Saturday, June 25, 2016

Excerpts on toxic development

From Cathy Antunes' The Detail via SRQ

Landfill Sandwich

"The side-stepping of concerns about contamination from these landfills has been jaw-dropping."
In a recent e-mail to County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, a resident of the Foxfire neighborhood expressed concern about how the construction of 200 new homes (Waverly—a Medallion Homes/Carlos Beruff project) is impacting his home and family. . ..

Toxic dump

Carlos Beruff
A 2008 Department of Environmental Protection report lists landfill and adjacent tests showing barium, benzo(a)pyrene, benzene, arsenic and cumulative Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) levels beyond acceptable residential levels. The arsenic and PAH concentrations also exceeded acceptable industrial levels.


A request to build 200 new homes alongside the two unlined former Foxfire landfills was denied by the County Commission in 2013 due to contamination concerns. Prolific County Commission campaign and PAC donor Carlos Beruff subsequently purchased the land in May 2014, and six months later—voila!—the request to permit residential development was approved.
...

The side-stepping of concerns about contamination from these landfills has been jaw-dropping. During the 2013 planning commission hearing, Mike Moran asked the county attorney whether or not he and other planning commissioners have a duty to consider testimony of potential toxic contamination in their vote on the rezone, or if that was a job for other agencies. The attorney replied that planning commissioners have broad license to consider how the health, safety and welfare of neighboring residents would be impacted.

Moran responded: “So in other words, if a Commissioner here felt tonight that the land was contaminated and unsafe for use based on the testimony, not any testing that was done, it would not be grounds for a vote to decline the project?”

Mr. Moran wants to be your new County Commissioner. The big development “Growth Machine” is funding his campaign (yes, including Beruff).

This is the “Growth Machine” business model: buy cheap rural land and rezone it for residential development.

Foxfire landfill sites

How can this be right? It isn’t.

Cathy Antunes serves on the board of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Slate filling out on CRB races

Five democrats filed to run for Sarasota County's Charter Review Board this week. Each district now has an actual race. Despite Bob Waechter's dim view of the Board as an elective body, it's still an active elective board:


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



Also relevant to our local elections: This saturday, a BGA forum exploring reforms for our election structure:

JON THAXTON, Senior Vice President for Community Investment, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and former County Commissioner

CATHY ANTUNES, President, Citizens for Sarasota County and public interest activist

Moderator: FRANK ALCOCK, Professor of Political Science, New College of Florida

Where: Gulf Gate Public Library auditorium


7112 Curtis Ave., Sarasota
When: Saturday, June 25, 2016 
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The County Needs New Faces

From Dan Lobeck:



Here's your last-minute chance to make a big difference in Sarasota County government.

Concerned citizens who want to run for local office have until 
Friday at noon (June 24) to file and qualify.

To do so, you can call Cathy Fowler of the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office at 861-8605 and she will be glad to help.  She can email the paperwork to you or you can pick it up, or fill it out on the spot, at the Elections Office in downtown Sarasota or in Venice or North Port.  They are open 8am to 5pm, but again the deadline is Friday at noon.

Two offices to consider are County Commission and Charter Review Board.

For County Commission, so far incumbent Charles Hines (R) is unopposed in District 5 and Nancy Detert (R) is unopposed in District 3.  The filing fee is $4,939.86 to run as a party candidate or $3,291.24 to run as NPA (No Party Affiliation).  One of the required forms is a more thorough financial disclosure which may take some time and information to fill out.

A run for Charter Review Board is easier, with no filing fee and a simple financial disclosure listing of assets and sources of income with no dollar numbers​, which can be done at the Elections Office within a half hour.

Two Charter Review Board members who recently voted to advance a measure to take away the voters' right to elect our Charter Review Board are so far unopposed in their Republican primary.  They are Anthony Sawyer in District 1 and Jody Hudgins in District 4.  There is a full slate of Democratic candidates for all five seats up for election, but so far no challenger to these two incumbents in their Republican primary elections.

