Saturday, December 28, 2019

Environmental Coalition issues joint comment on commercial fish operation proposed off of Sarasota

A company seeks to build and operate a fish farm in waters off of Sarasota County. A public hearing is set for Jan. 28 - more background here.

Below are excerpts from a Joint Comment issued by a coalition of environmental organizations to the EPA, expressing manifold concerns about the agency's assessment of a commercial fish farm seeking to operate off the coast of Sarasota County.


The permit would allow Kampachi Farms, LLC to operate the only industrial ocean fish farm in U.S. federal waters – in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 40 miles from the coast of Sarasota, FL – and discharge untreated, industrial wastewater from the facility directly into the surrounding ocean.  
Industrial ocean fish farming – also known as offshore or marine finfish aquaculture – is the mass cultivation of finned fish in the ocean, in net pens, pods, and cages.  
These are essentially floating feedlots in open water, which can have devastating environmental and socio-economic impacts. 

Kampachi Fish Pod
  • . . . escaped farmed fish will likely spread a multitude of parasites and diseases to wild stocks, which could prove fatal when transmitted.
  • It is no secret that confining large populations of animals will breed pests and disease. In response, the agriculture and aquaculture sectors administer a pharmacopeia of chemicals – and in the open ocean, residues of these drugs are discharged and absorbed into the marine ecosystem. 
  • the use of antibiotics in marine finfish aquaculture facilities is contributing to the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. For farmed fish, antibiotics not only leave residues in your seafood, but they also leach into the ocean, contaminating nearby water and marine life. 
  • Another vital concern is the direct discharge of untreated toxins, including excess food, feces, antibiotics, and antifoulants associated with industrial ocean fish farms. 
  • These underwater factory farms can also physically impact the seafloor by creating dead zones
  • EPA . . . must assess the myriad environmental, socioeconomic, and human health impacts from the full scope of the intended operations 
  • We also urge EPA to fully consider the range of available alternatives that can increase domestic seafood production while avoiding and/or reducing environmental, public health, and socio- economic impacts. 
  • In this instance, EPA has unlawfully failed to meet its ESA [Endangered Species Act] mandate.. . . EPA has not provided sufficient data to support its conclusions, and made no attempt to quantify or analyze the potential harm from several significant impacts to the Listed Species.
  • In conclusion, EPA must remedy the above violations of law prior to reaching a decision on the permit. We strongly oppose issuance of the permit for industrial wastewater discharge from a marine finfish aquaculture facility in the Gulf of Mexico, and we request that EPA hold a public hearing, with the opportunity for live public testimony, prior to reaching a decision on the permit.
For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned organizations strongly oppose EPA’s issuance of the permit.

Friends of the Earth, 
Center for Food Safety, 
Center for Biological Diversity, 
Food & Water Watch, 
Healthy Gulf, 
Institute for Fisheries Resources, 
National Family Farm Coalition, 
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, 
Ocean Conservation Research, 
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, 
Sanctuary Education Advisory Specialists LLC, 
Sierra Club Grassroots Network 

Joint Comment in full


 EPA public hearing details:
  • Date: January 28, 2020
  • Time: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM
  • Location: Wave Center
  • Mote Marine Laboratory
  • 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236

Justin Bloom from Suncoast Waterkeeper will offer an update on this issue at CONA Sarasota Jan. 10. Details here.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Time to take a new look at dredging, maintenance and water policies?

From ManaSota-88, Inc.  a 501.c3 Public Health and Environmental Organization:


The majority of waterways originally dredged in the Sarasota & Manatee were dredged before permitting was required.  In most cases canals were dug as a source of fill for coastal wetlands to maximize the number of waterfront lots for the development. There was little or no thought given to the environmental consequences that occurred during the original dredging of these canals. As a result of inappropriate waterfront development, inadequate stormwater runoff control and habitat destruction, many of the original canals dredged have silted in and are restricting motorboat access for some waterfront property owners. 

