Friday, December 22, 2017

Two planning stories from the News Leader

Draft of county’s Unified Development Code available on county webpage so public can offer comments

Goal is to combine Sarasota County’s zoning and land-use regulations in a much more user-friendly documentFile photo

The Fort Lauderdale consulting firm working with Sarasota County staff to update the county’s zoning and land use regulations into a Unified Development Code (UDC) has produced its first draft, the county has announced.

That document is available on the UDC Project webpage, a news release says. Anyone may provide comments directly on the UDC Project webpage or by submitting them to the Planning and Development Services Department at, the release points out. Those comments will be addressed by the consultant as the project moves forward, the release notes.

More . . .


Those concerned with the Quad parcels near the Celery Fields wonder why Sarasota County is in such a rush to sell them (after 20 years of doing nothing). Meanwhile, in Englewood, parcels once purchased by the County for use as a park are now for sale at a deep discount:

Sarasota News Leader - snippets:

County to lose more than $2.3 million on two Englewood parcels it bought years ago for a park — if it can sell both at board-approved prices

The first parcel, located at 50 Southwind Drive, was purchased by the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department for $1,250,000 in 2007, “with the intention of creating a neighborhood waterfront park in conjunction with an adjacent site purchased separately by the Englewood CRA [Community Redevelopment Area],” a staff memo said.

That adjacent property was the land at 800 W. Perry St., for which the Englewood CRA paid $2,203,656, a separate staff memo explained.


“I think the lesson to be learned here is we don’t purchase property as a park without consulting with the neighbors on the other side to see if they want a park,” Commissioner Nancy Detert added. “That’s what I’ve found, historically has been the situation with this. It’s really hard to imagine that we’ve had [the land] this long, years, and years and years,” she continued, “and it hasn’t appreciated.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Brainstorming the Celery Fields area

Sarasota County has given residents six months to consider options for two of the three publicly-owned parcels at the Celery Fields.

The opportunity arose after a coalition of Home Owners Associations, the Fresh Start Initiative, expressed concern that negative impacts could potentially arise from earlier large industrial proposals (a 16-acre waste processing plant and a giant wholesale warehouse). Such industrial activity could seriously degrade this pristine ecosystem, with its narrow roads, bird sanctuary, and prized recreational assets.

Fresh Start sees the ultimate decision about the Quads as having larger implications for future development of East Sarasota (see "Sarasota at the Crossroads").

The Celery Fields Area presents complex challenges thanks to a striking variety of urban, rural, recreational, business and residential uses. Four parcels of publicly-owned land totaling about 40 acres lie at the heart of this diversity at the intersection of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard. The Board has indicated it will hire an independent consultant to rezone parcel #3 and is looking for a quick sale to a developer.

At a "Think Tank" session on November 28, it gave the Fresh Start Initiative the six-month time frame to explore options for parcels #1 and #2 that would be compatible with the existing amenities.

Publicly-owned Parcels 1,2, & 3 and retention pond at Apex and Palmer

Fresh Start's role is simply to facilitate thoughtful planning that will value to this unusual intersection of West and East County. The Celery Fields offer pristine wetlands, waters for kayaking and fishing, hiking trails and bird walks, and a mound rising above it all that people love to climb. It's a vibrant place. Our communities simply wish to keep it that way.

The plan is to hold a few brainstorming sessions at which people can acquaint themselves with the history of the area, learn about developing trends, and exchange ideas. Then, to develop a community consensus of values and guiding principles that would reflect and support the qualities that have made the area an attractive destination for locals and travelers from all over the world.

What would you love to see on our public lands at Apex and Palmer
that would complement and enhance this magical area?

Fresh Start is open to ideas from anyone. We respect the inherent, diverse qualities of these public lands as we consider options that will integrate and synergize their potential economic opportunities. Proposals for the parcels will be presented in an open workshop. The time frame from brainstorming phase to community workshop is January through March 2018.

All wishing to get in touch please write to

With creative and commonsense ideas, a set of stranded assets can turn into a lovely integrated destination, uniting East and West, and prove a catalyst for the entire area. Think of the Palmer Underpass as a door -- a threshold from the urban core, where one can stroll from the Packinghouse District shops, restaurants, and music west of the highway through the underpass and out into the wide open East, with its water, trails, 220 species of birds, and giant Florida sky. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

CONA Potluck and Maley on Constitutional Revision

CONA Sarasota offered two broadcasts this week. One has to do with its annual potluck supper on Monday, Dec. 11 at the Garden Club:

The Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations is throwing its annual holiday potluck party at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 11, at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Attendees are encouraged to bring a favorite dish to share with others. The council represents more than 70 neighborhood, condo, resident and homeowner organizations whose members include more than 35,000 Sarasota citizens. Its mission is to provide practical information to member associations on community concerns and issues and to urge local and state governments to encourage sensible growth.

The second points us to Dennis Maley in the Bradenton Times on what we know so far about the work of the Constitution Revision Commission headed by Developer Carlos Beruff.