A candidate for County Commission or Charter Review Board must reside in the designated District, although the vote is county-wide, both in the August 30 primary and the November 8 general election.  Maps of the Districts may be found here: 
Map of County Districts.

It might also be noted that the deadline for voter registration or a change in a voter's party affiliation, for the August 30 primary elections (for instance to vote in the Republican primary contest between Frank DiCicco and Mike Moran for County Commission District 1), is August 1.

  -- Dan Lobeck
 
Join Control Growth Now

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Something's rotten . . .

See this? It's a map of just one of Eric Robinson's apparently slimy PAC operations:


Robinson, who is also the treasurer for the embarrassing Carlos "Obama-is-an-animal" Beruff, is a player in Southwest Florida. According to The Detail, Robinson "contributed" big money to a PAC that he runs - then paid himself handsomely from the PAC for his services.

Eric Robinson

Carlos Beruff
Both Robinson and Beruff hail from Miami. Both have managed to become quite wealthy, and now want taxpayers to employ them. Beruff, who has greased local campaign funds (more here) for years, has declared he'd like Rubio's US Senate seat. Besides helping Carlos in that effort, Robinson is hoping to become an elected official himself - he's running for Sarasota School Board. He has an opponent: John Dippolito of Nokomis.

Something's rotten - the same folks who have played hardball politics as moneybags and backroom managers now are seeking public office.

Do our children need to have their lives, their schools, their horizons, their sense of public dignity, modeled by the likes of Eric and Carlos? Will developers develop more toxic sites, as Beruff is doing at Foxfire? What if they all made it to positions of public power -- Mike Moran, Greg Steube and Pat Neal, along with Carlos and Eric?


Monday, June 20, 2016

Forum on Reforming Local Elections June 25th

At Gulf Gate Library this Saturday, 2 pm:

BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION OF SARASOTA COUNTY INVITES YOU TO A FREE NON-PARTISAN FORUM ON REFORMING OUR LOCAL ELECTIONS

1. OPEN PRIMARY AND RUNOFF: Should all registered voters (Republicans, Democrats and independents) vote in a primary for all local elected officials, with the top two candidates, regardless of party, going to a run-off election if none of them receives a majority in the primary?

2. NONPARTISAN BALLOTS FOR NON-POLITICAL POSITIONS: Should all County candidates for elected office EXCEPT County Commission and Charter Review Board (e.g. Sheriff, County Clerk, Supervisor of Elections, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Prosecutor, Public Defender, Hospital Board, etc.) appear on the ballot without partisan identification?

3. DISTRICT ONLY VOTING FOR BOARDS: Should County Commissioners, Hospital Board, School Board, and Charter Review Board members be elected only by the voters in their district?

4. AND OTHER IDEAS?

JON THAXTON, Senior Vice President for Community Investment, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and former County Commissioner

CATHY ANTUNES, President, Citizens for Sarasota County and public interest activist

Moderator: FRANK ALCOCK, Professor of Political Science, New College of Florida

Where: Gulf Gate Public Library auditorium

7112 Curtis Ave., Sarasota
When: Saturday, June 25, 2016 
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

See video from an earlier BGA Forum on "Alternative Visions" here.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Focus: Criticism of the Current Commission


In response to the question: What are three errors or wrong decisions made by the current County Commission ? First new candidate Frank DiCicco, then Nancy Detert and Fredd Atkins:









Tuesday, June 14, 2016

County Commission Forum at CONA

Video of the entire CONA Forum of Sarasota County Commission Candidates can be found at this link.

Four candidates participated in the two-hour Q & A:

Frank DiCicco - Dist. 1

Fredd Atkins - Dist. 1

Nancy Detert - Dist. 3 (current state Senator)

Charles Hines - Dist. 5 (incumbent)

One candidate (Moran-Dist. 1) did not attend - no explanation was given.

