Thursday, September 13, 2018

Waechter: Trucks before Community

Before the presentation given by Fresh Start to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 12, Robert Waechter told Sarasota County officials that large trucks are incompatible with pedestrians, and therefore should rule out community uses on 30 acres of public lands near a valued bird sanctuary and public recreation area.

Waechter, an influential political operative and owner of industrial warehouse properties next to Quad parcel #2, addressed the Sarasota Commission on Sept. 12, 2018.

The semi-truck traffic Waechter alluded to occurs on thin, fragile Apex Road, which runs North/South and connects the Celery Fields to Fruitville Road.

The presence of these large trucks is "incompatible" with uses that draw residents, children and tourist-visitors, Waechter said. Noting that the area is hazardous to pedestrian traffic now, he added, "It's going to get worse," because, apparently, more industrial development will be coming in.

Waechter and his friend James Gabbert are among those most resistant to the changes occurring around the Celery Fields -- changes which, due to an absence of proactive planning, has led to the simultaneous development in the same area of industry and residences, along with schools, a park and recreational uses. This has led to a clash of two distinct visions of the area.

In their presentation, Fresh Start noted that the County has approved new housing within easy walking distance to the public lands, which are adjacent to a large open bird sanctuary, a rare (for Florida) plateau, wetlands and recreation area.

With 2,500 new homes approved within walking distance of the Celery Fields preserve and recreation area, the County had a rare economic opportunity to create a walkable, community friendly area on the public properties, the group said.

With all the new homes, walkability in this area will become a much-needed, even essential asset, the group said.

Waechter, a former head of the Republican party in Sarasota County, Florida, has used money and connections to stuff government boards such as the Charter Review Board with developer and business associates. He has opposed advocates of using public lands for the community, and has advocated that the County sell the public lands to a private industrial developer such as himself.

Here's a photo of Mr. Waechter's nearby warehouse property on a recent day:

With new homes, and a new park and recreation area, such tensions with older industrial uses is inevitable. Which is why the Fresh Start group offered a recommendation for future planning in Sarasota County:
"We assert the people’s right to a vigilant public stewardship that addresses private development within a higher mandate: to raise the quality of life for all."
The conflict has come about as the county has abdicated any role as steward of lands, especially the public lands, says Fresh Start, adding:
The conflict between older industry and new opportunities near the Celery Fields, with eco-tourism blossoming and new construction running to tens of thousands of homes and apartments, deserves nothing less than a deliberate honest dialog between the County and its citizens. 
Fresh Start's presentation:

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