Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Planning to plan not to plan?

From Cathy Antunes:

The County land use hearing on March 1st regarding the NW parcel at Apex and Palmer is a hearing to change the Critical Area Plan (CAP). What is a CAP? It is bigger than a rezone. Simply put, CAPs are supposed to ensure good planning. The CAP near the Celery Fields merits a reevaluation, to consider the importance of this major ecotourism site in relation to surrounding land use. THIS HAS NOT BEEN DONE. Instead the County may railroad through a horrible CAP change from rural to industrial use. They could only contemplate this because they are 

  1. ignoring the CF as an ecotourism draw, 
  2. ignoring traffic, and 
  3. failing to do a CAP reevaluation. 
Demand that the County Commission do their job - deny the industrial CAP change, then REEVALUATE the Critical Area Plan to include protections for the Celery Fields and surrounding neighborhoods from industrial and other poor, damaging uses. Read this document to learn about Critical Area Plans. Failing to walk their talk has been a big problem with the County Commission's land use decisions. We need them to do the right thing.

Comment on above:

Critical Area Plans are supposed to make sure that the "Critical Area" impacted by a development plan is carefully considered for negative impacts. Yet the boundary of the Critical Area Plan for Restaurant Depot only covers the parcel that Restaurant Depot wishes to develop. How does this square with the purpose and definition of a Critical Area Plan?
Boundary of the Restaurant Depot Critical Area Plan

Key Talking Points on Restaurant Depot industrialization of the Celery Fields

The Sarasota County Planning Commission failed the citizens of Sarasota:

1. The appointed planning commission members broke County Charter rules published in the notice of the Restaurant Depot public hearing which state: The Sarasota County Charter requires persons or entities applying for rezoning to disclose the TRUE ownership interests in the property subject to the rezoning. Attorney Bailey failed to provide full ownership information.

Restaurant Depot

2. Restaurant Depot is asking for a non-binding sale agreement, this means, should the Board of County Commissioners approve the land use change and the sale proceeds, the owners of the property can change their mind and not build a Restaurant Depot but may build whatever fits within the new code.

3. The planning commission had an opportunity to deny the land use change and critical area plan change (CAP) when discussing traffic. They failed to protect the neighborhood homeowners who live off of the two lane Palmer Boulevard by saying their hands were tied due stating competing local and state laws.

4. Restaurant Depot is a members-only business, if you are not in the restaurant industry, you may not shop there. Sarasota zoning states that Zoning's fundamental purpose is to Protect a community's health, safety and welfare. Super fail on the Planning Board's part in ignoring the very first sentence found in the county's document "Zoning, an explanation of zoning districts in Sarasota, County, FL."

5, Eco-tourism. County Administrator Tom Harmer has failed the county in allowing any of the lands that surround the Celery Fields to be sold as "surplus land" and practically bargain basement real estate prices. The Celery Field is known worldwide for the its incredible birding and nature along with the Celery Field being an excellent place to work out.

Audubon's Caracara 

6. Endangered and threatened species live successfully in the Celery Field, state and federal protections apply to these birds and the county is denying that any wildlife lives or eats on the lands that are for sale. The county is presenting a falsehood that can turn into a legal battle where not only are our elected officials failing us by not following simple government rules, our elected officials may be saddling the people of Sarasota with having to foot bills for this potential legal battle.

7. The County should retain this property, as we all own it, and keep it as a buffer not only for Our Celery Fields but as protection against the massive traffic jam that is getting worse out there, especially now that more than 700 new homes are being built at the end of Palmer Road.

SAVE OUR CELERY FIELDS and please join us tomorrow, March 1, 2017, 9 a.m. at the Sarasota County Administration Center, Commission Chamber, 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota and ADD YOUR VOICE to the PUBLIC COMMENTS section, sharing your opposition to the Proposed Amendment to the Critical Area Plan No. 83-10-SP and Rezone Petition.
Item #8 could be a long morning going into the afternoon, bring signs, bring your comments, sign the speaker's card that are found to the right side of the door when you enter the chamber.
The Planning Commission of the Public Hearing about the Restaurant Depot petition is here.