Questions covered a good deal of ground -- from land use and the urban service area to impact fees for schools, affordable housing, the county's reserve fund, its relations with the local municipalities, the environment, water, parks, economic development, the Charter Review Board (all said they opposed making it an appointed, rather than elected, body), open primaries, and more.

All five segments of the video (from Pete Theissen) can be accessed at the upper left (where it says 1/5).




Herald Tribune coverage here.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Andy Mele: Follow-Up: Tiny Comp Plan Win

We got a little something from the Sarasota BoCC on Friday.  Apparently they decided to extend the Comprehensive Plan Update process by a month.  Wholly inadequate, but better than nothing.

Considering that the Comprehensive Plan is The Law governing land use, development, open space, bays and rivers, basically everything that people value about this region, we need top pay a lot more attention to it.

There were exactly three people testifying for the environment at the BoCC hearings: Jono Miller, Dan Lobeck, and myself.  If that's the best we can do, we deserve the landscape destruction we get.

The Plan is a daunting volume.  And we all know that the fix is in, as always.  But we have to fight it anyhow --- as always.  And it's a lot more efficient to fight it at this stage than after the fact.  

Take one section of the plan.  It's in twelve sections, many of which you won't be able to engage with.  It's all on line.  Some sections are brief, some run over 100 pages, but taking it one bite at a time, analysis is far more manageable and attainable.





The Update is a nightmare, a morass of ambiguous language and last-minute developer-introduced changes to language that was somewhat more efficient and functional.  This draft appears hell-bent on forcing much more of the decision-making onto the courts for interpretation.  A prime example is the new sentence introduced by notorious developer minion Dana West into VII 2 f of Wetlands policy, calling for zoning decisions to be based on a "landscape context." This is an invention of, by, and for the developers.  They are imagining that they will point to all the development around a wetland and say, "It is surrounded, therefore cannot possibly be worth saving," and oil up the chain saws.  In fact, they will drag the County into many more cases like the Whole Foods wetland, and look to the taxpayers to pay the bill for the fuzzy language.

We can't rely entirely on Dan Lobeck for analysis.  I will be taking some parts.  I hope you will too, and contribute your comments.  I will be happy to forward them to my list.

Best wishes,
Andy  

June 8th Comp Plan Transmittal Hearing

June 10th not yet available online.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Going Stupid

Anyone who has spent half a day in S. Florida knows that the folks over there blew it. Growth created hell, and it extends even to public lands. Here's an advisory from a public parks site near Avvventura:

* ALERT: PARK CAPACITY 

Once the park reaches capacity no one will be allowed to enter until space becomes available. If you have rented a pavilion, hosting an event or have been invited to an event please plan accordingly because you will not be allowed to re-enter until space is available. 


This is, simply put, stupid growth. For years, Sarasota County has tried to rein in cupidity and stupidity -- to allow for a slower, more organic, thoughtful pace of development.

Dan Lobeck's analyses of the new Comp Plan heading for State review convincingly show that smart growth is over:

Neighborhoods, Mobility under Attack

Nature at Risk

And Jono Miller notes a change that could make hunting in parks not the exception, but the norm:
On Friday the tenth of June 2016, the County Commission may consider amending PARKS Policy 1.1.5 to allow recreational hunting in areas voters were promised would not experience consumptive uses or activities that were not ecologically benign.

What's behind all this?  

Start with Cathy Antunes on the dark money propelling these changes

And listen to Cathy's new show Friday at 2 pm on SRQ.

Is this the year Sarasota County officially goes Stupid?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Browardization: What does growth look like?

What does Browardization feel like?

Try this - from the site for a Florida state park on the East Coast:

* ALERT: PARK ENTRANCE DELAYS 

On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays please expect a long wait time to enter the park. Please have your money ready before approaching the ranger station to help speed up the process. If you have rented a pavilion, hosting an event or have been invited to an event please plan accordingly because you will have to wait in line also.

