Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Letter to the Planning Commission: Jason Boehk

Dear Planning Commissioners Benson, Bispham, Cooper, Cutsinger, Ebaugh, Morris, Neunder, Pember, and Stultz:

As a Sarasota resident and taxpayer, I urge you to reject the Proposed Land Use Change for Critical Area Plan Amendment Rezone Petition No. 17-01 to Rezone approximately 16 acres from ILW (Industrial Light Manufacturing/ and Warehousing) with Stipulations and OUR (Open Use Rural, 1 Unit to 10 Acres) to ILW with Amended Stipulations, and Special Exceptions No. 1765 to Allow a Recycling Facility in ILW Zone District.

I strongly oppose the proposed rezoning and “special exception” for the following reasons:

1. Serious ethical and legal questions are swirling around the entire process by which the County has jettisoned the parcels in question. I remain hopeful that a thorough investigation, by County whistleblowers or others, will reveal the true nature of the transactions. One thing is clear to me: the beneficiaries of selling the valuable parcels, which represent an important buffer for the fragile habitat of the Celery Fields, do ~not~ include the taxpayers and residents of Sarasota County.

2. The Celery Fields is a tremendous asset for the County, and a huge potential economic driver via ecotourism. Allowing the siting of a concrete-crushing and building-waste processing facility adjacent to this treasure, is entirely reckless and irresponsible. Moreover, doing so will represent an insult to the visionary County and community leadership from years past, efforts that combined with serendipity to make the Celery Fields into a unique environmental boon for the County as well as a nationally-recognized destination for birdwatching.

3. I work for a company with offices located off Porter Road, so I am already familiar with the degraded road and public safety situation in the vicinity of the proposed waste-processing facility. This facility will add many more trucks to roads that are already insufficient. With school traffic and the impending completion of more residential communities in the neighborhood, approving this rezone and special exception will demonstrate a willful disregard for public safety.

4. Sarasota County’s Zoning Mission Statement states that “Zoning's fundamental purpose is to protect a community's health, safety and welfare.”[1] A concrete-crushing facility in this location will jeopardize all three. Moreover, this is a not how a “Critical Area Plan” deserves to be handled by Sarasota County government.

In sum, I am hard pressed to find a more egregious example of the County’s poor stewardship of our public lands and resources than this one, with the convoluted, opaque process surrounding Jim Gabbert’s acquisition of these properties, and the County’s bizarre, apparent encouragement of his effort to build a waste processing facility adjacent to East County’s “Central Park,” the Celery Fields.

The prosperous, dynamic future of Sarasota County is tied to the fortunes of the Celery Fields, not to a concrete-crushing facility in the same location.

Please, adhere to the genuine letter and spirit of Sarasota’s zoning, and reject this outrageous proposal.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Jason Boehk

[1] Zoning: An Explanation of Zoning Districts in Sarasota County, Florida

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