busy or down. Then write or email.

The Army Corp of Engineers have requested for you to comment. Take the time to write or call before it is too late.

Contact Ms. Amy Thompson :
electronic mail at 
fax at 
telephone at 

or at the following address: 

P. O. BOX 4970

1. The mitigation bank will have a 120-foot break in the most natural shoreline along Sarasota Bay. This break is the location that Beruff has proposed a new boat channel cutting through high-quality mangroves and virgin sea grass. This break along the coastal area will prevent wildlife from using this natural corridor and have adverse impacts on wildlife and the wetlands.

2. The mitigation bank does not meet the requirements to preserve the land and water in the existing, natural condition. Beruff has convinced the state to allow trimming mangroves in the mitigation bank for his development and includes a conceptual mangrove trimming plan. This violates state permitting for trimming mangroves, yet the provision is in his state permit that would allow trimming in a mitigation bank. This contravenes the conservation easement requirements to maintain the bank in the exiting, natural condition, which the trimming of mangroves adversely impacts.

3. The mitigation bank will forever change the aesthetics along the last remaining shoreline by reserving a boat channel area through mangroves and sea grass, trimming of mangroves and placing buoys along the shoreline.

4. The bank should be considered the first phase of development for Long Bar Pointe, with a new boat channel and a marina—which Manatee County residents overwhelmingly opposed at one of the longest and most attended meeting in Manatee County’s history. The ACOE should reject this policy of using a mitigation bank to disguise the total impacts from a master plan Beruff has to impact the environment.

5. The mitigation bank would create additional flood hazards by not maintaining in the existing natural state, the existing shoreline. The mitigation bank credits would allow removing the mangroves along the shoreline. These mangroves buffer the shore and structures from storms and waves.

6. The mitigation bank has used artificial credits to justify the destroying of the environment, creating future unmitigated adverse impacts on fish and wildlife values. Once a credit is issued based on "fake lift" then Beruff or others can use these credits to destroy the environment without equal compensation. For example, Beruff's plans to place buoys, not on his property but in state waters, at a cost of around $6,000. For this, will get around seven credits to possibly allow destruction of seven acres of sea grass. No sea grasses are ever created to offset those destroyed. He claims he is preserving sea grass that would have been impacted when, essentially, he would get to destroy sea grasses without creating any. The fact is that sea grass in Sarasota Bay has exceeded their goal now by over 3,000 acres, mostly in the area around Long Bar Pointe because of the work of the National Estuary Program. Beruff states unfounded claims this area is impacted by high nutrient loading. Historical trends shows sea grass not there in the 1980s came back steadily. Hence, the only preservation we need is protection from this poorly conceived development.

7. Since the mitigation bank separation along the shoreline is for ripping out mangroves and sea grasses for a new channel, there will be shoreline erosion and accretion. When boats use a channel, turbidity increases, silt is sent on top of the sea grasses and adverse impacts are created. This is the reason the county prohibits new channels. However, Beruff and company don’t like policies to protect the environment if they impede development and sued the county, arguing that their rules were not legal. The Judge correctly noted it was within the county’s powers to protect the welfare of the public. Beruff did not like the Judge’s decision and appealed, costing taxpayers more money defending what should be logical and reasonable for protecting our quality of life.

8. Another issue that the state reviewer noted was that the proposed mitigation bank "is little more than what would be expected to occur in the 'without bank' scenario, as only approximately 8 acres of mangroves are being preserved from trimming beyond what would already be required, the sea grass areas and remaining mangroves are already protected and any impacts would have to be mitigated, and the exotic removal in the upland portions of the proposed bank would be required by local ordinances." Credits are not supposed to be issued if local state or federal rules would require the same action.

9. Most of the mitigation bank requests credits for preservation. The ACOE states "preservation may be included as the sole basis for credits only under exceptional circumstances." This is not an exceptional circumstance, and the ACOE needs to give this so called mitigation bank the quick red light.

The mitigation bank as proposed is technically infeasible, and should not be processed because of the issues stated above. Any mitigation bank proposal that does not preserve the entire shoreline should be rejected. It also sets a bad precedent for future mitigation banks.

The community needs to help protect this last part of natural shoreline along Sarasota Bay, known as the "Kitchen." It is the most productive habitat and the genesis for sea life throughout our area. Our recreational and commercial fisherman can’t afford to lose more resources. Our ecotourism depends on this natural shoreline.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mele on the blinding of Sarasota County - through language

Andy Mele:

Sarasota County's New Vision is . . .

Vague, imprecise and unenforceable 

. . . In many places (such as policy 1.3.6, allowing native habitats to be destroyed by development), the plan substitutes the word “encourage” for the word “shall.” “Shall” is precise, compulsory and enforceable. “Encourage” renders the entire section unenforceable and moot, and that is its intent. Again, both commissioners and county staff are adamant about keeping these changes, attributed to “public input,” but introduced at the behest of private interests.
For insight into this blurring of the lines between private and public interest, I went looking for confirmation in law that this distinction actually matters any more. 
I found it in Article II, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution.Turns out that in the state’s principal legal document, a county commissioner is responsible for, and accountable to, the public trust. 
The wording of this section is interesting, in light of the changes to the comprehensive plan. “The people shall have the right to secure and sustain that trust against abuse.” In the Florida Constitution, there is a bright and shining line between private and public interests. 
Yet, this plan “update” makes clear that both staff and the commission have been mingling public with private in a manner that contravenes the letter and spirit of the law.
I doubt that you would find 10 people in the county, outside the tight circle of beneficiaries, who think private interest is in the public’s benefit. Conflating the two in policy is called corruption, and here in America, we may practice corruption, but we don’t like it, and it is against the law. More here . . .

Monday, August 1, 2016

Are you registered?

Your vote is your voice. Today's the last day to register to use your voice. Here's how

Citizens for Sarasota County (CSC) is a new coalition to promote ethical, responsive government that preserves and enhances Sarasota's unique natural environment and cultural heritage while building a sound local economy based on effective stewardship and innovation.