* ALERT: PARK CAPACITY 

Once the park reaches capacity no one will be allowed to enter until space becomes available. If you have rented a pavilion, hosting an event or have been invited to an event please plan accordingly because you will not be allowed to re-enter until space is available. 

All this and higher taxes too - to cover the favors and reduced impact fees for Sarasota developers (like Carlos Beruff, Pat Neal et al). That's what your elected officials have in store for you - read on:


via Dan Lobeck:

Neighborhoods, Mobility under Attack

Giving It All Away to Developers
** County Commission Public Hearing Friday, June 10, 9 am **

County Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota




After giving the green light to measures to destroy important environmental protections Wednesday, the Sarasota County Commission on Friday will turn to destroying important public protections concerning land use, mobility and other matters, again to serve their patrons in the development industry.

A measure to repeal the neighborhood compatibility requirement for new developments even worked its way into the package at the last minute.
Here are some of the very bad changes in the so-called Comprehensive Plan “Update”.  Citizens will be allowed to speak for up to five minutes on each of these headings at Friday’s hearing.

There will be another public hearing in October, after the "Update comes back from a limited state review.
   -- Dan Lobeck

Join Control Growth Now

FUTURE LAND USE

The policy which for decades has required the County Commission to reduce the density or intensity of a proposed development if needed to achieve compatibility with a nearby neighborhood would be deleted.  Also deleted would be a provision for increased lot sizes in the new development for compatibility.  All that would be left is basically nothing, that is just a recognition that the Zoning Code already has measures to reduce some incompatibility by measures that include buffers, setbacks, open space and locations of roads, dumpsters and the like.  This change, if approved, will destroy a policy which has been used successfully by neighborhoods for many years to fight incompatible developments nearby.  Developers somehow got this (and some of the other bad changes listed below) added at the last minute, as it was never in any prior draft and was not added by the Planning Commission.  Neighborhood advocates should rise up in verbal arms about this one.

Promotes urban sprawl by deleting the words “within the Urban Service Area” to describe where public facilities and services needed to support development will be provided.

Eliminates the square footage limit on the size of Commercial Centers.   Also, the maximum “floor area ratio”, that is the amount of a lot in a Commercial Center which may be covered by building of various stories, is greatly increased, and limits on that deleted entirely for some developments.  These changes would seriously worsen traffic congestion at some of the most overcrowded intersections and roadways in Sarasota County, to no good end.

Increases allowable densities to up to 100 units per acre in a “mixed use” area, provided that half the units which are granted in excess of 13 units per acre are "affordable" to those making 100% of area median income (that is mortgaged for not more than $243,849 or rent not more than $1,518 per month for a family of four) and one-fifth of those are "affordable" to those making 80% of that income. This does little for truly affordable housing, in return for a huge increase in density, which will create traffic and other problems.  And get this -- the changes also remove the requirement that the affordable housing remain affordable after the first sale or rental , that it be "green" construction and that a study shows a good balance of jobs and housing.  Also, outside of mixed use areas, the maximum density for so-called “affordable” housing would increase from 120% to 400% of the existing maximums.  

These changes were pushed through the Planning Commission by a developer and a construction company executive on that body who build apartment complexes.  They are opposed by County staff.

Allows development where adequate roads capacity is not available, by tying that policy only to “concurrency-related” facilities, considering that the Transportation Chapter would eliminate transportation concurrency.

Broadly allows developers to exceed maximum densities in the Plan by the establishment of “Residential Enclaves” anywhere in the Urban Service Area except barrier islands, with none of the limits in the current Plan.

Deletes the current prohibition of development in a 100 year floodplain which would adversely affect the function of the floodplains and degrade water body quality, by allowing that development so long as it is “mitigated”, a very loosed and weak standard.