Exercise class at the Audubon Nature Center at the Celery Fields

Monday, February 27, 2017

Letter regarding endangered species near Celery Fields public lands

Date: February 27, 2017

To Sarasota County Commission: Michael Moran, Paul Caragiulo, Nancy Detert, Al Maio, Charles Hines

To County Administrator: Thomas Harmer
Cc: Sarasota Citizens

From: Adrien Lucas, Sarasota County Resident

Re: Violations of U.S. Endangered Species Act “ESA” and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Imperiled Species Protections

To Whom it May Concern:

Today I wish to directly address endangered and threatened birds I have personally seen on the surplus lands the county is trying to sell next to Our Celery Field.  One exception, the Everglade Snail Kite, a sighting I did not witness but has been reported seen at Our Celery Field.

As cited in my previous email about our County Comprehensive Plan, there has been a failure to employ the following in relation to protections afforded to endangered and threatened birds along with further development of surrounding county lands that surround the Celery Field.

(Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan, 2/6/17, Policy List by Chapter

Page 15 of 54 env obj 1.6 Integrate natural elements into the built environment. env policy 1.6.1 Encourage connectivity within the Urban Service Area Boundary between green spaces creating corridors for birds, fish, and wildlife movement. Priority will be given in creating or enhancing connections that achieve greater net ecological benefit compared to maintaining existing isolated habitat fragments.

Page 17 of 54 env policy 1.8.3 The county will establish and maintain wildlife corridors and coordinate with state and federal wildlife agencies when reviewing development proposals within the Joint Planning Areas set forth in Future Land Use Map Series.

Page 18 of 54 env obj 2.1 habitat for birds, fish, and wildlife Protect habitat for endangered and threatened bird and wildlife species identified in official federal, state, or international treaty lists.

I am fearful that environmental county staff inspections on these properties will be skewed to assist the sales of these lands. Based on watching past county commission and planning board meetings, I have seen county staffer such as Matt Osterhoudt and others state during their environmental observations that they did not see any sign of wildlife on the lands they were surveying. I am happy to email you video clips of these reports. How a person who supposedly has a background in environmental studies cannot see a single living creature on Florida land is very difficult for me to digest, considering at any given time during the day, I look out my window and see anoles, bugs, butterflies and numerous bird species.

I will take the necessary steps to ensure that the appropriate State and Federal agencies conduct independent studies, separate from county staff, in order to provide accurate sampling in identifying endangered, threatened, and species of special concern. From nesting disruption, noise disruption any infraction within a 600 foot rate, the FWC will be concerned about these clear future violations.  I believe that full disclosure to potential buyers in the county invitation to bid were never disclosed regarding the close proximity and sighting of these birds on the lands that are in pending sales or just put up for sale.

I have listed the birds I have personally witnessed and enjoyed at both Our Celery Field and on properties that surround Our Celery Field.  The birds listed below are protected by both Federal and State of Florida conservation laws because they are in danger of Extinction or Threatened.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services ECOS Environmental Online Services
CLICK HERE for source for source.

The Everglade Snail Kite is recognized as Federally listed and are a Species in danger of Extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Everglade snail kite
Wherever found

The Crested Caracara and Wood Stork are both Federally listed as Threatened Species, likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Audubon's crested caracara
U.S.A. (FL)

Wood stork
U.S.A. (AL, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC)

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Brown Pelican - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern
Caracara - FL Status: Federally-designated Threatened
Florida Sandhill Crane - FL Status: State-designated Threatened
Everglade Snail Kite - Federal Status: Endangered
Little Blue Heron - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern
Reddish Egret - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern0
Limpkin - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern
Roseate Spoonbill - FL Status: State-designated Threatened
American Kestrel - FL Status: State-designated Threatened
Tri-colored Heron - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern
White Ibis - FL Status: State Species of Special Concern

Celery Field Facebook Group documented bird photos:


Wood Storkl Jan 2016 - Status - Federally Threatened.jpg

Roseate Spoonbill Nov 2016 - Status - State Designated Threatened.jpg

Osprey Feb 2016 - Status - State Species of Special Concern.jpg

American Kestrel Jan 2016 - Status - Federally Threatened listed as threatened in Florida due to a decline in nesting and foraging habitat.jpg

Save Our Celery Field & Celery Neighborhoods, Rally Day, Saturday, February 25, 2017, Cattle Egrets foraging for food on pending Restaurant Depot acreage.  County Staff and JDMH representative both stated that no wildlife lives on this property.  Birds visit this property daily.

