Sunday, May 7, 2017

Accidents of Influence: How didn't Sarasota County see this coming?

Planning a Trainwreck

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Quite the Neighborhood Renaissance

JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe, Big Top Brewery, Fly Fitness, Detwiler’s, The Glass Slipper, Buttermilk Handcrafted Food, Celery Fields Audubon Nature Center, Tatum Ridge Elementary, CSI Printers, A Slice of Life Custom Cakes, Stomping Grounds Fitness, Numerous Neighborhood Associations
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GJames Gabbert built this construction waste facility at 8001 Fruitville Road, then sold it in 2005 along with others for $35 million. 

WCA continues to operate the faciity Gabbert created. More photos taken by folks who have visited the WCA facility can be seen here.

It ain't over till it's over.

Restaurant Depot was a close call -- the developer backed off thanks to a technicality in our County Charter. Up next could be Bo Medred and James Gabbert, who seek approval to build a “construction waste processing facility” next to a Park, a major planned community, and a key stormwater management facility.

With the possible exception of Messers Medred and Gabbert, no one sees how this makes sense.

If their proposal to grind waste at the intersection of Apex Rd. and Palmer Blvd. -- the area known as The Quad -- goes forward, the County Commission will be contemplating a “plan” that will degrade many good things around it. Audubon, nearby business owners and residents are deeply concerned, as are those who love our Celery Fields.

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The Quad at Apex and Palmer links the Celery Fields,
Packinghouse District, and Fruitville Initiative

Gabbert’s idea may be wrong-headed, but as one Commissioner recently pointed out, you can’t prohibit someone from asking.

How did we get here?

One must ask why these public lands have been posted for rezoning and sale in the first place. What's to be gained by turning a promising neighborhood intersection into industrial lots that will only burden roads, provide environmental damage, and uglify the area?

The County proposes to rezone three public parcels, including the one sought by Mr. Gabbert, for industrial use. The enabling basis for this is a breathtakingly expansive Surplus Lands Ordinance coupled with an antediluvian “MEC” (Major Employment Center) land use designation dating back to ‘83, when Reagan was in office, and one of the Top 10 Cars was the Renault Alliance.

1983 Renault car of the year

Mr. Gabbert’s project requires a special exception for heavy industry. He’s asking for that too. The potential impact on neighborhoods, businesses, an elementary school, a valued - and delicate - Park and Nature Preserve, and the Fruitville Initiative -- an upscale mixed-use vision that could do more for economic development than a thousand “construction waste facilities” --  is immeasurable.

-- The Celery Fields Conundrum --

How did we get here? More to the point: How do we get out of here? On April 10, CONA examined how a County that pays millions for plans, planners, and consultants is blinded by its own “cadence” of codes.

A panel intimately involved with the area and neighborhood looked at the synergy latent in connecting the Celery Fields, the Fruitville Initiative, and the Packinghouse District -- a connection happens to exist at The Quad. All three sectors harbor big potential -- for our quality of life, and for economic development.

fruitville-04 riverwalk.jpgThe Fruitville Initiative: An approved plan for a smart, sustainable community mixing rural and walkable urban elements -- shady neighborhoods, cafes, shops, a Riverwalk and Sarasota history museum -- an attractive Gateway to Sarasota County, planned by County/Community collaboration. It's not been marketed - where was the EDC?

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The Celery Fields Park, Preserve, Bird Sanctuary: This increasingly popular international Eco-Tourism destination, with wetlands, a large observation mound, and kayakable lakes is perhaps the most beautiful open space in Sarasota County -- a perfect complement to the Fruitville Gateway and a welcoming "front end" to East County.

The Packinghouse District: A burgeoning commercial area a short distance from The Quad via the Palmer Blvd. underpass, home of the Packinghouse Cafe, the Cock & Bull, Detwiler’s market, A Slice of Life Custom Cakes, and several workout joints, including Stomping Ground Fitness.

Sarasota County says it wants to conserve and even restore the natural environment:

The history of Sarasota County is marked by efforts to preserve the County's important natural and cultural places, and to provide parklands and recreational opportunities.
It will remain the goal of Sarasota County to conserve, maintain, and where necessary, restore the natural and cultural environment of Sarasota County.

The county has spent millions on its Comprehensive Plan, and pays millions more to consultants, lawyers, and a staff of planners who are supposed to look out for problems -- environmental hazards, overburdened roads, sprawl, incompatibility, economic impacts.

With all these planning tools, and Sarasota County's laudable Zoning Mission Statement:


How do the stewards of our lands manage to avoid seeing that industrializing The Quad:

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Photo of WCA Waste processing, 8001 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota - built by James Gabbert,
who wants to replicate it at the Celery Fields, only bigger.

Is unlikely to enhance the value, quality and potential of what’s already there:

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We used to have a broader vision for Sarasota -
A legacy of basic, thoughtful quality.
This legacy is rapidly becoming "Browardized"
Some are working to bring it back.

(Tentative, pending confirmation of date:
A hearing on this application is coming before the Sarasota County Planning Commission on June 1. A gathering of concerned citizens will take place around 4:15 pm at the County Administration Building, 1616 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. The hearing begins at 5 p.m.)

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