Deletes the policy which states, “Establish a system to measure new developments and determine whether the developments employ smart growth principles to help promote a sustainable community.”
Changes various important “governing” principles instead to only “guiding” principles.

Eliminates the provision that the County’s mobility policy be “neighborhood-based.”

Deletes the important goal of protecting the natural environment, neighborhoods, agriculture and historical resources .

Deletes the provision to “preserve” agricultural lands. 

Deletes the requirement that the County will coordinate future land use with environmental characteristics and the availability of facilities.  

Deletes the statement that the County ensure that adequate public facilities are available concurrent with (that is, at the same time as) development.  The new wording shifts to accommodation of development.  

Deletes the  requirement that the County plan for needed infrastructure improvements, such as roads, schools, parks, utilities and other facilities, for a ten-year period. 

Deletes the statement that development will be accommodated “to the extent such growth is financially feasible.”  Stating instead, as proposed, “Encourage development where public facilities are provided or scheduled to be available” is much less restrictive.  

Adds “intensity” to what may be increased in "multi-modal overlays", which would allow increased nonresidential development in addition to the increased residential density allowed at present.  Doing so could be used to allow incompatible commercial and other nonresidential development near neighborhoods where it is not allowed today, and increase traffic congestion.

TRANSPORTATION

Eliminates concurrency, the long-standing requirement that developers must pay for and submit traffic studies and pay their proportionate share of needed road improvements that exceed their impact fees.

Lowers the level of service on County roads within the Urban Service Area from C to D.  While it has been stated that the current standards are unrealistic and that we must accept more traffic congestion than we do today, that would at least partially be resolved if the County abandoned its 47.5% cut in impact fees throughout most of the urban area, and other impact fee cuts. This revision is part of the move to embrace traffic congestion in order to allow developers to overcrowd our roads, a move which is strongly at odds with public opinion and the public interest.

Promotes a “Complete Streets” program which staff clearly states includes  the crazy concept of “road diets” to shrink existing roads -- such as turning a four lane road into two lanes --  in order to make driving more difficult and force people out of cars onto walking, biking and riding buses that get caught in traffic too.

Requires that a new major (arterial) road be built within the next three years east of the Interstate between University Parkway and Clark Road to include the Bee Ridge Extension, to serve new urban sprawl planned in that area.  This would take priority over other needed road projects where people live today, including improvements to River Road required to eliminate deaths.

The support materials for the Transportation Chapter should be revised to include the Introduction to that Chapter in the Comprehensive Plan at present, in particular the following paragraph, which at present is proposed to be deleted:  “Periods of rapid population growth and seasonal fluctuations in population, with the resulting increase in the number of automobiles, have combined in Sarasota to produce traffic congestion. This has been manifested not only in the conditions found on thoroughfares but also in the spillover of heavy traffic into residential neighborhoods as drivers sought to bypass the thoroughfares. In addition to congestion, traffic circulation issues include the need for adequate hurricane evacuation routes, and provision for police and fire emergency services.”

HOUSING
Provides for increased densities in the Zoning Code by allowing more “accessory dwellings”, that is second homes on a one-home lot, than are allowed today.  This was added by a Planning Commissioner who is a building contractor and complained that he was limited by the current code.

Weakens a policy by deleting the word “most” from the requirement that housing density be effectively balanced with neighborhood compatibility, environmental sensitivity and housing diversity.

Replaces the call for more affordable housing for persons of “extremely low, very low, low and moderate income” with housing merely for “households with an income of 120 percent or less of the AMI” (Adjusted Median Income).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
At present, the Economic Development Chapter presents a balanced approach to the economy in Sarasota County, not only calling for new business but also serving existing businesses and recognizing the value and importance to our economy of tourism, adequate infrastructure, the natural environment, neighborhoods, education and arts and culture to the County’s economic development, as well as its quality of life.  The replacement Chapter strips all but a bare remnant of that away and leaves in its place a small handful of policies which promote workforce development, diversification of the economic base and agriculture, while imprudently advocating the repeal of regulations which may be beneficial to the public interest.

