Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Glenna Blomquist: High Water in Worthington

Bo Medred takes the high ground – literally.

The history of today’s flooding is a long one, and goes back many years.  My neighbor lady farmer’s grazing land is flooded today because the Kolter Artistry development currently under construction at Palmer Boulevard and Iona Road depended on engineers who did not listen to residents of the neighborhood.

These 412 acres of open estate rural land (1 home per 10 acres) are now zoned for 2.5 residences per acre.  The elaborate site plan features lakes, paths, and palms.  It graciously allows water to dump on neighboring farms.

In bringing Palm Beach to Palmer Boulevard, Bo Medred succeeded in drowning out the voices of neighboring farmers.

After a long struggle, Bo won over the hearts and minds of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners and Artistry became a reality.

Then Bo Medred teamed with Donald Neu, who would have a future prominent role in rezoning the adjacent Worthington property from OUR to dense residential. The entire Iona/Palmer lands would then be developed by Kolter Homes.

September 2016 - Worthington Development is approved for an additional 156 homes adjacent to Artistry.

When neighbors objected to the change of rural lands to a planned development, Mr. Neu reinforced his view that, “This land is ripe for development.”
In protesting the Worthington rezone, neighbors spoke about stormwater concerns, understanding that Artistry had already upset the apple cart.  In August of 2016, Janice Lauterbach was already experiencing unusual flooding in her front yard, eliminating grazing land for her cattle.  She chastised the Palmer Place (a.k.a. Artistry) developers and engineers for not understanding how the drainage really works.  “If you think your stormwater drainage plan is working, well then, someone forgot to tell gravity,” she said.


The County and developer have obligations not to ruin the lives and livelihoods of neighboring residents.

That my neighbor has to relocate her farm hurts.  When developers rule and neighbors’ voices go unheeded, the fate of a neighborhood is sealed in the blink of an eye, or an evening in the chambers.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Growth again tops Public Concern: Lobeck

Via Dan Lobeck:

County Opinion Survey Shows Growth as Top Public Concern


The Sarasota County 2017 Public Opinion Survey will be released Tuesday.  It shows a public very concerned about growth and traffic congestion and strongly opposed to a tax hike to be considered by the County Commission on September 11.

For the fourth year in a row, residents cited “population growth/new development” as the top issue facing the County, by far.  Taxes came in second, pushing out the 2016 second place issue of “economy/jobs.”

Here’s another finding, in a quote from the Survey’s Executive Summary, on the question of what is the biggest threat to Sarasota County’s economy:

The biggest change from last year’s survey was a sharp increase in mentions of growth-related threatsfrom 44% to 55%, the biggest increases being traffic congestion (+5%) and environmental deterioration (+4%). The steepest decline was in the percent identifying the lack of industry and jobs as the biggest threat (-4%).

The public’s rating of our “quality of life” declined from 2016, with the percentage saying “excellent” dropping from 59% to 47%, with merely “good” going from 38% to 50%.  The Executive Summary did not reveal the votes for "fair" or "poor", saying they stayed "roughly constant" from 2016.

The percentage of people saying that they trust County officials to do the right thing “almost always” or “most of the time”, while still a majority, dropped from 2016 – a fact not mentioned in the Executive Summary.

The Survey showed that 61% of respondents are opposed to any tax increase by Sarasota County government. This should be a message to County Commissioners as they consider a large new “public service” tax at a public hearing on September 11 at 5:30 pm at the Anderson Center in Venice.  The tax would add an estimated $50 a year on average to water, sewer and electricity bills for every home and business in the unincorporated County, plus more for those who pay for gas, amounting to about $11 million a year.  The County says it needs the money for public facility projects which are underfunded, because impact fees on developers have been too low.  Until all impact fees are raised to the full rate allowed by law (including for transportation, which are only half of the full rate throughout most of the urban area) and the County cuts wasteful spending, the County Commission has no business considering any tax hike, particularly by creating a regressive tax on utilities which will hit the poorest among us the hardest.

And in what the Executive Summary calls the biggest change in public opinion, people rank “development/business” as the subject on which the County spends too much money. 

