Friday, July 14, 2017

LTE: Save surplus land around Celery Fields

A Letter to the Herald Tribune from Christopher Mahon - raises a very important point - thank you, Christopher:

To the Editors:
It is so nice to see that the Sarasota city commissioners have the imagination and foresight to consider buying the Players Theatre property downtown, even without definite plans for its use. Would that such attitudes were contagious. 
The Celery Fields were developed as a strictly utilitarian flood-control project. It was only later that the area came to be an ecotourism destination known nationwide. How often do the unintended consequences of government action turn out to be wonderful? 
Well, we can still blow it. On Aug. 23, the Sarasota County Commission will vote on the proposed concrete and construction-debris recycling plant adjacent to the Celery Fields, already rejected by the Planning Commission. 
Concerned citizens must show up to ensure the right outcome. But we must go further. We must remove the four pieces of our land from the surplus list and save them for our posterity. 
The land parcels in question were deemed surplus when the property was being developed because they had no use as flood-control area. However, just as the Celery Fields has evolved into an irreplaceable recreational site, so, too, can the “surplus” parcels. 
Whether they become an interpretive botanical park, community gardens, or something no one’s yet considered, it doesn’t take a genius to see that having undeveloped land contiguous to the Celery Fields is nearly priceless, and will be even more so in the future. 
If the county government lacks the foresight to protect this land, the people of this county don’t. 
Christopher Mahon, Sarasota

Statement on Waste Facility Application from Control Growth Now

Control Growth Now of Sarasota County has issued this statement with regard to the application to site a waste processing facility near the Park, Preserve and Bird Sanctuary known as The Celery Fields.

Control Growth Now urges the Sarasota County Commission to deny approval of the pending applications for land use changes to property near the Celery Fields, an internationally renowned birding sanctuary as well as an important stormwater management facility, for a construction debris recycling facility.  In addition to the potential for adverse impacts to the environment and experience of the Celery Fields, the land use changes would dramatically increase heavy truck traffic on Palmer Boulevard, which is already experiencing traffic congestion, and would be incompatible with nearby neighborhoods.  As the Sarasota County Planning Commission unanimously determined, the County should reject the petitions, including specifically an amendment to the Critical Area Plan for this property, as specifically allowed by the Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan for reasons of the admitted traffic impacts of the proposed change.  Further, the County Commission should withdraw the subject land and two other adjacent parcels for sale as “surplus property” for industrial development and instead incorporate them into the Celery Fields preserve, to better protect the environment, neighborhoods and mobility in the area.
   -- Dan Lobeck, CGN President

The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners will hear the matter on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lyons on the curious case of Sarasota's accommodation - for a dump at the Celery Fields

Please read Tom Lyons' Herald Tribune column on the curious, accommodative stance of Sarasota County toward the proposed, highly unwise idea to put a Waste Demolition plant next to a serene Preserve and Internationally touristed Bird Sanctuary, our all-round beautiful Celery Fields.

Among other things, Lyons notes:
County staff also quietly proposed changing county rules that would have barred the plant because the site was much too small, and did so as if the change was just some non-controversial tweak.
Staff essentially just passed along a designer-proposal created by land use agent Bo Medred. Medred pretended his proposal -- allowing unenclosed waste processing within 500 feet of homes -- would be useful and noninvasive, and the county - both the Planning Commission and the Board - bought it hook, line, and sinker.

See the Citizens' Timeline narrative here

especially this bit:

In October, 2016, Bo Medred asked the County to change its law and standards to accommodate Mr. Gabbert's desire to put a Waste Processing Plant at Apex Rd. and E. Palmer Blvd., next to the Celery Fields.
  • Oct 20, 2016 - Bo Medred proposes new standards to reduce the number of acres required for unenclosed Waste Processing from 35 acres to 15 acres. Ordinance No. 2016-082, approving Zoning Ordinance Amendment No. 119. 
  • Jack Bispham, chair of the Planning Commission, recused himself from the proceeding. Bispham is the brother-in- law of Mr. Gabbert.
  • No information or testimony from an expert on Waste Processing was cited or offered by county staff or a commissioner.

Bo Medred's proposed amendment to the County's law and standards begins with Donna Thompson of County Real Estate at about 2:08 hrs. (That single segment can also be viewed here.)

Planning Commission Hearing Oct 20, 2016 on Ord. 2016-084, Amend.119

  • During the PC hearing (at 2:32), Bo Medred displayed this photo of a dump in Buffalo NY to illustrate his argument as to why this 15-acre model is perfectly suitable for residential areas of Sarasota County. People's homes visible behind the piles of waste: 

Medred displayed this photo of a Waste Processing Facility on 15 acres in Buffalo NY
to the Planning Commission.

If nothing else, see the exchange around 2:33 between Planning Commissioner Laura Benson and Bo Medred:
Benson: (referencing the Buffalo illustration):  Those pictures were big dirty things.
Bo Medred: That's a . . . that's a . . . that's an opinion. 
See also the exchange with Commissioner Jack Hawkins concerning the noise levels of concrete and asphalt crushing operations that begins about 2 hrs. and 39 minutes. No staff or Commissioner put into evidence any documents about the potential problems and issues with siting a waste processing facility. No accredited expert was invited to testify as to siting, pollution, noise, or other impacts upon residences.

Planning Board ACTION:

Oct. 20, 2016 - The Planning Commission APPROVED the amendment by a vote of 6-0 (Bispham recused hmself) as a Special Exception use to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, as Bo Medred recommended.  VIDEO

With the blessing of the Planning Commission, Bo Medred moved on, taking the proposed amendment to the Sarasota Board of County Commissions in December.

On Dec. 14, the Board approved a text amendment allowing unenclosed waste processing facilities near residences via Consent Agenda -- i.e., it wasn't even discussed.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Transcript of June 1 Celery Fields Hearing (Sarasota Planning Commission)

A full transcript of the June 1, 2017 Planning Commission Hearing on James Gabbert's proposal to build a giant unenclosed waste plant near the edge of the Celery Fields is now available. Read it here.

The final hearing of the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners on the matter is set for Aug. 23, 2017.