Thursday, October 12, 2017

New Petition: A community-based plan for Celery Fields

Fresh Start: A Community Initiative for our Celery Fields

This letter signed by neighborhoods near the Celery Fields went to the Sarasota County Commission on Oct. 12, 2017.

To the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners

RE: Celery Fields District

Dear Commissioners:

On August 23, 2017, you listened to hundreds of residents and visitors who deeply care about the Celery Fields. Some call this area the Siesta Beach of East Sarasota County. Viewed in its larger context, the Celery Fields offers the prospect of becoming a unique gateway to Sarasota. Thanks to the Commission for protecting this potential --  we now want to work with you to actualize it.

Fresh Start is a group of  HOAs, businesses, and citizens who believe a shared approach can create an original opportunity for Sarasota County.

The quad parcels are situated at a key intersection that connects five distinct but related communities:

  • The Palmer Blvd. neighborhoods and schools
  • The Industrial Parks
  • The Packinghouse District
  • The Celery Fields Preserve and Sarasota Audubon
  • The Fruitville Initiative

Our residents deserve a voice in shaping the future of these public lands. To that end, we invite the County to develop with us a community-based consensus for the district. We propose an open workshop that would allow ideas and goals to be shared, analyzed, and refined. Together, we can:

  • Enhance the great ecological and recreational value already latent in this area.
  • Serve the needs of residents, schoolchildren, local businesses.
  • Allow to evolve a useful, attractive, intelligent, multi-faceted hub.

Working in concert, we can make something good here. To begin, we ask that the County:
  1. Remove the Quad Parcels from the Surplus Lands list for the present;
  2. Hold a community-based workshop to develop a consensus vision plan.

We’ll soon be scheduling meetings with each of you to discuss this initiative.


Fresh Start
(Signers listed below)

The East Sarasota Celery Fields Area


Signatories for Fresh Start

Palmer East Group

Enclaves, Carlos Correa, President
Laurel Oak, Charles Young
Meadow Walk, Gary Walsh, President, David G. Johnson
Eagle Trace
Palmer Lake
Regent Lake
Palmer Glen
Palmer Reserve
Sarasota Golf Club Colony

Palmer East Working Group: Glenna Blomquist, Paula Berkowitz, Carlos Correa, Peter Gemma, Jonny Howell, David G. Johnson, Wendy Loomis, Matt Moffitt, Robert Rovnak, Gary Walsh, Charles Young.

Fruitville 210 - Gary Heffner, Chairman

Cedar Hammock    
Cedar Hollow    
Chatwick Court
Coffman Manor   
Deer Hollow
East Richardson  
Forest Creek
Fox Creek
Fox Creek Acres 2
The Groves  
The Meadows
Newburn Village
Palm Oaks
Peaceful Vista Homes
Pine Valley Ranches
Pleasant Acres
Racimo Ranches
San Palermo
Southpointe Meadows
Swartz Subdivision
Vereda Verde
The Woods

Save Richardson Road East (Sarren)

Scott Featherman, MD
Joey Anderson (also on the Board of Fruitville 210)
Jane Archer
Margaret Lewis
Judith K. Earl

Aberdeen Pines, Mary and Lee Hasselbring

Bent Tree, Bob Zack

Gator Creek, Bob O’Neil, Treasurer

Lake Sarasota Community Group

Keith Russo, Chairman
Ellie Himes, Treasurer
Joy M. Mayer, Secretary
Joanna Kilmer
Jami Caseber

The Hammocks, Julie Williams, President; Marguerite Malone.