Quoting from the Summary:

                Closer Look at Where “Over-Spending”: Development/Business Tops List

                Over 70% of the respondents pointing to over-spending cite just four general spending categories: “development and business” (33%), “County officials, pay, benefits” (23%), “parks, art, and beautification” (9%), and “low priorities, waste” (6%). Twenty percent of those upset about too much spending did not identify a specific category. The biggest change over the past four years has been the growing proportion of respondents citing development/business as the spending category on which the County spends too muchFrom 2016 to 2017 alone, the “development/business” citation rate almost doubled (16% to 33%). During that same period, there was an increase in citations of County personnel costs (+4%), but fewer mentions of “parks, art, and beautification” (-11%) or “low priorities/waste” (-6%) as examples of excessive County spending.

Even more than in prior years, this Survey shows that the developer-controlled Sarasota County Commission is out of step with its constituents.  Instead of treating growth and development as a concern to be controlled, Commissioners are doing almost everything they can to make it easier for developers, gutting regulations which have stood for decades and now considering doing it in others matters such as traffic studies, densities and the environment.

Two County Commissioners will be up for election next year and the others in 2020.

The public will then have an opportunity to put their opinions into action.

  -- Dan Lobeck

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Celery Fields and Rational Planning

It can take time for the key import of an event to sink in. I can attest to that with regard to last Wednesday's Celery Fields hearing, when, after nearly 10 hours, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners voted to DENY a plan to build a 16-acre waste processing facility at a central intersection near a bird sanctuary, Preserve, recreation area, school, homes, commerce and business parks.

The vote, 3-2, was close, and the deliberations of the five commissioners were not always easy to hear or follow. But a review of the 8.23.17 meeting (video here) clarified some of the twists and bends in the discussion, and revealed some larger implications.

Clearly the Board did the right thing. It's helpful to look at the reasoning shared by the Board during their deliberations.

Commissioner Charles Hines wrestled with concerns that a giant waste facility would negatively impact both the Celery Fields and the planned Fruitville Initiative, an approved Gateway mixed-use development to border on the northern waters of the Celery Fields. Plans for it show residential apartments with balconies, cafes and restaurants looking out over the bird sanctuary. Would a concrete and yard waste crunching plant go with that pristine, serene landscape?

Commissioner Nancy Detert looked at the potential impact upon property values. The area, with rapid development over the past 20 years, is radically different from what it was in 1992, when the land use map was last updated.

"What I think happened here is that Mr. Gabbert missed the market," Detert said.

Commission Chair Paul Caragiulo spoke of the "19th century" way the county informs people in the community about plans. The county's use of postal mailings to notify neighbors doesn't work when it only reaches 500-750 feet, for one thing. (For another, the Celery Fields are a regional amenity. For another, this involved public lands.)

But Caragiulo acknowledged a more complex, and more tangled, truth about this proposal. The County itself owned this land, and had put it out to bid, and had entered into contract with the waste developer, TST Ventures. The previous Board had voted to surplus the property and post it for sale, then contractually agreed to sell it contingent upon Mr. Gabbert receiving the changes (rezoning, special exception, and critical area plan amendment) he needed to operate his facility.

To deny him these changes meant confronting a troubling question: Why hadn't the County considered this broad spectrum of planning concerns -- proximity of Celery Fields and Fruitville Initiative, damage to property values, road issues in a tight area that seemed unable to be adequately dealt with, potential air pollution, noise, and health and safety concerns -- BEFORE offering the public parcels at Apex and Palmer for sale? All of this, Caragiulo noted, went to the question of public trust:

"We can all do a better job of having people trust what goes on in this building," Caragiulo said.

Both Detert and Caragiulo asked whether the County did Mr. Gabbert a disservice by not addressing all this in advance. The question was raised by both Commissioners Detert and Caragiulo.

As the Sarasota News Leader reported:
At one point, Detert asked Lin Kurant, manager of the county’s Real Estate Services Division, whether it ever occurred to Kurant that, given the growth in popularity of the Celery Fields, that the property should be taken off the surplus list. 
“No,” Kurant replied, because a previous County Commission directed her to put it out for bid.
Now with the benefit of hindsight one might ask: Did Sarasota County practice rational planning in its handling of the public parcels at Apex and Palmer? When County Administrator Thomas Harmer declared their surplus status and the Board agreed to their sale, was there public discussion, were all relevant factors and impacts taken into consideration by Staff, and was the decision to sell justified upon the best information, testimony, research, and understanding available at the time that decision was made?