The staff explanations for these deletions show the contempt for these deleted values, such as “Neighborhood revitalization is not economic development” and “Tourism does not diversify the economic base.”

Proposed new Policies 2.2.2 and 3.1.3 should be eliminated.  It is reckless, for example, to call for the elimination of regulations that have the effect of prohibiting the attraction or expansion of a business.  That is because those regulations may serve an overriding public interest such as protection of important natural resources, neighborhood compatibility or transportation mobility.

The revision should not eliminate the current “Intent” which precedes the Goals, Objectives and Policies, in particular the statement, “The County has the responsibility to support and accommodate projected economic development activities while serving the public interest and not compromising the quality of life.” 

Most certainly, the “Guiding Principles for Determining Desirable Business and Industry” should not be deleted from the Chapter, with factors that include whether a business  “can meet or exceed Sarasota County environmental quality standards”, “promote long term, year round employment stability and promote long term, year-round employment opportunities”, “ will attract employees having a high degree of technical skill and education while at the same time of fer career opportunities for those having lesser skills or education”,  “will not consume large volumes of water and energy resources”,  “will not emit noxious fumes, odors, or waste products into the atmosphere, ground, or water”, “will share an interest in the well being of Sarasota County”, “will help Sarasota County maintain its superior quality of life”, “will vigorously work for better employment, education, medical, and cultural facilities for all Sarasota County's citizens”, “will work in harmony with and will support by doing business with existing business and industry in the area as feasible”, “will incorporate sustainability principles and practices into their operations and services” and “will be certified as a Sarasota County ‘Green Business’.”  The “Examples of desirable business and industries” also included in those Guiding Principles should also not be deleted.

Objective 1.4 should not be deleted.  It states, “Ensure County policies and regulations are consistent with and promote economic goals, develop public understanding and support for the economy and its connection to a sustained quality of life, and align community development issues, such as affordable housing, with economic efforts.”

Objective 1.5 should not be deleted.  It states, “Ensure the enhancement of business development opportunities by maintaining a “Quality of Life” component of those desirable community elements consisting of the preservation of the natural environment, enjoyment of arts, culture and recreation, educational excellence, and promoting social wellbeing, a healthy community, and keeping the community safe.”

Forward this email
Email correspondence from:
Lobeck & Hanson, P.A., 2033 Main Street, Suite 403, Sarasota, FL, US, 34237.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Lobeck: Nature at Risk Wednesday

Nature at Risk Wednesday

Comprehensive Plan “Update” Weakens Environmental Protections

The Sarasota County Commission will hold its hearings on proposals to severely weaken controls on developers Wednesday June 8 at 1:30 pm and Friday June 10 at 9 am, at the north County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Boulevard.

The proposals are in an “Update” of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan.

The changes have been proposed by County staff but made worse by the County Commission-appointed Planning Commission, which includes two developers and four top executives of construction companies, among others who make their living in development.

It is possible that the County Commission will make the “Update” even worse.  

More bad changes are being sought by COBA, the Sarasota Coalition of Business Associations – in addition to those they got already.  At the top of COBA's list of members is the Argus Foundation.  One of the County Commissioners, Christine Robinson, is the current Executive Director of the Argus Foundation.  COBA’s principal spokesman in the “Update” is attorney Bill Merrill, president of the Argus Foundation when they hired Robinson.   Also on the County Commission is Alan Maio, who is a managing partner for Kimley-Horn, a consulting firm for developers who will benefit if restrictions are weakened.  All of the other County Commissioners  are also heavily indebted to developers for their generous campaign contributions and support.

The question to be answered:  Will our County Commissioners serve the broader public who they are elected to serve or their employers and patrons in the development industry?