​Sarasota Audubon, Rob Wright, Conservation Chair

NCCA, Steve Baran, President, 640 Apex Rd., David G. Johnson

​Citizens for Sarasota County, Adrien Lucas, Cathy Antunes, Tom Matrullo

. . . for the future of the Celery Fields

More Photos

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ron Turner at CONA Sarasota Monday 10.9.17

Monday, October 9, 2017 at 7 p.m.

all about elections
special election HD 72, 
upcoming 2018 elections, 
and other election-related topics

    ​   On Monday, October 9, 2017 please join CONA for a presentation by our supervisor of elections, Ron Turner, who will inform you about how our elections are managed. A comprehensive overview will be provided, as well as, insights into the special election required this fall to replace the state representative who has resigned, the elections regularly scheduled for 2018, and many other election-related topics. 
  This also may serve as your introduction to our new supervisor. He was elected to the office last November. He began his career with our county elections office as chief of staff, a position he held for five years prior to his election. He is nationally-certified as an elections and registration administrator through the Elections Center. 
  A native Floridian, he has been very involved in the community since moving to our county in 2001. He serves as a director of First Step of Sarasota, is a graduate of Leadership Sarasota County, and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans. 
  Q & A will follow.   

Source page

neighbors helping neighborhoods since 1961

reserve for November 6 anniversary party - see contact page

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Florida in the grip of the Gun Lobby.

This interview ought to be an eye-opener. It describes NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer as essentially writing the laws that have turned Florida into one of the more "accommodating" states in the US when it comes to gun control. "Stand your ground" and Open Carry are two well known examples of a legislative influence that has designs on reshaping the way we perceive guns throughout the USA.

Fresh Air Interview: Terry Gross speaks with reporter who covers the NRA
Journalist Mike Spies says the NRA's push to allow guns on college campuses, daycare centers and bars is part of an effort to "normalize gun carrying as much as possible in American public life."
Hammer earns $200K a year writing gun legislation and making sure Florida's Republican legislature passes it:
. . . because [Hammer is] so enmeshed in the culture of the state and because Florida is a state that has a very high population of NRA members, she's able to function as an unelected legislator and often has more power than legislators do and is able to tell governors what to do and able to tell Republican lawmakers there what to do. And that is - that is what she does.
Full transcript here. 

See also: 

Hammer (via Miami Herald)

Celery Fields Update

Sarasota County has confirmed that James Gabbert of TST Ventures has cancelled the contract that gave him a 30-day option to purchase 10.5 acres of public land at the Apex Rd and Palmer Blvd. near the Celery Fields.

At a lengthy and at times impassioned hearing on Aug. 23, Gabbert's plan (as TST Ventures) for a waste processing plant at the site failed to win approval by the County Commission. The contractual purchase option would have permitted him to build one home on 10 acres.*

No new rezoning for the site can be proposed for one year. But then Mr. Gabbert, or someone else, can come back with another industrial plan.

What would have been the consequences to the entire Celery Fields district if a waste facility with 35-foot-tall stacks of construction debris and yard waste had stood in Hurricane Irma's way?

It's time to think hard about the district stretching from Fruitville Road to the Celery Fields to Palmer Blvd. and the Packinghouse District. Those who opposed industrial rezoning of these public parcels at Apex and Palmer need to take a careful look at the entire area, and offer their sense and vision of what would serve the community and best realize the future potential of the entire area.

Many, many dedicated people worked very hard to stop the giant "Restaurant Depot" and 16-acre waste plant. They weren't just saying "no" to bad ideas. They see how this remarkable, diverse area can be the portal to East Sarasota -- a defining statement about our community's values and vision.

As we clean up the debris from Irma, let's consider how the people can proactively distill clear, workable, enhancing goals for this crucial area, and offer a better vision than what developers are likely to bring. 

Celery Fields District

*As of this time, no new plan has been submitted for the 4.5-acre site Mr. Gabbert owns at Palmer and Porter Rd., which has an approved plan for a waste transfer station.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Letters voice concern about Beruff - UPDATE

Update: Beruff's plan, with some changes, was approved unanimously by the Manatee County Commission. 

This link takes you to the Petition seeking to halt the development of Aqua by the Bay. 


"At 75-95 feet, over sixty buildings will create a solid wall of structures that will make anything on Longboat Key look like a pastoral landscape by comparison. Make no mistake, this will be a city looming over Sarasota Bay, and if the commissioners think they will fix it with a stipulation or two, they are deeply mistaken." ~ Andy Mele, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Bradenton Times

...     ....     ...

