Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Letter from Sarasota Audubon to Commissioner Al Maio

Sarasota Board of County Commissioners
1660 Ringling Blvd-Second Floor
Sarasota, FL 34236
February 22, 2017

Dear Commissioner Maio,
I know you are all well aware of the parcels up for rezoning, sale and development at the Corner of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard. I also know that several groups have and are organizing protests against the sale of these sites for commercial development. This letter is on behalf of Sarasota Audubon Society which speaks for itself and no others.

The Collaboration between Sarasota County and Sarasota Audubon was specifically entered into in order to enhance and develop the Celery Fields as a haven for wildlife and for passive recreation. Working together, we have achieved that goal. The Celery Fields is one of the most well-known birding hotspots in Florida, hosting visitors from all over the world (see attached visitor logs). The financial impact of a prime birding site cannot be overstated; birders spend lots of money in pursuit of their hobby. In order for the Celery Fields to maintain its prime eco-tourism reputation, Audubon and the County are continually improving habitat, and therefore the Celery Fields experience for all. The investment by Sarasota Audubon of $1.4 million at the Celery Fields is testament to the area's rich birdlife.

I want to make a few points about birds: The Fields provide forage for 3 Federally listed species of birds, for 8 Florida listed species and provides safe nesting for 48 bird species (see attached Celery Fields checklist). This is a phenomenal number in such an urban area. However, some of these birds (and ecotourism) will be at risk for the following reasons:
  • Noise and ground vibration of traffic, especially heavy trucks, impact breeding rates of birds
  • An inadequate buffer zone between the Fields and commercial development will push birds further into the Fields setting up competition for food, thereby reducing survival rates
  • The eco-tourism aspects of the Fields will be degraded due to increased commercial interests
In view of our concerns for the future use of the sites at the corners of Apex and Palmer, we request the BCC deny the proposed rezone action and create an advisory group of affected citizen stakeholders to Work with County staff in determining a land use suitable to the affected parties and the citizens of Sarasota County. The recommendations of this group will be presented to the BCC for further action if necessary.
We are grateful for the BCC's Support of Sarasota Audubon over all these years and hope we can continue to work together for the benefit of wildlife and the eco-tourism sector.
Jeanne Dubi, President

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