I remain hopeful that you all will do what is in the best interest for everyone in Sarasota and that is to Save Our Celery Field and expand it for future use and enjoyment for all. Respectfully,

Adrien Lucas

Zoning's Fundamental Purpose is to Protect a Community's Health, Safety and Welfare. - Source CLICK HERE (https://www.scgov.net/PlanningServices/RezoneSpecial%20Exception%20Documents/Zoning.pdf)

Say NO to industry near the Celery Fields

This Wednesday March 1 is a public hearing that could industrialize public lands in a healthy space devoted to birds, clean water and air, to life.

There are much higher uses of these 40 acres we own at Apex and Palmer. Please join the effort to protect our birds - some of whom are already threatened - and our green natural space, our families and kids.

Come to the hearing Wednesday if you can, and share this flyer freely with anyone who cares - thank you.

(If you'd like a pdf file of the flyer, email us at sarasotavision@gmail.com and we'll send it to you).

Restaurant Depot seeking approval for a truck-heavy 60,000 s.f. equipment supply operation.

Celery Fields

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sarasota County: Listen to the people you allegedly represent

Between 200-250 citizens of no one particular organization came out Saturday Feb. 25 to protest the industrialization of public lands adjacent to clean businesses, new neighborhoods, an elementary school, and a nationally known bird sanctuary.

The Sarasota County Commission is set to approve Restaurant Depot Big Box equipment supply store at a public hearing Wed. March 1 at 9 am. Will they hear us?

Bring your signs to 1660 Ringling Blvd. on Wednesday. Bring some water, and a brief statement or question, such as,

"How many bids on this public property did you receive before accepting this bid from this big box developer?"

More here (Lucas) and here (Matrullo) and here (Antunes).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A letter, a video, a petition to save the Celery Fields

A letter sent to the Sarasota County Commission by Adrien Lucas:

Good morning Commissioners,

I am dismayed that I have to begin my day by writing you about the surplus land you are trying to sell off that surrounds Our Celery Fields. With the lands that Mr. Medred and Mr. Bailey are trying to purchase for their clients, plus the new "surplus" acreage that just went up for sale next to the Celery Field, I can only imagine who the next "player" will be in orchestrating the purchase of this new piece of land.  Upon watching county footage where some of you agreed to sell Mr. Gabbert four acres, it was with complete amusement to see Bob Waechter make an appearance to give his two cents to some of you about how he found the sale agreeable and should happen.  Meanwhile, no one in the area had received notice nor could they see the sale sign that had been posted behind signs. It is a very puzzling process you are all becoming involved in, I can only remain hopeful that you will be listening to the voters of Sarasota who are against the county surplus land sales that are next to Our Celery Fields.

Please take the time to watch the video clip I have provided in this email in its entirety.  There are more meat and potatoes of information in this educational video for everyone to use, a jackpot of Celery Field history. How can the proposed types of development and sale of county "surplus" land that surround this preserve ever enhance the Celery Fields or the local neighborhoods?  They cannot.

Restaurant Depot, is a members only club.  How many people live in Sarasota County? How many people in Sarasota County own restaurants?  A "member's only" club open only to restaurant owners does not benefit this particular area one bit.

