Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Maynard Hiss on siting, planning and waste

At CONA on Monday, June 12, will look at what can be learned from the June 1, 2017 Planning Commission hearing about the proposal to site a waste processing plant next to a pristine Preserve and Audubon Center. What are the logical next steps in the effort to protect the Celery Fields?

Below is a thoughtful comment from Maynard Hiss that addresses the hearing, and looks beyond it to speak of how the public planning process seems skewed in ways that are unproductive and fail to result in clear commonsense vision for surplus lands, planning, zoning, and community involvement in a process basic to who we are.


Maynard Hiss What is amazing about this is how little analysis went into the siting process except for the part that the applicant was getting a good deal on public land much more suited to nature-based water and ecological conservation.

Maynard Hiss at Planning Commission
I was thinking how useless this facility would be if we had a very serious hurricane and thousands of homes were destroyed. In some of the bigger hurricanes 60,000 homes have been destroyed and mobile homes especially the older ones would probably be gone to a large extent in 150 mph winds.

The only way a transfer site would be able to handle hundreds of houses would be if it was connected to a rail line, which could quickly move large amounts of sorted debris out fast and effectively.

I was also thinking how poor the soils in Sarasota are and how this much yard waste and compost could benefit agriculture and ecological restoration. So siting the yard waste in a more suitable location would also be helpful and synergistic especially if some of the worst types could be comp.

I think the saddest part of the last meeting was how one's choice is limited to NO, when the participants would be more effective and more productive by helping site the much-needed facilities in a much better location. For example, our solid waste plan would be much more effective with a resource recovery facility that could handle a major disaster. It would be much more effective if the facility had much easier access to markets for the recovered materials such as if it was on a rail line. Or if the organic yard waste was closer to agriculture or horticulture or a biofuels areas where it could be quickly used.

It is sad when the only choices for the public are to say NO to really bad ideas that would destroy one of the most strategic areas for tourist development in the County.

So instead of using the intellectual capital of the citizens in a positive way such as by getting a lot of experts on the great and positive characteristics of this unique area of the County with a very high value set of assets that could be developed synergistically with the attributes of the site, they have to deal with County planners and commercial interests who want to turn back time and return the are to a low-quality light industry by adding heavy industrial waste to the site.

On the other hand I see this highly accomplished business person who has contributed significantly to the resource recovery industry being hammered by people who largely support his efforts and applaud his efforts but who are forced to oppose him because the only alternative on the table is to blight one of the nicest potential gateways and ecotourism sites in the County. And area that could play a central role in making the east part of the county as desirable as the west part of the County.

Public participation will never work in a context where people can only say yes or no to really bad proposals for really good things.

Rally before 6.1.17 Planning Commission
Sarasota County Administration Building


  1. Unfortunately, we have been stuck with the zero-sum construct. This was true in the Legends' position against MEC at Fruitville and Tatum: If it's not residential, then it has to be MEC. I realize that one way to approach difficult decisions is by a process of elimination - if it can't be this, it must be that. However, this is a very narrow view of community planning.

  2. Well said. This is "planning"? Where is the community, the strategic exploration of local trends, possibilities, opportunities to optimize the result for the public as well as the developer? How did we unlearn some of the basic ways to create a vibrant mix of mutually beneficial land uses?