Dredging at New Pass, Sarasota
Instead of wasting taxpayers money on environmentally damaging maintenance dredging projects, Sarasota & Manatee should instead embark on a program of habitat restoration, stormwater runoff control, and enforcement of existing best management practices to reduce the problems of erosion and siltation. 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)  has adopted and frequently references a series of studies whose primary goal is to prioritize channel dredging based on the greatest need for increasing motorboat access to public waterways. This has had the effect of impairing and polluting the waters and natural resources of the State of Florida directly, secondarily, and cumulatively.

The adverse secondary impacts from boating activities (i.e. prop scars, hydrocarbon pollution, boat paints ect.), frequent maintenance dredging, and wildlife disturbance are having long-term water quality impacts.

Maintenance dredging can channelize flows and sediments can be resuspended more readily. Dredging can also destabilize adjacent areas which have developed over time through succession. Impacts to bottom sediments result in reducing the chances for successful seagrass colonization and growth within the footprint of the dredge and immediately adjacent to a new channel.

There is no reason to extend a historic dredging mistake. The need for maintenance dredging indicates that the original dredge was historically a bad idea.If siltation of the waterway is the problem, then there are soil conservation problems, inadequate stormwater runoff controls, improper agricultural practices, or inappropriate urban development within the basin. It would be better to spend money fixing the problem than temporarily trying to fix the ailment.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Update: Fish Farming company seeks permit to operate in Gulf off of Sarasota: Public Hearing Jan. 28, 2020

Update: Sign a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity opposing this effort to open our region to commercial fish farming. 


A company known as Kampachi Farms LLC is seeking to operate a commercial fish farm in federal waters approximately 40 miles off the coast of Sarasota County. An EPA public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020 - details below.

Kampachi Farms Pod on surface

The EPA-Region 4 will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed issuance of an NPDES permit (FL0A00001) for the Kampachi Farms LLC-Velella Epsilon marine aquaculture facility. 

The draft NPDES permit authorizes the discharge of industrial wastewater from a marine net-pen aquaculture facility located in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico at approximately 45 miles southwest of Sarasota, Florida (near 27° 7’ 20.51”N, 83° 12’ 1.37”W).

The facility would include a supporting vessel and a single floating cage in a water depth of 130 feet. The project would begin culturing a single cohort of approximately 20,000 Almaco jack and produce a maximum harvest of 88,000 pounds. A video of Kampachi Farms Velella project can be seen here.

Mote Marine has been identified to be the monitor of the proposed site and will be raising the hatchlings. 

The Sarasota hearing details:
  • Date: January 28, 2020
  • Time: 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM
  • Location: Wave Center
  • Mote Marine Laboratory
  • 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236
All persons interested in the draft NPDES permit are invited to attend the public hearing. If you are interested in attending the hearing, the EPA encourages you to pre-register at least 72 hours in advance. You may also register to speak when you arrive at the hearing.

At one time, fish farming was in operation in state waters off the coast of Washington state, but now has been banned there.

Norway has been besieged by problems threatening its salmon:
Against the Current states: "Fish farming in open net pens is considered the largest man-made threat to wild stocks."
The Independent reported in May, 2019: "Eight million salmon killed in a week by sudden surge of algae in Norway."
Norway has banned new fish farming licenses, but existing fish farms continue to operate there.

A variety of articles reported by US News & World Reports, including one by NPR, describe fish farming. The reported results do not bode well for our Florida coastline, including an increase in nitrogen levels in an area already afflicted with poor wastewater controls and red tide.

A guest column by Florida environmental attorney Marianne Cufone raising concerns about impacts of fish farming on red tide and more was published in the 11.29.19 Herald Tribune: Off Sarasota’s coast, a new industrial threat.

Sierra Club Florida News announcement of the public hearing.

Friends of the Earth has addressed the dangers of fish farming.

The draft NPDES permit, draft Environmental Assessment, and other supporting documents can be found here.

The public comment period will be open through February 4, 2020. Information on how to submit comments can be found at that same website.

Public comment from the Suncoast Waterkeeper to EPA Sept. 29, 2019.

