Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Letter to Sarasota's Tourist Development Council (TDC)

Update: Sarasota County has set aside a full day -- Aug. 23 -- to hear a developer's proposal to build an industrial construction/demolition waste plant near a treasured Preserve, Bird Sanctuary, recreational area, and the Sarasota Audubon Nature Center.

To All Members of the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council:

In advance of your June 22 meeting, please consider a crucial decision facing a burgeoning tourist opportunity near the I-75 and Fruitville Rd. area.

The County has an extraordinary success story in its efforts to build a regional stormwater facility at the Celery Fields. It protects property, Phillippi Creek, and Roberts Bay, while giving rise to a natural bird sanctuary, Preserve, and passive recreation area. As this ecosystem has evolved, the Celery Fields has gained recognition regionally, nationally, and internationally.

At the June 1 Planning Commission hearing, a proposal to build a 16-acre waste processing plant adjacent to this area brought out hundreds of residents opposed to this project -- including some who testified of learning about the Celery Fields from national birding magazines, websites, and other media. The PC voted unanimously to deny the proposal.

The Audubon Nature Center has only been in operation at the Preserve a short time, but its first report speaks of strong growth, widespread interest, and many forms of local recreation as well as broad recognition.

Besides the fabulous natural amenity, and in part because of it, communities are flourishing to the east of the the Celery Fields. East Palmer Blvd. will soon have over 2000 homes. There were 52 homes there in 1992, when the underlying land use of the Quad properties at Apex and Palmer was last updated. The 33 acres at the intersection of Apex and Palmer where a developer wishes to build a waste plant are public lands that deserve reconsideration given the dramatic changes in the last 25 years. Changes that include the development of clean small businesses in the Industrial Parks, a public school, and close by, through the I-75 underpass on Palmer, a growing commercial area: the Packinghouse District.

A giant open-air waste processing operation situated at the intersection of Apex and Palmer would have multi-layered adverse impacts on this area -- to the residential, commercial, and tourist facilities. It could seriously damage the promise and vision of the Fruitville Initiative, the gateway to Sarasota designed to attract hi tech businesses to a walkable, mixed use community facing on and linked to the Celery Fields. 

Polyzoides rendering of Riverwalk linking Fruitville Initiative and Celery Fields

For more context, please see this article: Sarasota at the Crossroads.

The Board of County Commissioners is currently set to address this proposed Construction Demolition Waste Plant on Aug. 23, beginning at 9 a.m. After this Thursday's meeting (June 22), your next  meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 28. We ask that you make the pending decision about the Celery Fields a matter of high priority, and exercise your advisory mandate to provide clear and informed advice to the County in advance of the Aug. 23 hearing.

I would appreciate a copy of any minutes or correspondence indicating the Council's intervention in this matter, which has focused the attention of people countywide and beyond.

Tom Matrullo

Co-Founder, Citizens for Sarasota County
Member, Bee Ridge Neighborhoods Committee

The TDC's current Board includes:,,,, "Charles D. Hines" <>,,,,,,,,,

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