The Wednesday hearing is on changes to the Environment Chapter and various others.  The Friday hearing is on the Chapters for Land Use, Economic Development, Mobility and Public Utilities.

Members of the public may speak for up to five minutes at the hearings on any Chapter.  Just fill out a speaker card available at either side of the back of the room and hand it to the clerk at the front on the right, then wait until you are called. Concerned citizens should protest betrayals of the public interest in the Comprehensive Plan Update.

Among the proposed changes in the current County draft of the Environment Chapter, which will be taken up for discussion by the County Commission Wednesday are the following:
  • Destroys this very important requirement on developers: “The clustering of residential developments or the implementation of other measures to first     a void, then minimize and mitigate adverse environmental impacts shall be required whenever areas of significant native habitats are involved.”  This would be eliminated by striking the words “shall be required” and inserting the word “Encourage” at the beginning.  [Policy 1.3.6, replacing Policy 4.5.11] 
  • Allows currently prohibited environmental destruction and adverse impacts so long as they are deemed “de minimus” (minor) by the developer’s consultant and accepted by the County.  That is a potentially serious new loophole, particularly because the standard is undefined.  [Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats] 
  • Weakens the current wetland protection being litigated in environmentalists’ challenge to the County allowing the developers of Whole Foods and Wawa stores to pave over a valuable urban wetland.  At present, if a wetland has value, it must be preserved unless “no other reasonable alternative exists.”  The amendment would allow that finding based on the “landscape context” and “long-term viability of the native habitat.”  In other words, if there is development around a valuable wetland, particularly if it is at all harmful to any habitat, the developer can use that to justify paving over the wetland. [Principles, VI.2. 
  • Deletes the strict requirement for 30 foot wetland buffers and 50 foot mesic hammock buffers, providing that a developer may provide “variable buffer widths” so long as the developer’s consultant says (and the County agrees) that will provide “equal or greater native habitat value.” [Principles, VI.2.j]
  •  Deletes the County Objective to “Identify, manage and protect all ecological communities, habitat corridors and wildlife, especially critical habitats and endangered, threatened, and species of special concern identified in official federal, state, or international treaty lists.”  That is replaced with a much weaker Objective to “Identify, manage, and protect ecological communities, and native habitats.”  [Obj. 1.1, replacing Obj. 4.4]
  •  Deletes the requirement that prior to disturbing any listed species and its habitat, a developer must identify them by recognized sampling techniques and provide such documentation to the County.  Instead, simply prior “coordination” with the government is required and as such the species and habitat identification can be conducted later.  [Policy 2.1.3, replacing Policy 4.4.4]
  •  Deletes the Policy requiring that open space in a development “favor factors such as onsite and adjacent off-site habitat connectivity”, leaving in place only a weaker policy that requires connectivity to established greenways. [Policy 1.3.3, replacing Policy 4.5.4]
  •  Weakens the requirement that a developer remove invasive and nuisance vegetation in native habitats and conservation areas, by removing the word “maximum” from the present requirement that it be done “to the maximum extent practical.” [Policy 1.5.6, replacing Policy 4.6.6]
  •  Weakens scrub jay protection by protecting them to “support” their persistence rather than “ensure” it, as at present. [Policy 2.1.0, replacing Policy 4.4.8]
  •  Deletes the conditions of necessity and feasibility for additional access to Gulf and bay waters. [Objective 4.3, former Obj. 1.3]
  •  Deletes the requirement for the development of a Beach and Inlet Management strategy.  The statement of six short bullet points that deserve “consideration” by the County in managing its beaches and inlets is not a sufficient substitute for the plan which the Chapter currently requires be created by 2015. [Policy 4.7.1, replacing Policy 1.2.3]
  •  Deletes the requirement of an Urban Forestry Management Plan (which has been overdue since 2006).  The new policies proposed to, in one sentence each, promote tree canopy and community gardens are sparse and unclear and do not adequately substitute for the presently required Plan. [Policies 1.5.1 and 5.1.7, replacing Policy 4.6.1]
  •  In a matter of some recent local controversy, deletes, “The County shall support and fund the Environmental Library.”  Originally, the proposal was to replace that with, “The county shall support and fund environmental education programs.”  Since public and press objections to actions even now  to dismantle the Environmental Library, on June 1 staff added to that, “including a collection of environmental resources accessible to the public through the county library system.”  However, even that wording could allow the county library system to follow through on its moves to eliminate the Environmental Library at Selby Library and disperse what remains of the collection through the broader library and to colleges and elsewhere where the materials would be accessible “through” the library system, although not in it.  [Policy 5.1.2, replacing Policy 4.7.2]