Again, pre-register here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Protest of 12.13.19 at Phillippi against Gerrymandering

Video below of the Friday the 13th Protest at the Gazebo in Phillippi Park near the Edson Keith Mansion where the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners were meeting.

A broad range of speakers protested the Board's Resolution to redistrict without solid data, and its decision to use a meretricious map that excises a large portion of District 1's black voters and excludes potential Democratic and Republican opponents of sitting Commissioner Mike Moran from District 1.

Speakers included former candidates for office like Edward James III, Fredd Atkins, Frank Alcock and Ray Porter; minority rights advocates like Elvira Sanchez-Blake, Valerie Buchand and more, and statements from current office holders including Sarasota City Commissioner Shelli-Freeland Eddie, North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke, and former Venice City Mayor John Holic.

Of the Commission's redistricting action Luke said in part:
"We find them using invalid counts and disenfranchising the very people they swore to serve." 

The Board is now facing a Class Action lawsuit charging it with racially-motivated gerrymandering violating the Federal Voting Rights Act and the US Constitution.

More about the lawsuit in the Sarasota News Leader (subscription req'd) and about the Protest from the Herald Tribune.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Class Action Suit against Sarasota Commissioners Maio, Moran and Detert filed 12.11.19

Below is the heading and paragraphs 1-2, and 19-24 of the class action lawsuit filed today against Sarasota County, charging three Commissioners with violating the US Constitution and the Federal Voting Rights Act:

The entire suit is here.


MARY MACK, individually and on behalf of all CLASS ACTION
others similarly situated, (Jury Trial Demanded)






Plaintiffs, FREDD ATKINS, MICHAEL WHITE and MARY MACK, individually and on behalf of a class of all others similarly situated, sue Defendants, SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA, NANCY C. DETERT, in her capacity as a member of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners, MICHAEL A. MORAN, in his capacity as a member of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners, and ALAN MAIO, in his capacity as a member of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners, and allege as follows:

1. Sarasota County and its Board of County Commissioners (collectively, the “County Commissioners”) have recently approved, by a 3 – 2 vote, a resolution defining new boundaries for the five County Commission districts (the “Resolution”). The Resolution was designed to deprive, and has deprived, thousands of African-American voters living in the Newtown community of the right to vote in the 2020 election for members of the Board of County Commissioners. It also was designed to deprive, and has deprived, Plaintiff Fred Atkins, an African-American candidate for the Board from District 1, of the right to run for election as District 1 Commissioner in the 2020 election.