Clearly, the answer is "No."

But just as clearly, to admit all this, and to vote to deny the proposal at this late moment in a process that began years before, took significant courage. For example, the Board could simply have berated the residents and users of the Celery Fields, and Benderson, the developer behind the Fruitville Initiative, for failing to know that a Land Use of MEC could be contorted totally out of its definition to accommodate a harsh industrial facility.

That was precisely the tactic employed by formerly simultaneous Argus CEO and Commissioner Christine Robinson to beat down the public's commonsense opposition to Mr. Gabbert's prior plan for a Waste Transfer station at Porter and Palmer. That plan, approved by the prior commission with Robinson, could still go forward if Mr. Gabbert so wishes.

This Board didn't go that way. They stepped up, choosing to face the not entirely harmonious music of years of insensitive, arbitrary and illogical planning decisions made in Sarasota County, especially since 2008 when the market collapsed and developers went into panic mode. But that's another story.

This could be a hopeful sign. A signal that the Board is ready to return to the processes and ethos of rational planning. More certainly need to be done -- starting with removing all the public lands at Apex and Palmer from the County's Surplus Lands list, as Commissioner Detert suggested.

For the record, at the 8.23.17 hearing the two votes FOR the waste facility at this location came from Commissioners Michael Moran and Alan Maio:

Commissioner Moran accused the public of not being "fact-based" in emails and phone calls prior to the hearing. He felt the developer's presentation was "fact-based," while upwards of 70 presentations from attorneys, land use experts, a Sarasota City Planner, a Pulmonologist, an Epidemeologist, real estate agents, environmental experts and others who had researched waste facilities and contradicted the developer's unsubstantiated claims apparently did not meet his undisclosed criterion for factuality.

Commissioner Maio seized upon one or perhaps two public accusations of "collusion" to suggest that the public had demonstrated poor manners.

Thanks to courage and uncommon common sense - which is one definition of wisdom - the art and science of rational planning has made the start of a comeback in Sarasota County.

A huge and sincere thanks to all who helped move us in that direction.

The Quad Parcels - courtesy of the Sarasota News Leader

~ Tom Matrullo

Friday, August 25, 2017

SNL: Gabbert proposal voted down

Splitting 3-2, County Commission denies petitions for recycling facility near the Celery Fields