TST Ventures/Gabbert Recycling: Mr. Gabbert's right-hand real estate man, Bo Medred has stated a few times, "This recycling center will cut down on illegal dumping," it's a bit of a stretch. Can Bo Medred prove this claim?  Has he provided a study to support this claim?  Mr. Medred speaks as if this is a proven fact for Sarasota County.  I am certain that if we, the voters of Sarasota, have to appeal decisions in relation to these sales, that we will have to support every claim that we make.  These burdens should fall upon Mr. Medred and Attorney Bailey who has not fully disclosed the owners who wish to purchase the acreage for Restaurant Depot. We all have a public hearing on March 1st to attend because our Planning Board members failed to ensure that Attorney Bailey follow the rules of our charter. (Anyone can watch that complete hearing here.) It is even stated in the Herald Tribune published on February 14th that the Sarasota County Charter requires persons or entities applying for rezoning to disclose the true ownership interests. If Attorney Bailey has submitted an amended ownership disclosure form, I want to see it.

Our Celery Fields preserve is more than just an important working filtration unit for our county, the educational component with children/students, 7 acres for people to walk/run/bird/walk dogs, MAJOR ecotourism, 400+ bird species recorded - many who are listed endangered or being watched, butterflies (many who have very low population counts), rats and mice that owls and birds of prey eat, photographers, the fish that live in the waters...I could rattle off the amazing and wonderful things about Our Celery Fields all day. (Here's another site made by people who also care.)

I encourage you to watch this video before the March 1 public hearing meeting for Restaurant Depot.

Florida Field Journal 
Published on Mar 23, 2015 
Producer Darryl Saffer talks to Jeanne Dubi, president of Sarasota Audubon about the exciting developments at the Celery Fields, including the new education center under construction. Barry Rossheim brings his Venice High School Zoology Club to the Celery Fields to participate in the Backyard Bird Count.
Please do not vote in favor of Restaurant Depot being built on the property next to the Celery Fields. We need our elected officials to be champions for the county. How about it?  The benefits to Sarasota are numerous and can only grow if you don't mess this up for everyone.  It would be so nice to have leadership we can trust and admire in protecting and growing Our Celery Fields preserve area to accommodate bigger ideas that benefit all.

And if you have a minute, we'd love for you to join us:

Sign the petition to Save the Celery Fields


Adrien Lucas


bcc'd: to everyone/press/friends/family/bloggers

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Letter to the County re: industrializing public property near Celery Fields

Feb. 21, 2017

To: The Sarasota County Board of Commissioners
RE: Rezone petition 16-33, CAP 83-10-SP, Restaurant Depot, Palmer Blvd. & Apex Rd.
Public Hearing, March 1, 2017
From: Thomas Matrullo

I write as a concerned citizen about a matter of significant public interest:

Two proposed industrial rezonings of public properties at the edge of the Celery Fields threaten to degrade valuable public assets. You’ll be hearing from many concerned residents about the negative impacts a big box Restaurant Depot store and a 16-acre recycling plant will have on traffic, air, water, schools, and a valued bird sanctuary. Let me invite you to step back and consider this from another perspective.You have the opportunity to shape and revitalize a gateway area of Sarasota County. With the wrong decision, a potentially wonderful public outcome will be lost forever.

A bit of background is necessary.

Developers have asked you to approve industrializing a total of about 23 acres at the intersection of Apex and Palmer Boulevard. Two promising, sensitive areas lie near these lots -- The Celery Fields just east of Apex, and the adopted Fruitville Initiative Plan north of Palmer:

Map #1: Apex / Palmer intersection lower left quarter

The Celery Fields began as a regional stormwater project -- it cleanses water, protects against major floods, and manages our stormwater runoff before releasing it to Phillippi Creek and  Roberts Bay. Over time, this public property has evolved into a much loved and used park and recreational facility, and a bird sanctuary listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail, in national and international eco-tourism brochures and tours.

The public properties proposed for industrial use at Apex and Palmer are at the edge of the Celery Fields (Map #2). They should be held to a much higher level of public input and vision. And right nearby, you have a regionally significant example of this higher level of vision in the Plan for the public lands that contain the Fruitville Library. Years of effort on the part of the County, property owners and homeowners resulted in the Fruitville Initiative.

Apex and CF text.png
Map #2 Palmer and Apex Intersection adjacent to Celery Fields

That plan, adopted by this Board in 2014, represents a community consensus. It provides a successful and proven model for planning publicly owned lands -- one that can be used here. The intersection of Apex and Palmer could meet high-level goals including features that would

  • provide high-tech, high-paying jobs in attractive offices
  • promote walkable, mixed use features - cafes, a public garden, art studios, galleries
  • reduce vehicle trips
  • make desirable and truly affordable housing (allowed under MEC) possible.