Dan Lobeck

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Urban Sprawl Week in Sarasota

Via Dan Lobeck:
Important Hearings Wed. and Fri.

Sarasota County Comp Plan "Update"

This week the Sarasota County Commission will hold its hearings on proposals to severely weaken controls on developers.

Wednesday June 8, 1:30 pm 
Friday June 10, 9 am 
County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd.

The proposals are in an “Update” of the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan.

The changes have been proposed by County staff but made worse by the developer-packed Planning Commission.

The Wednesday hearing is on changes to the Environment Chapter and various others. The Friday hearing is on the Chapters for Land Use, Economic Development, Mobility and Public Utilities.

Among the bad amendments to the Environment Chapter is one which would eliminate a requirement for developers to cluster away from native habitat, and would instead merely “encourage” it.
  • The Land Use amendments would entirely repeal the current square footage size limits on commercial centers, allow residential density in some cases of 100 units per acre, while repealing provisions for affordable housing, and further encourage urban sprawl. 
  • The Mobility amendments would encourage "road diets" which narrow existing roads and would repeal concurrency --  the requirement that developers do traffic studies and pay any proportionate share of needed road improvements which exceed impact fees.
The hearings are on transmittal of the amendments for state review for any impacts on critical state resources. They will come back for a final adoption hearing in October.

Further details by Monday.

-- Dan Lobeck


Friday, June 3, 2016

"The Detail" to premier On the Air

A new radio show focusing on local issues premiers in Sarasota on Friday, June 10.

Cathy Antunes, a citizen, activist and thought leader hosts a new show on WSRQ to air from 2-3 p.m. weekly. The show will be called "The Detail" from Cathy's blog of the same name.

Cathy's guests this Friday will be Sarasota attorney Simon Rosin and John Garcia of Firefox West, an embattled community dealing with development near a potentially toxic landfill.

WSRQ Talk Radio can be found at 106.9 FM, as well as 1220 AM on the dial.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

CONA Commissioners Forum June 13


Monday, June 13, 2016 at 7 p.m.



- candidate forum -


Sarasota County Commissioners

district 1, district 3, district 5

On Monday, June 13, CONA-Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations will hold a forum for the candidates campaigning for the three odd-numbered district seats on the county commission. District candidates are chosen by all voters to represent the districts in which the candidates reside. The forum is free and open to the public.


Candidates seeking the seat for district one are Fredd "Glossie" Atkins, Frank DiCicco, and Mike Moran; for district three is Nancy Detert; and for district five are Richard C. Eaton and Charles Hines. Meet the candidates during the social prior to the meeting.

Using atypical question formats and timing, CONA makes an effort to provide its members and the public with a more thorough understanding of the positions of each candidate than usually achieved at candidate forums. A lively format allows for the coverage of many issues. Submitted questions follow as time allows.

Join CONA as we hold the third of our candidate forums for the state and local 2016 elections. This will be our last forum before the primary election in August because we and many of our members take vacations in the summer.

Our monthly meetings resume in the fall with forums for the general elections, so please reserve the dates of September 12 and October 10 as well. Since videos of our meetings are posted quickly to our web site and archived, all of our 2016 candidate forums 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

neighbors helping neighbors since 1961