Developer Carlos Beruff's "Aqua by the Bay" development comes up Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the Manatee County Commission. The proposal would transform the last natural coastline in the area to thousands of homes and condos on 529 acres.

Below are some Letters about the project. Along with many other environmental issues, citizens see the vision of their Comp Plan being ignored in the planning of the project.

Beruff and Vogler Courtesy of Bradenton Herald

Hurricanes scream need to stop dense coastal development

SEPTEMBER 22, 2017 11:28 AM

Recent deadly hurricanes have proven the vulnerability of over developed coastal areas to destruction by wind and storm surge and illustrate the inadequate evacuation plans in place throughout Florida.

Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan was developed with great foresight in the late 1980s to prevent disasters that can occur when development is allowed in low-lying areas and too near the coast.

In recent years, political pressures have threatened enforcement of the comp plan and land development code. Experienced and knowledgeable county staff members have been dismissed. Members of the public are actively discouraged from meeting with staff members to inquire about applications submitted to the county. And the public only sees vague general development plans that could be approved before crucial details are known.

The coastal and conservation elements of the Comprehensive Plan still are the law. The plan prohibits alteration of coastal wetlands (including mangroves); restricts dredge and fill operations in the coastal planning area; limits the construction of artificial waterways; limits development type, density and intensity within the coastal planning area; and directs population concentrations away from the coastal evacuation area.

The Manatee County Commission has the responsibility to uphold the Comprehensive Plan and deny applications that violate the comp plan and land development code by dredging a channel, destroying wetlands and increasing density in the coastal planning area.

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the commission can stop dense coastal development and preserve the last extensive mangrove forest on Sarasota Bay by simply following the law and denying the General Development Plan for Aqua by the Bay.

Preserving this rich and diverse habitat would be a testament of respect for this high functioning environment that will support fisheries and wildlife, and the income they bring to the county, for generations to come.



At one recent hearing, activists opposing Aqua by the Bay brought in a model of the plan because, they said, the proposal submitted by the developer lacked specific details necessary for the plan to even be properly visualized:

More Letters to the Editor about Beruff's "Aqua by the Bay"

CONA Fundraiser Nov. 6 - You're invited

Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations - CONA

- fundraiser -

Monday, November 6, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.

our fifty-sixth
anniversary party

Time to make your reservation for our anniversary party on November 6. We have reserved Ballroom "A" at Michael's on East for our annual fundraiser (note the change of time and location from our early plans) and we are putting finishing touches on preparations for this year's anniversary celebration.

Our honored guest will be Gerry Swormstedt, a former director of CONA and the current chair of the Sierra Club. Her participation in civic affairs has included many organizations. So please forward our invitation to those you know from other community organizations who should join in our tribute to her and, send your favorite anecdote about her, to add to ours.

As always, it will be great food, great company, great door prizes, and an update on our scholars.

Make reservations via return e-mail to or by sending checks to Box 15788, Sarasota, Florida 34277. A Paypal link is available on our site. The fee is $50 per person and, if you can't attend, please donate.

See for more about CONA. 
anniversary party 6:30 p.m. Monday, November 6, 2017
at Michael's on East - Ballroom "A"

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The first UDC workshop: Purpose, Customers, Scope

Matt Osterhoudt, Planning Director, foreground. Chris Brimo, CGA, background

The first of three public workshops on the UDC to be conducted by the Sarasota Planning Dept. was held on Wed., Sept. 20, 2017 in Osprey.