Such a plan would enhance the potential of the Celery Fields, and the vested Fruitville Plan -- not degrade them.

Now, look at an even bigger picture: You have an opportunity to integrate the Fruitville Initiative, the Celery Fields and the established small business district with Detwiler's, the Packinghouse Cafe, and other commerce just to the west of I-75. Thanks to the Palmer Boulevard underpass (a rare East-West connector), the potential for an attractive, unified community -- varied, viable and walkable -- is already there.

Map #3: Overview from Fruitville Init. (Coburn Rd.) to Packinghouse District

As you see: the central connecting link between the three legs of this prospective community is precisely the public acreage at Apex and Palmer Boulevard. County planners and the Duany planning firm noted this in a study more than ten years ago. They called the intersection “The Quad” (see Item #4). Putting a big box store and recycling plant there would create an obstructive barrier at the center, generating truck traffic and dividing the three key assets: the Fruitville Initiative, Celery Fields and Packinghouse District. Did you bother to ask the people who live and work there before putting the public properties out to bid?

To neglect this chance to shape a well-planned community of substantial historical, natural and economic value would be a new low for Sarasota planning. You’ll devalue the unique adjacent ecosystem, and miss the obvious opportunity to bring together a vibrant community stretching from north of Fruitville Road down to the Packinghouse District. To discard it in favor of accommodating a low-leverage recycling operation and a big box wholesale store would border on an abdication of public policy.

A matter of serious public concern is at stake in your decision. You can help create a vibrant new locale by integrating significant assets in a comprehensive way. You could make Sarasota again renowned for careful yet creative planning. Should you choose to ignore this opportunity, the loss to us all will be incalculable.

One final thought: As the letter from the Sarasota Audubon Society (see item #6 ) makes clear, development in Sarasota is marching eastward. The Celery Fields will become an ever more valued green space as it is surrounded by homes, commerce and industry. Audubon likens it to Central Park in New York City. Think big -- the future will thank you.


Thomas Matrullo
Lake Sarasota
Citizens for Sarasota County

cc: Media, HOA's, Civic, Business, Political, Environmental organizations

Notes and Images

Item #4: Fruitville Initiative planned at cost of $499,000, adopted 2014
Has the County helped it succeed? See this editorial.

The quad .JPG
Item #5: Early envisioning of “The Quad”at Apex & Palmer
Duany Plater-Zyberk Co.


Item #6:  Herald-Tribune, Sarasota Audubon Society LTE 2.16.17

Fight Celery Fields project
Sarasota Audubon's mission is public education and conservation of wildlife habitat. We are aware of Sarasota County's plans to sell two parcels on Palmer Boulevard near the Celery Fields. The proposed uses entail a restaurant-supply facility and a construction material/yard waste storage/recycling facility.
The Celery Fields storm-water facility is a major attraction for citizens, outdoor enthusiasts and schools and is a worldwide destination for eco-tourism.
Sarasota Audubon opposes the sale for these reasons:
1. The lots contain enough acreage for a permanent fire station and additional park/recreation/wildlife habitat.
2. Proposed businesses are not compatible with recreation and eco-tourism and will add hundreds of daily auto/truck trips through strained and inadequate neighborhood roads. This increase will have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of wildlife and humans in the area. Also, thousands of tourists coming yearly to explore the Celery Fields stimulate the local economy.
3. As development surrounds the Celery Fields, available green space will become increasingly necessary to preserving this jewel. The Celery Fields is considered by many to be the "Central Park" of Sarasota County and a major economic driver. Jeopardizing this funding would not be a wise use of county resources.
The public should make its voice heard by contacting county commissioners at 941-861-5000 or scgov.net.
Jeanne Dubi, President, and Robert Wright, Conservation Chair, Sarasota Audubon Society

Item #7: Portion of Celery Fields Hill

celery fields undulation.jpg