Saturday, February 24, 2018

Reminder: Proposals for the Fresh Start Initiative are due March 1

This is a Reminder that proposals for the Fresh Start Initiative are due March 1. We have heard from a number of people who have shared great ideas, and we look forward to having a selection of thoughtful proposals.

Please make sure your proposal includes the following:

Contact Info: Name, Phone, Email

Description: This is key. Please include as much of the following as you can:

Public parcels 1, 2, and 3

Parcel: Which parcel are you considering: #1 or #2?
Facilities: Will your facility provide parking? Restrooms?
Dimensions: Details of size of structures, or of space devoted to uses.
Disposition of land: Sale, lease, or county control?

Use: What is the primary purpose you envision? More than one purpose?

Users: Who are the primary users you anticipate will make use of it? Have you been in touch with any prospective user groups? How are you sure of demand?

Revenue: Will the County receive any revenue - whether through sale, lease, fees, activity charges, tourist tax, property tax, employment, etc.

Traffic: What sort of traffic - cars? bicycles? big trucks? Primary times of day?

Goals: Will the use meet the needs of nearby residents? The general public? Tourists?

Compatibility: How would your proposal work within the existing uses of the Celery Fields Area? What kinds of uses would you like to see on the other public parcels at Apex and Palmer?

Economics: Will the proposed use pay for itself? If not, how will it be supported?

Legacy: In addition to needs and values, are there other aspects of the character and legacy of Sarasota that your proposal would enhance?

VISUALS: Diagrams, photos, hand-drawn images, video - best if in digital form, as we will use a projector for our workshops.

What is the Fresh Start Initiative?

Fresh Start is a grassroots citizens' experiment that seeks good ideas for our public lands -- ideas that have been endorsed by the community because they will add value to the Celery Fields area.

The initiative gained traction after the entire community witnessed a concerted effort to change land use and zoning rules to allow heavy industrial activity (a 16-acre open air demolition waste processing  and transfer facility) on public lands near a priceless bird sanctuary, recreation area and eco-tourism destination. Full Timeline here.

Fresh Start is about finding sensible, community-based proposals for these parcels near the Celery Fields. But the issues that make this necessary go beyond these specific public lands. The entire public planning process needs a makeover, including:

Notification: How often do we learn too late that a developer has received approval for a plan that neighbors didn't hear about?

Consultation: The county requires public workshops, but these partly depend on poor notification policies. Also, a developer can say anything at these meetings. The community can express its approval or disapproval, but the actual notes on the workshop are provided by the developer.

Integration: The County's 2050 Plan calls for coordinated comprehensive planning. If this were practiced even a little, a developer's plan for a waste processing facility could not have gotten to first base.

How can we do this better? For each of these steps of the planning process, it's time to ask: What changes to or innovations in practice and procedure would benefit both the people of Sarasota and the County? 

Vision: Sarasota land use has long been decided on a battleground where the interests of ambitious developers, county residents, and a slow-moving government bureaucracy have struggled against each other, rather than seeking a shared vision of our community worthy of a larger shared vision. A shared vision of answerable growth -- that is, growth that can responsibly articulate its logic, need, relationship to the larger organic whole in which it plays its part.

        External factors -- boom/bust market dynamics and the bi-polar winds of political change -- have not made the effort to reach a comprehensive vision any easier, and the Fresh Start Initiative does not pretend to have an easy solution. 

Is this a teachable moment for Sarasota?

        This effort to bring the county and the community into a fruitful dialog on some 24 acres of public land is a practical example of the problems the County faces on a grand scale. The hope is we can learn something from this single example that might constructively be applied to processes and procedures for future land use issues.

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