Commissioner Nancy Detert proposes that the county remove from its surplus list property it owns near the park, including a parcel the applicant has sought to purchase
Commission Chair Paul Caragiulo. Rachel Hackney photo
Three motions; approximately five-and-three-quarters hours of public comments; 73 speakers (out of 81 who submitted signed cards asking to address the board); and two extra rooms accommodating all the audience members who could not fit into the County Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.
On Aug. 23, what Commission Chair Paul Caragiulo acknowledged he had been dreading played out between 9:10 a.m. and 6:56 p.m.: a public hearing on petitions submitted by TST Ventures LLC that would enable it to construct a recycling facility for construction and demolition material, as well as yard waste. A waste transfer station — for which TST Ventures won county approval in 2015 — also would be part of the project on a 16-acre site at Palmer Boulevard, Apex Road and Porter Road, close to the county’s internationally known Celery Fields park and stormwater area.
As the board neared its 3-2 vote to deny the petitions, Caragiulo pointed to the “remarkably sensible and substantive discussion” that had transpired over the day.
For months, a group called Save Our Celery Fields had gathered thousands of signatures on petitions, organized rallies and communicated with the commissioners to fight the proposed project. Speakers on Aug. 23 pointed out that the county has invested between $25 million and $30 million in the Celery Fields — a figure county spokesman Drew Winchester confirmed on Aug 24 for The Sarasota News Leader.
In 1994, the county bought 303 acres encompassing what is now the park and the property at the heart of the TST Ventures’ proposal, county Planner Kirk Crane explained. Since then, numerous speakers told the board, the Celery Fields has become a major draw for bird-watchers because of the vast number of migratory species that appear there each year. Additionally, neighborhood leaders testified, more than a dozen subdivisions have sprung up in the immediate vicinity, with hundreds more homes planned.
In spite of several last-minute stipulations James Gabbert of Sarasota, president of TST Ventures, offered to the board — to make the project more palatable to the public — Caragiulo and Commissioners Charles Hines and Nancy Detert said they could not support it.
“This is a risky thing for me,” Caragiulo said. “It’s just a question of comfort. … The problem is … once it gets out there, it can’t be undone.”
“I’m a big property rights guy,” Caragiulo added. Nonetheless, he continued, “I don’t think [the project] squares with what an evolved vision of that area is.”
A graphic shows the site proposed for the recycling plant. Image courtesy Sarasota County
TST Ventures had made an offer on 10 county acres — what staff refers to as one of the county’s “Quad” properties — near the Celery Fields, with plans to combine that and 4.3 acres TST Ventures already owned, so Gabbert could construct the recycling facility. The county property is zoned Open Use Rural, which limits it to one dwelling unit per acre, county Planner Kirk Crane said.
Among its petitions, TST Ventures wanted to amend a Critical Area Plan (CAP) governing the property, so the entire project site could be designated Light Industrial.
Crane explained that the site has been labeled on county future land use maps as a Major Employment Center (MEC).
“If we continue to try to sell the property,” Detert pointed out of the county’s 42 total surplus acres near the Celery Fields — including the land Gabbert sought to buy — “then we’re going to have these meetings often. … I wish we’d be more clear about identifying land that we will approve [for a recycling facility]. Part of our job as county commissioners,” she told her colleagues, “is that we can design the best community that we can design. Everything’s changed out there [in the proposed project area] because of the Celery Fields. … We should take [the county land] off of the surplus list and, frankly, use it to [enhance the Celery Fields] …”
At one point, Detert asked Lin Kurant, manager of the county’s Real Estate Services Division, whether it ever occurred to Kurant that, given the growth in popularity of the Celery Fields, that the property should be taken off the surplus list.
A graphic explains the county’s ‘Quads’ parcels. Image courtesy Sarasota County
“No,” Kurant replied, because a previous County Commission directed her to put it out for bid.
Among his other concerns, Caragiulo referenced Gabbert’s final proffers — as well as an updated traffic study the project team submitted to county staff on Monday morning: “Dumping loads of information [at the] last minute is not something that fills someone like me with confidence.” Moreover, Caragiulo continued, “that doesn’t help people have confidence in government. I don’t want anything to do with something that doesn’t give people confidence in government.”
After Detert made a motion to deny the CAP amendment, it failed for lack of a second. Commissioner Michael Moran subsequently made a motion to approve that amendment.
“What keeps me grounded when you have an emotional debate on a topic,” Moran said, is “focusing on fact-based testimony.” In his years of service on the county’s Planning Commission and his time on the County Commission, Moran added, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such misinformation, exaggerations … and erroneous input coming into a hearing.”
Commissioner Alan Maio seconded Moran’s motion.
A graphic shows the site of the proposed plant and adjacent land uses. Image courtesy Sarasota County
After he and his wife moved into their house 24 years ago, Maio said, the county expanded the Knights Trail Pistol and Rifle Range, which is “less than 2 miles from my house,” the state “put a third lane on I-75, [the county] built two lanes of Honore [Avenue] even closer than Interstate 75, and you all are fortunate to have a gigantic, state-of-the-art landfill” only 3 or 4 miles from his house. “We all face this,” Maio added. “There’s no hard hearts here,” he stressed.
“This is a good business. It’s a needed business,” Hines said. “To me, it’s the location [that is a concern].”