UDC? What is it?
The Unified Development Code aims to bring together about 700 pages of Sarasota County zoning rules and 100 pages + appendices of Land Development Regulations.
The project began in March 2017 and is designed to last about 18 months, through Summer 2018.
$285,000, from Zoning funds.
To clean up conflicts, contradictions, outdated references and other incompatibilities between Sarasota's Zoning Code, last overhauled in 2003, and its Land Development Regs (LDRs), even older than that.
Calvin Giordano & Associates (CGA) - Florida consulting firm.
According to Sarasota County Planning Director Matt Osterhoudt, there is overlap, redundancy, and inconsistencies between the zoning code, which regulates everything from land use to chicken tending, and the LDRs, which are the rules that a few big developers use when they propose new developments.  
Bringing these two codes into harmony will save time and money for those that use the codes. This seems an eminently sensible thing to do.
Main beneficiaries?
The developers, builders, and contractors who need a clear, well ordered set of rules to look to when they are proposing new developments.
And the Public?
The public, the communities that are impacted by new development, is - or should be - a constituency that is addressed here. But it's not clear whether that is the case. (See also this open letter regarding the public's role in planning).
At the UDC workshop there were in fact more members of the public than there were members of the developer and builder communities. People with questions about impacts, with concerns about weakening the Comp Plan, and with strong objections to current rules that fail the public interest. One example: the weak and very narrow notification policies that require developers to let folks within 500, or 750 feet of a target site, know that a rezoning is proposed. 
Another example: antiquated land use designations out of sync with the rapidly changing landscapes of Sarasota County. Recent example: A developer proposed a demolition waste plant in a burgeoning residential, retail, and eco-tourism area because of a land use designation from 37 years ago -- a time when no neighborhoods, schools, businesses, or nature preserve were there. 
What's the problem?
At the workshop, when members of the public noted that certain notification procedures for public lands seem to fail to reach people who will care, and who will be affected if a proposed development (such as a waste plant at the Celery Fields) were to go forward, the response was that surplus lands are "outside the scope" of this UDC code overhaul.
At this point, Sarasota County Planning appears to view as its main customers those developers and builders who must use these codes every day in order to do what they do. Fair enough. And the project seems well organized to accomplish its task. 
Planning views the Board of Commissioners -- its employer -- as another constituency it must please.
But it's not clear whether Planning fully recognizes that the Public who elected the Board, and whose taxes pay both the Board's and the Planning Department's wages, have standing here as well. 
What can be done to give the Public clear relevant standing?
As environmental advocate Jono Miller put it after the hearing, one way to address this is to have the public involved up front, early in the "scoping session" that designs projects like the UDC code, sets project parameters, and decides whose interests will be served.  
More representatives from the Public were at this workshop than developers, builders or contractors.  
Builders and contractors will surely benefit from a cleaned-up, better organized code. But will our communities see any benefit to their concerns about notification, updated land use, and more? Maybe we need to be there as equal participants when future such projects are scoped. Advisory boards could reserve seats for the public interest.
What's next?
The public interest here is entirely distinct from that of the developers, builders and contractors. It needs to be better understood and integrated into the planning process. 
One can hope that the openness of the Planning Dept. to record all comments on the UDC update, and to transmit them to the Board, will register. 
Matt Osterhoudt also stated that he and fellow planners will make themselves available to meet with any individual or group that wishes to do so.
Anyone may get in touch with Planning via any of three ways:
  • Meet directly with Matt Osterhoudt or Bill Spaeth of Sarasota Planning.
Better understanding of the needs of those who use county codes, and those impacted by that use, can come from closer dialog.

Two more public workshops are planned in October and November. The first revised code document is expected to be ready to be seen in December.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Public Workshops on County Planning Updates

The senseless proposal for an industrial waste facility at the Celery Fields revealed some disturbing facts about  how planning has been failing the people of Sarasota County.
E.g., Sarasota's land use map is out of date, its multiple codes do not mesh, and County planners apparently are not required to consult the community, or notify anyone of major changes to, or sales of, public lands.

The County is working on updating - and will have public meetings beginning Sept. 20th. 

All three public "workshops" are in Nokomis:

Public Workshops

Nokomis Community Center, Main Hall
234 Nippino Trail 
Nokomis, FL 34275
September 20th – Public Workshop No. 1
October 18th – Public Workshop No. 2
November 7th – Public Workshop No. 3
6:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as possible.