Sunday, September 16, 2018

Consultant recommendation for Industry at Celery Fields goes on Board Agenda

County emails show that county staff has been working assiduously with Lambert Advisory, the consultant that recommended an 80,000 s.f. industrial facility as "highest and best use" of Quad parcel #3.

County staff has apparently accepted Lambert's recommendation to rezone parcel #3 for industrial uses, and the Lambert recommendation has been placed on the Board's agenda as a discussion item for Oct. 10.

If the Board approves, the recommendation to rezone parcel #3 for industry will go through the public process - neighborhood workshop, planning  commission, and final Board hearing. Fresh Start will attempt to keep the public advised.

A copy of the Lambert Report is here.

Fresh Start has noted that the instigation to hire a consultant to rezone parcel #3 came from Commissioner Al Maio. Two of the strongest supporters of industry for the Quad parcels #2 and #3 are James Gabbert and Robert Waechter. The Lambert assessment and follow-up rezoning could cost taxpayers as much as $61,290.

James Gabbert
Gabbert's proposal for a large open demolition waste crushing plant on parcel #2 caused a large public outcry in 2017, and it was defeated, 3-2 at the final public hearing 8.23.17. Commissioners Maio and Moran voted for Gabbert's proposed waste plant. Gabbert is still seeking to build a waste transfer operation on 6 acres immediately to the west of parcel #2 at Porter Rd. and Palmer Blvd.

Waechter, who owns several warehouses immediately to the south of parcel #2, has opposed the citizens' effort to keep the Quad parcels, which are public lands, from being sold to private industrial developers. At the Fresh Start presentation on 9.12.18, Waechter argued that as the area is already overridden with large semi-trucks, it should have more industry, not less.

Fresh Start, a citizens' group seeking alternative public uses for the Quad parcels, has noted several concerns with the Lambert Advisory recommendation:
  1. Commissioner Maio's initial reason for hiring the consultant for rezone was an alleged budget shortfall. He now says there are no shortfalls and that the County is in excellent fiscal condition.
  2. Lambert's methodology was skewed toward selling public land: it looked only at sales price, not at compatibility, community concerns, or trends of eco-tourism and residential development in the immediate area, approved by the County.
  3. If parcel #3 is rezoned for industry, it's likely that parcel #2 will follow.
  4. With rapid County approvals for over 22,000 acres of new housing development in East Sarasota, the additional population will need open space, parks, athletic facilities. The 30 acres of public lands at the quads are perfect for such use.
  5. Public lands should be used for beneficial public use, not be sold when they will only profit private industrial owners.

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