When Hines asked the TST Ventures project team members to explain why they felt the Palmer Boulevard location was the best, Bill Merrill III, a land-use attorney with the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, replied, “We have demonstrated so far … that … we’re offering 950 feet of buffer from us to the Celery Fields.” That is almost twice as much as the 500 feet required in a Village development as part of the county’s 2050 Plan for residential construction projects east of I-75, Merrill added. Referring to Gabbert, Merrill continued, “He’s wiped out dust. … It’s a non-issue. The noise is drowned out by I-75. It’s less decibel meters than I-75. … This has no impact whatsoever on the Celery Fields, despite the political and anecdotal information that you have received otherwise.”
However, when Caragiulo called for the vote, Moran and Maio were in the minority. Complying with a recommendation by Deputy County Attorney Alan Roddy, Detert made a formal motion of denial on all three TST Ventures petitions. Then Caragiulo and Hines joined her in approving it.
Debating history
The project team shows the commission this information from a 1993 memo about the Celery Fields purchase. News Leader photo
Early on in the project team presentation, Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning in Bradenton talked about a 1993 memo regarding the county’s purchase of the acreage to create the Celery Fields stormwater management project. That memo says the county could sell the 42 acres it did not need for stormwater purposes and get a return greater than its purchase price, “based on growth and development of industrial sites along I-75,” Medred read.
When Caragiulo asked whether the Major Employment Center (MEC) designation for that area existed at that time, Medred responded that the designation dates to 1981.
“When we’re reviewing these applications,” Caragiulo said later, “we have discretion to … decide what might or might not be appropriate and/or good to do in a specific area, and it doesn’t necessarily come down to what somebody said in 1993.”
“I think that the area has changed so dramatically,” Detert concurred. In 1993, she continued, she would have approved the plan for the recycling facility. “Every town has an area where you send your junk businesses to. [In 1993, this property] was so far out, nobody thought about it.”
Referring to Gabbert, she said, “I think he is an honorable businessman. I think he’s being unnecessarily vilified for trying to do the business that he does, [but] I think Mr. Gabbert missed the market.”
“I never thought or intended [for this piece of county property to] be a passive use or a park,” Hines said of the county land Gabbert sought to buy for the facility. “I fully supported this piece being surplused and sold. It clearly fits in [with the surrounding Industrial Light Warehouse zoning uses].”
(From left) James Gabbert, Bo Medred and Bill Merrill III appear before the commission. Rachel Hackney photo
However, Hines continued, the only petition from TST Ventures that the board could address from the standpoint of traffic concerns was the request to amend the CAP.
In response to questioning from Caragiulo, Paula Wiggins, the county’s transportation planning manager, confirmed Hines’ remark. However, she pointed out, “those land uses [under the existing CAP] would actually generate more traffic than what [the TST Ventures team is] proposing …” Still, she continued, the traffic flow on the affected segment of Palmer Boulevard “most likely will never meet the adopted [level of service],” because the segment is so short.
“Any use will provide the environment for the road to continue to fail?” Caragiulo sought clarification.
That is correct, she said, because any use of the property is going to generate more traffic.
Trying to make it work
After the public comments ended, Gabbert offered his new stipulations in response to testimony. First, he said, “I think we could come to a way where there could be an air-quality monitoring system at the edge of the Celery Fields,” with a third party handling the data collection. He would agree to have the system checked on a monthly basis during the first year of the recycling facility’s operations, he added, and then quarterly thereafter.
Second, he would be willing to modify an earlier stipulation to reduce the height of stockpiled material from 35 feet to 20 feet. He also pointed out that if an alert indicated a major storm could threaten Sarasota County, protocol called for his employees to reduce the height of all stockpiles to 3 to 4 feet.
Third, Gabbert said he would be willing to put a cover over the waste transfer facility on the site. “But it is virtually impossible,” he added, to handle the bulk crushing of concrete in an enclosed facility.
In response to concerns Hines raised, Gabbert added that he also would stipulate for the record that no materials would be processed on the site except between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Save Our Celery Fields members hold a protest outside the County Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard on Aug. 23. Rachel Hackney photo
When Commissioner Maio asked whether Gabbert had worked with the Office of the County Attorney on the language for those stipulations, Gabbert replied that he had not.
Then Commissioner Moran asked Deputy County Attorney Roddy if he would like some suggestions on the wording.
“I would probably like some more staff input on what they think would be workable,” Roddy responded.
“I would think, before we put the staff to more trouble and delay the proceedings … that we take a vote on if those stipulations are even acceptable to us,” Commissioner Detert said. “I applaud you for trying,” she told Gabbert, “but I don’t think those stipulations solve the problem.”
Other points of inquiry
During his part of the presentation, Bo Medred explained that a recycling facility must be on a minimum of 15 acres, under the county’s zoning regulations, and it has to be at least 1,000 feet from any residentially zoned property. The TST Ventures site, he continued, would be 950 feet from the Celery Fields. The closest neighborhood to the project site, on Palmer Boulevard, is more than three-quarters of a mile away, he added. No residences would be within half-a-mile of the recycling facility, Medred added.