2. The Resolution violates the United States Constitution and the Federal Voting Rights Act. This Action seeks to rectify the County Commissioners’ unconstitutional and illegal race-based redistricting, and restore Plaintiffs’, and similarly situated Newtown residents’, right to vote in the 2020 Sarasota County election.
19. While the voting rights lawsuit helped to rectify the unfair electoral system in the city of Sarasota, the Sarasota County system continued to inhibit election of African-American county commissioners.  The County Charter divided the County into five single-member districts, but did not limit voting to residents of each district. Rather, it permitted all voters in Sarasota County to vote in each County Commission election, notwithstanding the actual District in which the voter resided.  For years, this system impeded Newtown’s ability to meaningfully participate in the election of Sarasota County commissioners, because the community’s votes were diluted by the overwhelming caucasion majority throughout the County. An example of this was the 2016 election for District 1 Commissioner, in which Plaintiff Atkins garnered the most votes from District 1 residents but lost the countywide vote. 
20. One solution to this unfair situation was a citizen initiative in 2018 to amend the Sarasota County Charter to eliminate countywide voting and limit voting in each district to residents of that district.  Over 15,000 citizens signed petitions enabling the initiative to be placed on a referendum to be voted on in November 2018.
21. As described by one proponent of the plan, the citizen initiative generated “a tidal wave of opposition” by Sarasota County’s entrenched power structure.  One of the most vocal leaders of the tidal wave was Robert Waechter, the former head of the Sarasota Republican Party. Waechter publicly opined that the initiative should be voted down because it was designed to prevent Republicans from “gerrymandering,” which is an oft-used technique to protect those already in power.  Even though political or racial gerrymandering is prohibited by Article III, Sections 20 and 21 of the Florida Constitution, Waechter and others in the Republican Party wanted to gerrymander because it would protect the seats of existing commissioners and preserve control of the County Commission by white residents and the Republican Party.  Not only were they determined to gerrymander, they ultimately decided to do so based upon race.
22. Waechter was less than a perfect advocate for the opposition to the initiative.  He had been arrested in 2012 for engaging in a political “dirty trick” – making campaign contributions to Democrats on behalf of Republican primary candidate Lourdes Ramirez, thereby falsely portraying Ms. Ramirez as supporting Democrats.  Ms. Ramirez had run afoul of Waechter and his patrons by challenging proposals for commercial development made by large Republican donors. Waechter ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony violation of election laws and a misdemeanor fraud charge.  He was sentenced to three months of house arrest, two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and $5,000 in fines.  
23. Notwithstanding the efforts of Waechter and others to preserve the unfair voting system, the Charter amendment was adopted by almost 60% of the voters.  By this important reform, each Sarasota County Commissioner would now be elected only by the voters in his or her district.
24. The reform had another consequence, however, that existing Commissioners and their money patrons feared.  With single-member district voting, Newtown would have a real opportunity to elect a county commissioner who was either African-American or who was responsive to the needs and priorities of the Newtown African-American community in District 1. Indeed, absent countywide voting, Plaintiff Atkins would have been elected District 1 Commissioner in 2016.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Recommendations to the Board for 12.13.19 strategic meeing

The email below was sent to the Board and Administrator ahead of their Dec. 13, 2019 strategy session: Audio of that meeting is here.

Argus CEO Robinson
at 12.13 Board Session
To: The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners
From: Citizens for District Power

RE: Recommendations for consideration at your December 13 Strategic Planning Retreat


Citizens for District Power supports fair and open electoral processes. In advance of your 12.13.19 strategy meeting, we respectfully offer these considered recommendations:

1. Single Member Districts: We urge you to produce clear simple voting directions, with detailed maps showing all precincts with updated boundaries, so that all citizens will be clear about where they will vote in primaries and general elections.

2. We strongly advise against consideration of any amendment to overturn the Single Member District decision approved by a clear bi-partisan majority of voters in 2019.

3. We recommend that you reverse the Board's Charter Amendment regarding citizen-initiated petitions; it places an undue burden on citizens’ rights and ability to petition their government.

4. We recommend formulation of a policy to encourage Commissioners to make sure their commitment to their constituents in Sarasota County takes precedence over commitment to assignments on other boards and committees.

5. We advise adoption of a clear, strong set of guidelines serving to eliminate conflicts of interest involving elected officials.

6. Anonymity of Board Actions: A review of Board meeting minutes and related documents has revealed that the nominating Commissioner's identity (for appointments to Boards such as the Board of Zoning Appeals) is not explicitly stated. A clear public record needs to be established showing which Commissioner nominated which member of each Board.

7. Finally, we ask that you undertake a review of the record of the Economic Development Corp. with an eye toward determining whether it should continue to receive public support, or should be decoupled from the County.

Should you desire more background on any of these recommendations, please contact Pat Rounds at

Thank you,

Kindra Muntz
Glenna Blomquist
Susette Bryan
Adrien Lucas
Tom Matrullo
Pat Rounds
William Zoller

Fredd Atkins addressing those at Phillippi Protest 12.13.19

Friday 13th in Sarasota: Robust Protest against Rotten Redistricting

The Sarasota County Commission is forcing a county-wide redistricting that every thinking resident opposes. It's doing it for one reason only -- to retain the corruption that has run things for many years:

This is the Board that selected Bob Waechter's curdled map that carves out Blacks and stuffs District 1 with white & right voting blocks.

This is the Board that was pleased to give our public lands at the Celery Fields to industrialists Jim Gabbert and Bob Waechter -- until the people spoke out.

