Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Part II: Medred's lubricated "Terms of Art"

This is the second of two parts, the first is here..

Bo Medred brings a silken slipperiness to certain terms of art that are supposed to possess precise, clear meanings in the world of Sarasota planning and zoning.

For example, he regularly extends and distorts the technical meanings of terms such as MEC ("Major Employment Center") and “Industrial.” In presentations he repeatedly claims that “industrial” uses can be found all around the site at Apex and Palmer. Of course this leaves out the birds and people at the Celery Fields. But it also fails to articulate a crucial distinction: The industrial parks near the Apex/Palmer intersection are zoned for clean, light Industry - ILW. The dump is not ILW. There is nothing light about 15-ton concrete blocks being pounded into silica particulates -- and he must ask for a Special Exception to allow it.

MEC involves a coherent ordering of mixed uses -- offices, hi-tech workspace, commercial, perhaps some ILW, and residential (apartments, townhomes and so forth) in a campus-like setting to attract clean large-scale employers.

An industrial waste processing plant employing 8-15 people fails to meet this definition on every count.

Medred cites an MEC land use designation as the slender thread allowing him to ask for his rezoning. But that designation was set in 1981 - another age - to introduce a heavy industrial plant into a pristine area that already has issues with traffic. He is inviting us all to pretend nothing happened in this area since 1981, when in fact today a great deal is there, and none of it comports with heavy industrial use - or with its economic promise:

  • We have clean, light industrial parks whose owners do not want the traffic, noise, and filth of a demolition waste facility near them.
  • We have the Celery Fields - a park, preserve, recreation and birding area, and highly successful and visible eco-tourism spot. This is now the dominant feature of this doorstep to an evolving East county. Developers hoping to create new environments to the East will rely on this area to present the beautiful gateway to their creations.
  • Just a few steps to the West of Mr. Gabbert’s proposed site, under the rare and very narrow passage under I-75, is the Packinghouse District. This retail, and nightlife area is a valuable complement to what’s coming East of the highway.
  • To the north at Fruitville and Coburn will be the Fruitville Initiative, a large MEC that plans a linear park all along the north cell of the Celery Fields - imagine the synergy of this neo-traditional mixed use community and the natural beauty at its park-like edge:
"Riverwalk" at the North Edge of the Celery Fields

Clearly this adds up to a tremendous economic opportunity - for business, retail, tourism, and real estate -- if this is done well. In what universe does it make sense to jeopardize all this prospective good for the sake of an industrial project that could easily be done elsewhere?

Come out on Wed. August 23 to let the County know that while it might be silent, our voices will be heard.
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