Early on in the presentation, Commissioner Maio said to Gabbert, “Jim, I’m going to ask you a direct question, and I expect you to look me in the eye. I buried my mother, who died of complications of asthma. I have had it my entire life. People have heard me choking up here.”
Maio added that his three children have had asthma, and the two in their 40s still are dealing with problems; all four of his grandchildren have had asthma. “Are you doing anything that’s going to hurt my family when we visit the Celery Fields?” Maio asked.
“No, sir,” Gabbert responded, prompting laughter among the audience members, leading Caragiulo to chastise the offenders.
Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, explains before the Aug. 23 meeting that people planning to speak need to fill out a card. Rachel Hackney photo
“I’ve processed concrete since 1990,” Gabbert then continued. “I’ve had my children on the picking line. They’ve worked within the facility the whole time. … I’ve never had an employee that’s had any … respiratory issues or any of that.”
Gabbert added that he always has used best practices for his recycling operations, noting, “Our dust control system is comprehensive.”
Hines asked why Gabbert’s proposal did not call for the operations to be enclosed. “Obviously, it’s going to cost more,” Hines pointed out. Other than that, Hines said, why would Gabbert forgo that option?
Medred explained that prior to a county zoning code update in 2003, a recycling facility could be located on just 10 acres — with approval of a special exception petition — and the operations did not have to be completely enclosed. When the TST Ventures team asked county staff why the change was made in 2003 to require the enclosure of recycling operations, Medred pointed out, staff had no explanation.
Then Gabbert told Hines that customers with yard waste could bring to the proposed facility a range of materials — from bags in their cars to 40-foot pine trees with stumps. “They have to unload the material,” Gabbert added. Having them do that inside a building with the processing machines creates safety hazards, he said.
Caragiulo followed up later on the zoning change, asking for verification from Medred that the TST Ventures team won approval last year for a county zoning text amendment that would enable a recycling facility to operate without being enclosed. Medred acknowledged that the amendment was not approved until December 2016, but TST Ventures submitted its application for its project in November 2016.
From dust to least bitterns
The project team included this graphic showing plans to put an 8-foot fence atop a 4-foot berm along the roads adjacent to the plant. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The speakers who addressed the board over close to six hours talked of many concerns with the TST Ventures proposal — from the potential of respiratory problems to the marring of the Celery Fields as an international attraction.
Among those who stepped to the podium were past Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell, who said she was going to make her remarks “personal, passionate and about family.”
Noting her own affinity for the park, she also talked of the affection her stepdaughter and her stepdaughter’s husband have for the Celery Fields. They are veterinarians who live in Wisconsin, and they are “extreme birders,” cyclists and marathoners, Atwell pointed out. “Each time they visit us, first on their list is heading to the Celery Fields.”
When the couple visited Sarasota in May, Atwell continued, they came back to her home after their initial day at the park with a list of all the birds they had seen; Atwell read it. Among the species were varieties of herons, egrets and ibis, a purple martin and a least bittern.
“Quite frankly,” she said, “I’m blown away by this. … To me, anything that puts this plethora of fauna and/or flora at the Celery Fields at risk is of great concern.”
Another former city commissioner, Susan Chapman, told the commissioners she has been a practicing attorney for 40 years, she served as a Code Enforcement special magistrate for 16 years and she was on the city’s Planning Board for five years. “I feel that the applicant has not met the burden of producing competent substantial evidence,” she added.
As for the property being part of a Major Employment Center, she noted that when that designation was bestowed, “it was an agricultural area, and it is not an agricultural area anymore.”
Adrien Lucas, one of the leaders of Save Our Celery Fields, referred in her public comments to “this year’s mantra”: The county’s zoning regulations, as provided for in the code, are “for the purpose of promoting the public health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Sarasota County.”
A least bittern. Image from Wikipedia
On the opposing side, Angela Walker talked of her long association with Gabbert as one of his employees at the Knights Trail Road recycling plant he established in Nokomis. She went back to work for him a second time after she had a baby with special needs, and he let her bring her son to the plant with her, Walker pointed out — “an immune-compromised infant, highly susceptible to respiratory illness.” He is 13 now, Walker said, and he has had no problems from all the time he spent with her at the facility. “None of the people [who worked there] have ever suffered any ill effects [from exposure to the materials],” she added.
Bob Waechter, a past chair of the Sarasota County Republican Party, pointed to all the misinformation that had been spread about the TST Ventures proposal — from assertions that the facility would poison the groundwater and air, to statements that it would overburden the road network.
“I’m the closest neighbor to the proposed project,” Waechter said. “I share a common boundary across the drainage canal. If I believed for one second that this project would cause me harm, I would oppose it. I don’t, and it won’t.”
When Commissioner Detert asked for clarification about his neighboring property, Waechter said it is in the industrial park. “Your Barcalounger, your TV, they’re not at that location?”
“I don’t have a Barcalounger and my TV is not at that location,” he replied, acknowledging that the property was not the site of his residence.