Board of Sarasota County Commissioners

This is the Board that approves super-sized developments like Siesta Promenade for Benderson Development Inc., and grants outmoded community formats to Pat Neal, Rex Jensen, Carlos Beruff and their ilk. Wealthy developers, builders contractors and Realtors bankroll the powers that keep control of Sarasota in the hands of the few.

At Phillippi Park on Friday 12.13, tell the Board their attempt to protect Mike Moran's seat in District 1 will not work. We know who Mike answers to:

And whom they all answer to:

Come out and tell them their rotting dominion of broken infrastructure, rampant development, Red Tide and regressive power lunches with oligarchs is over. 

Friday morning, the Board will be meeting at the mansion in Phillippi Park. Let's be so loud they'll hear themselves being tossed out of office in November 2020.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Rex Jensen on growth, development, vision and the history of Lakewood Ranch

Rex Jensen

Rex Jensen, longtime developer of the 50-square-mile Lakewood Ranch in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, was recently interviewed by WUSF - he talks about LWR's beginning (property still owned by the Milwaukee family that owns Schlitz); about his vision; about concurrency, Community Development Districts (CDDs) and the growth management act. John Clark gets a brief mention as "my predecessor."

A brief snippet of Florida growth orthodoxy (57 seconds)

Entire WUSF Inteeview with Rex Jensen

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

UDPDATE: Urgent action item from Sura Kochman regarding Siesta Promenade Hearing

From Sura Kochman:

FDOT has confirmed that there will be a hearing on 12/11. I have learned that 200-ish people e mailed Mr. Purvis and requested that the hearing take place. Thank you all so much. Parking is limited at the Siesta Key Chapel, so you may wish to car-pool.

The public hearing will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at the Siesta Key Chapel, 4615 Gleason Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34242. The formal hearing begins at 6:00 p.m. FDOT will hold this hearing to give interested people the opportunity to review displays and talk one-on-one with staff. This public hearing will only address the transfer of jurisdiction of the roadways. If you wish to speak, please arrive prior to 6 p.m. and register as a speaker at the check-in table.

NOTE: It should be understood that FDOT has NO AUTHORITY, to override the Siesta Promenade application directly. What we can bring out, is the deficiencies in how the traffic is to be handled, per what was stated in the Siesta Promenade hearings, the Kimley Horn engineering reports, and the County transportation reports.


Dear All, 
This is an urgent, time sensitive matter! Action must be taken by December 3 – next Tuesday!

As many of you know, there is an agreement being worked on between FDOT & Sarasota County to transfer responsibility for Stickney Point and the roadways described in the attached notice in today’s paper, from FDOT to the County.

The Florida Department of Transportation has indicated that there are
 “…growing safety and operational concerns related to the intersection of US41 and SR 72.  The department has a responsibility to provide a safe and efficient roadway for our residents and the thousands upon thousands of visitors and tourists that come to our great state each year.”  This quote is from a letter dated 7/25/16, from Keith Slater, FDOT, Traffic Services Program Engineer.
It has been stated that should the road swap take place, that FDOT would have the opportunity to “weigh in”, but the ultimate decision would be the County’s.

FDOT’s  requirements are intrinsic to the evaluation of what is, or could occur in this 1 mile section of roadway.  Decisions made here will affect public safety and the economy of Siesta Key and surrounding areas. The responsibility for Stickney Point belongs under the jurisdiction of FDOT from US41 completely across the bridge and ending at SR 758.

FDOT’s oversight of this segment of SR72 (Stickney) should not be relinquished. 

PLEASE immediately email and indicate that a hearing must be convened on December 11, 2019 and that you are interested in attending. 

This is our only opportunity to voice our concerns that FDOT, an independent agency, should be the controlling voice as to what is feasible traffic-wise on the Stickney Point approach to Siesta Key and on the key.


Write to 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Gannett and Herald Tribune Parent merge

CEOs of new Gannett: ‘Pivot’ needed for digital transformation as merger completes

By Nathan Bomey,
HT link

New Media Investment Group and Gannett finalized their merger Tuesday, putting top executives in position to move ahead with plans they believe will transform the new company’s local and national news brands, including USA TODAY, into a reinvented digital media powerhouse.