A few tidbits from Maley's substantial article:

Charter Schools:  
Proposal 71 would amend the constitution to allow such a body to oversee the charters, making it possible to streamline the petition process, ushering in a wave of new charter schools. Such an amendment, if passed, would have profound implications in the battle between public schools and charters, giving the latter an enormous boost, as the state has typically been far more pro-charter than most school boards.
Church and State:
Proposal 4 would "remove the prohibition against using public revenues in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or any sectarian institution,"
Judges and Politics:
Proposal 58 would have county and circuit judges appointed with nominations coming from the governor's judicial nominating commissions. This would only further politicize the process, allowing a party that is in power to stack the benches at all levels with unqualified partisans who could legislate from the bench.
Right to Privacy:
The award for the most obviously-dangerous idea goes to Proposal 22, which attacks Floridians' constitutional right to privacy. The proposal . . . would limit that right specifically to the release of our personal information.. . . If Proposal 22 is adopted, the legislature's powers would be broadly expanded in this realm. It could, for example, "provide by law" that certain "private" information is no longer public record. The First Amendment Foundation has expressed alarm in that it would seemingly "give the legislature the power to selectively pull existing public records from the public domain."

Don't forget the potluck

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tom Walker: The Bay Sarasota

From Tom Walker:

Today at our regular 'first Thursday' meeting, Steve Scott, Sean Sellers of the Climate Justice Coalition and I shared our knowledge what's happening with the development of what's now called "The Bay" - that is, those 42 acres of city-owned land west of US 41, north of the Avenue of the Arts and up to and including Centennial Park and the boat ramp. The property includes the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, the abandoned G. Wiz building, the Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club, Municipal Auditorium, the Sarasota Orchestra building, Friends of the Sarasota County History Center, Art Center Sarasota, and the Garden Club, all bordered on the west by the bay. 
The Sarasota Bay Planning Organization - - check out their website - recently selected Sasaki - see - a Boston firm, to come up with a plan for those 42 acres over the next seven months.  (Whether or not to move, remodel, or tear down any of the buildings has not been decided.) Sasaki's website shows the wide variety of quality work they've done in the past - like Riverwalk in Chicago, and SBPO chose them recently from more that 30 applicants. The Sasaki team was in town this week for initial presentations - and listening - at the city commission, today's PINC ( at the Opera House, the Coalition of CIty Neighborhood Associations (CCNA) meeting yesterday, and at other group events. Steve and I also attended the SBPO board meeting yesterday which is, by the way, always open to visitors and public comments. The Sasaki team will return in early February, at the end of April with several possible plans to discuss, at the end of May with their vision for the site and at the end of June to present the final plan. This work has already been paid for with 2.1 million dollars of private money - one-third foundation contributions and the rest from individuals. As I said, no decisions have been made to move, remodel or tear down any of the buildings I mentioned above.  
To have your voice heard you should attend these meetings as they occur and/or leave comments and send email using, or, even better, at THEBAYSARASOTA.ORG, the new website to engage and inform the public about this project. Check out such features as "The Story So Far" and the FAQs. (SBPO is the current planning organization but the older organization, Bayfront 20:20, continues to exist as well. See  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why we want your ideas for the Quads

Sarasota's County Commission has given the Fresh Start Initiative a limited time to present community-based ideas for the next phase of public lands at the Celery Fields.

We are already receiving ideas from folks who understand that thoughtful, creative planning can generate a vibrant and unique area boasting the beauty of the Celery Fields, the urban fun of the Packinghouse Area, nearby kayaking, hiking, and the clean businesses in nearby business parks. A large recreational open space near the highway and within walking distance of cafes, shops, and markets -- what's not to like?

This unique combination is possible thanks to Palmer Boulevard's I-75 underpass that connects a burgeoning urban core with generous open spaces and wetlands.

We have six months to facilitate a process that would enable the community to come forward with ideas, proposals, outside-the-box thinking for the "Quad Parcels" at Apex and Palmer. The aim: to achieve a more integrated approach to the possibilities in this area, which will be the anteroom to East Sarasota County. The next major wave of residential and commercial development has to be East County: West County is running out of land.

For more on how to shape and share your proposal, see here.

Why Fresh Start is doing this

On August 23, 2017, after a 10-hour hearing featuring a packed house of citizens opposing the proposal, Sarasota's Board came within one vote of approving a 16-acre open-air demolition waste processing facility at the SW corner of Apex and Palmer.

Public documents show that the county's planning review for this proposal ignored current conditions and based its suitability assessment solely on 35-year-old land use designations. Nowhere in the review was it acknowledged that the proposed waste plant would be a short walk from an internationally beloved bird sanctuary and recreation area, and mere steps from the shops, restaurants, and businesses of the Packinghouse District. In short, the folks whom we pay to serve as stewards of our lands went out of their way neither to look at the surrounding area, nor to speak with the people who would be directly affected by their "stewardship."

Is this the best we can do in Sarasota County?

East County is poised to explode in a new wave of housing and commercial development. The question is, will East Sarasota simply be a mirror image of the urban service area to the west? If we work together, we can provide our elected officials with community-supported options for higher uses and better stewardship.

We have an opportunity to plan an area that respects inherent features, rural heritage, and full economic and environmental potential of a critical area in transition. But only if we act now.
With creative and commonsense ideas, a set of stranded assets can turn into a lovely integrated destination, uniting East and West, and prove a catalyst for the entire area. Think of the Palmer Underpass as a door -- a threshold from the urban core, where one can stroll from the Packinghouse District shops, restaurants, and music west of the highway through the underpass and out into the wide open East, with its water, trails, 220 species of birds, and giant Florida sky.