Before and after - from Robin Bloom

Thanks and some analysis - Adrien Lucas

Art work by Robin Bloom
On August 23, 2017 the Sarasota County Commission voted to deny the siting of a Construction / Demolition Waste Processing Facility at Apex Rd. and Palmer Blvd. Three voted to deny the application, two voted in favor. The two Commissioners who voted in favor of the dump were Commissioner Moran (the Celery Fields sit in his very own District 1) and Commissioner Maio. 

Thousands of you signed petitions, came to the rallies, emailed, phoned or sent mail in opposition to the proposed sales of the public owned lands that are known as "The Quads" adjacent to the Celery Fields. Your dedication of time and sharing information about what was occurring in real time helped form an effort that successfully defeated the county's poorly conceived plans at every juncture! 

This was a non-partisan effort that was successful because we all recognized the value and importance of the Celery Fields and what this place means to the people of Sarasota, its visitors and Mother Earth. We also recognized that introduction of a facility like this would ruin the neighborhoods adjacent to the Celery Fields, a topic I had no knowledge of when I went to TST's neighborhood workshop on January 30.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, however, I must point out that both the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sarasota (who claim to recognize the dollar value of tourism) never made a statement; nor did a single "science" organization. It is a sad reflection on our community when local institutions who are indebted to the tourism industry remain silent.

All of you, however, you did speak out. I have made more friends through this exercise and we all did this together! We can reach "across the aisle" as they say in D.C. to make differences locally when it comes to environmental stewardship. 

Please email me if you are interested in running for County Commissioner, I'm all ears. I don't care about your party affiliation, we all breathe the same air and drink the same water. I want to know how you will protect your neighborhoods and Sarasota county from further reckless planning such as this crazy adventure we've been through known as "Save Our Celery Fields." And if you aren't interested in running for office, please consider choosing just one local subject in your community that is near and dear to you and protect it like it's part of your family.

To the Celery Moon and Back, with the utmost gratitude and respect, THANK YOU!

Bird Nerd,
Adrien Lucas


Paul Caragiulo - pcaragiulo@scgov.net 
Nancy Detert - ncdetert@scgov.net
Charles Hines - chines@scgov.net 


Michael Moran - mmoran@scgov.net
Al Maio - amaio@scgov.net
 If you have received this email, it is because:

1) you signed up to receive Celery Field information
2) you are a friend of one of the activists who contributed to this email
3) you signed a Celery Field petition.

If you no longer wish to receive email from Save Our Celery Field, simply respond with "Delete Me" in the subject line.
Adrien Lucas | Celery Fields, 6893 Palmer Boulevard, Sarasota, FL 34240 9415399044

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