Thursday, December 13, 2018

An email regarding Critical Area Planning and the Celery Fields

To the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners:
A Critical Area Plan is a technical tool -- an innovation which I understand was first developed by Sarasota County planning years ago. According to one of the planners who implemented CAPs over many years, the purpose of establishing a boundary for a CAP project is to insure that all the important changes a proposed development will bring to a specific area are addressed.
As a tool for gauging compatibility, clearly the CAP boundary is not intended to encompass just the area of the project. That would not make sense.
When the Fruitville Initiative was being designed, the boundaries of the CAP benefited from public input, solicited by the County.
On Sept. 12, 2018, the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners wisely decided that it was time to revisit the Critical Area Plan (CAP) for the Quad parcels near the Celery Fields in light of the current context and realities.

This should provide a long overdue opportunity to envision what is possible at the Celery Fields area, rather than to adapt new elements of the area to outdated planning decisions.

Before starting the CAP process, the BCC will first need to approve the boundaries (i.e. aerial extent) and criteria (plan tasks) at a public hearing.
I can personally attest that when Restaurant Depot’s proposal came before this board two years ago, the critical area plan coincided with the boundaries of its parcel. That is to say: the impacts of the giant warehouse upon the Celery Fields and other surrounding parcels were explicitly ignored by the very planning tool that is supposed to take those impacts into account.

In advance of setting CAP boundaries and criteria for the Celery Fields, it is appropriate for staff to proactively conduct public meeting(s) to solicit public input on the boundaries and criteria, much as was done at this stage of the Fruitville Initiative.
As the CAP is a term of art, for the benefit of clear communication especially when there is large community interest, it would be helpful for the public record for the Board to clearly define what it intends with the use of the term “Critical Area Plan,” to explicitly explain what its boundaries are, how those boundaries have been determined, with what public input, along with the reasons why and the identity of whose decisions these are.
Thank you.

Thomas Matrullo

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