Saturday, August 4, 2018

About the August Primary in Sarasota

Recently at Tiger Bay, Sarasota Commissioner Al Maio said he thinks selling our public lands at the Celery Fields for industrial use makes sense, because an 11-acre industrial warehouse parcel sits next to it.

Tiger Bay Commission Candidate Panel l to r:
 Wesley Beggs, Mike Cosentino, Al Maio, Lourdes Ramirez, Moderator Kevin Cooper

The Commissioner didn't mention that the Celery Fields happens to be a short walk away, or that the 11-acre industrial parcel happens to be owned by Robert Waechter. It's separated from the public parcel at Apex and Palmer by a canal and a line of trees -- they are not exactly "contiguous," as Maio claimed. What's more, Waechter, the former chairman of the Sarasota Republican party, betrayed Lourdes Ramirez, one of his party's candidates in 2012, stealing her identity to make it look like she was donating to Democrats. Waechter tried the dodge to promote Al Maio over Ramirez for the County Commission. He was charged and convicted of both a felony and a misdemeanor, and sentenced to house arrest, probation, community service, fines and fees. 

This past April, Waechter sent a letter to the County arguing that public land near the Celery Fields should be sold for industrial use. He was writing to oppose residents who wish the County to dedicate public lands near the Celery Fields to community uses.  The citizens, who have done outreach, community meetings and polls, say residents favor community-friendly uses such as affordable housing upstairs from shops and fooderies, a birding lodge and restaurant, a YMCA sports complex, or even just a community center with a pavilion and landscaping to attract more birds. (Copy of Waechter's letter).

The Celery Fields has an international reputation as habitat, hosting over 225 species of birds. Known for its large plateau-like mound, it also has come to be a prime outdoor area for hiking, walking, exercise, picnicking, bicycling, stargazing, photography and more. The Audubon Society built a $1 million nature center at the base of the mound which sees thousands of visitors from all over the US and elsewhere each year.

Despite the community's wishes and strong opposition to selling our land for industry, Mr. Maio told the Tiger Bay audience that he sees no reason to change his vote in favor of James Gabbert's proposed 16-acre waste processing facility, which failed by one vote on August 23 last year. In his Tiger Bay statement, Maio says it was only to be a "waste transfer station," when in fact it was a full-blown construction demolition pulverizing facility.

Waste processing facility on Fruitville Rd. built by J. Gabbert

Since the Board's decision last August, the County has taken no steps to revise the land use of the public lands to prevent industrialization. That means that Gabbert - or Waechter - can come back after one year -- anytime after August 23 -- and propose large warehouses, or open demolition waste processing or some other industrial use, and apparently receive a sympathetic hearing from Mr. Maio.

Consider this:

Right now, Sarasota's shoreline is a smelly mess thanks to dead fish, manatees, turtles and more due to Red Tide, which this year has been the worst in recent memory. 

Given those conditions, the Celery Fields unquestionably is the best place for Sarasota visitors and residents to be outdoors, view birds, and hike in bright, clear air. Myakka State Park is very nice, but is near flood levels thanks to heavy rains.

Mr. Waechter, Mr. Gabbert and, apparently, Mr. Maio see no reason why we should not have more warehouses or waste facilities on our public lands. For them, nothing has changed since 1983 - when there were no homes, no schools, no Celery Fields. And the County has done nothing to modify the land use, despite all the attention given to this area.

If Waechter prevails, visitors climbing our observation mound -- "Mount Celery" -- will be able to see acres more of Waechter's warehouses:

The new Waechter warehouses will complement his existing ones (featured above), and go well with the Waste Transfer Facility that Gabbert still plans to build along Porter Road at Palmer Blvd. 

Here's what Gabbert's old waste transfer facility on Fruitville Road looks like:

If you want a Commissioner who approves the antediluvian views of Waechter, Gabbert and others, vote for Al Maio. If you do not, Lourdes Ramirez is his Republican opponent in the August Primary. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm uncertain of the health codes in Sarasota county, but where I'm from, storing tires outdoors as depicted in one of the photos of Waechter's warehouses would not be acceptable. The same may apply to other articles illustrated in the photos as they may present a public health risk due to creating a haven for mosquitos, and vermin. A candidate/person who supports this sort of developmental expansion therefore, must support vermin and vectors which threaten public health. Birds of a feather.......?