The merger creates the largest U.S. media company by print circulation and one that will vie for the nation’s biggest online news and information audience.

The new company’s CEOs – Mike Reed, who will lead the overall public entity under the name Gannett Co., and Paul Bascobert, who will lead an operating company called Gannett Media Corp. – told USA TODAY in a joint interview that they have a compelling opportunity to reinvent the business and expand digital revenue. Both said the company will continue to focus on its journalistic mission.

“Our mission is to connect, protect and celebrate our local communities,” Bascobert said. “Great journalism really is the core of that mission. The question really becomes, what’s the sustainable and exciting business model that powers that mission?”

The company faces significant challenges – namely how to counteract the news industry’s severe print revenue decline with new sources of digital dollars.

The more than 250 daily publications that are part of the new Gannett – such as the Detroit Free Press, The Columbus Dispatch, The Arizona Republic and the Austin American-Statesman – and several hundred weekly publications have cultivated online brands in local markets. Now, Gannett needs to find ways to turn those connections into more revenue.

Outlining a strategy

Bascobert outlined a strategy based on lead generation in local markets – similar, he said, to the approach taken by home services site Angie’s List and Yelp, a reviews and directory service.

Need a plumber, for example? A Gannett publication could help you find one and then earn a fee for helping make that connection.

“This is really us beginning this pivot toward more of what I would call a software-based business model” rather than “an advertising-based business model,” said Bascobert, who pursued a similar model while president of XO Group, owner of wedding planning site The Knot.

His vision would represent a significant overhaul. In the first nine months of 2019, more than 51% of the combined company’s revenue came from advertising and marketing services.

But a wholesale reinvention is necessary because of “the collapse of the newspaper advertising model,” which is “the most fundamental business problem facing local news,” said Jim Friedlich, CEO of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a nonprofit that promotes local journalism innovation and owns The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The new Gannett, which offers digital marketing services through brands such as ThriveHive, ReachLocal and WordStream, will need to continue down the path of becoming a sophisticated digital marketing provider, Friedlich said.

When local businesses need help reaching potential customers, Gannett’s representatives need to be able to help them. Otherwise, they’ll go to Google, Facebook, other online giants or other service providers.

“Building a new local marketplace business at scale requires a long-term commitment of expertise and financial resources,” Friedlich said in an email. “None of this will be easy,” he added, but if Gannett can generate sizable revenue from local marketers, “it will benefit not only their news properties but the industry as a whole.”

Shedding overlapping costs

In the short term, though, the success of the merger is linked to the company’s plan to shed $275 million to $300 million in overlapping costs on an annual basis within 18 to 24 months. That’s crucial to paying off a $1.8 billion loan from private equity firm Apollo Global Management that New Media used to help finance the acquisition.

Those cost savings will come from a wide variety of areas, including corporate functions, news operations and what Reed called “centralized” services where there is significant duplication.

He said the overall cost savings goal is “very, very reachable,” in part because it’s only 7.5% to 8.5% of the combined company’s total revenue, compared with 10% to 15% in a typical corporate merger.

Concern about further cuts

Journalism advocates fear heavy-handed layoffs in already strapped newsrooms, which provide the content that drives readership, fuels digital ads and attracts paid subscriptions online and in print.

Jeff Gordon, a regional vice president for The NewsGuild, whose region represents journalists at four GateHouse newsrooms, expressed concern last week that the deal would lead to further stress on newsrooms that already have faced budget reductions. GateHouse, the operating division of New Media, ran the company’s publications.

“The obvious concern the Guild has expressed is all the debt incurred in the merger, which creates pressure to drive cash flow and could result in further cuts,” said Gordon, whose region includes Colorado, Illinois and other states in the Midwest and Great Plains.

Reed said he’s confident the company can achieve its cost-savings goals “without deep newsroom cuts.”

Bascobert said the new Gannett is “committed to delivering great quality journalism,” including investigative work and meaningful local reporting.

“Those are the things that people subscribe for, and we believe we deliver that,” he said.

Michael Silberman, senior vice president of strategy at subscription commerce and tech provider Piano, which has counted New Media as a client, said the new Gannett needs to cut unnecessary costs while investing in journalism to boost subscriptions.

In the third quarter, Gannett’s digital subscriptions rose 27% to 607,000 compared with the same period a year earlier. New Media’s subscriptions rose 65% to 217,000 over the same stretch.

“Our fundamental belief is that even in a small community there’s an opportunity to create value in terms of a subscription and get people to pay,” Silberman said in an interview last week before shareholders approved the merger. “In some ways, that’s the basis of the merger.”

As print circulation and advertising continue to decline across the industry, the future of physical newspapers is shrouded in doubt. But Bascobert said “print is a good business today” and generates profits for Gannett.

Could the company, which will be based in McLean, Virginia, cut unprofitable print days at some of its publications, as has been done elsewhere in the industry?

“We constantly look at different versions of frequency of delivery or alternative delivery methods, but at this point, it’s a good product,” Bascobert said. “There’s nothing we’re looking at right now to change any of those variables.”

Sarah Taddeo of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle contributed to this story.

The flow of developer wealth and power in Sarasota: A powerpoint

The above is taken from this powerpoint by a citizen. The slide depicts contributions from James Gabbert to candidates in one county commission race.

The statement by James Schebel that accompanies the slides is here.

The complete powerpoint is here.  A pdf version is here.

When the maker of these slides attempted to present them to the Board of County Commission at a redistricting hearing, he was shut down.

Lucas: FDEP Violation suspected in Gabbert WTF proposal process

Date: 11/19/19
To: County Commissioners / Planning Department / Florida Department of Environmental Services / Sarasota Press Outlets

cc: County Staff Contact: Donna LaDue / The Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals Members: Mr. Arthur, Mr. Malatesta, Mr. Mast, Mr. Piatchuk, Mr. Powell, Mr. Radauskas, Mr. Taylor, Sarasota Community Groups on Facebook, Anyone who is interested in how criminal development in Sarasota continues to be

From: Adrien Lucas

Re: Zoning Appeal 19-155651 ZZ: a request by TST Ventures LLC

Last night I attended the Zoning Appeal meeting for TST Ventures LLC and spoke to the Zoning Appeal board asking them to uphold Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson’s recommendations regarding Mr. Gabbert’s appeal to Ms. Thompson’s interpretation that a modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. 

While I did not go to the meeting expecting Mr. Gabbert to announce he would not build his WTF or to  miraculously realize that his open air Waste Transfer Facility:

  • will introduce daily trips of uncountable diesel semis and trucks driving in and out of his facility; or that Gabbert’s own fleet, will create an incredible carbon footprint in a county where air quality is already documented as less than stellar for healthy breathing; 
  • Or that he would even acknowledge that his WTF is located at the headwaters of the Phillippi Creek and the particulates from construction material such as asbestos, lead paint, fiberglass, and who knows what else cancer causing agents will be filtered through waterway channels from his WTF, down Phillippi Creek, into Robert’s Way (where Gabbert lives) and into the struggling Gulf of Mexico.
I could go on about environmental concerns but I have learned from the get go that almost no one in the Sarasota County Commission (past and present board members) and almost no one in the Planning Board Commission or Zoning Appeal Commission give a rat’s bottom about environmental science that affects the welfare and safety of our Sarasota community. Attorney Merrill, Mr. Gabbert, Bo Medred and some of the Board members act like they know all about stormwater ponds, filtering systems, etc. and yet most of them do not have degrees in these types of sciences. But if they did, would our Gulf of Mexico be entering into a Failing Level of Service as far as being safe water to swim or eat in? But I digress, afterall, these elected officials and board members are truely sage men of development industry, they do know better, don’t they?

So what I did expect at last night’s Zoning Appeal meeting was the acknowledgement that our county and Mr. Gabbert have broken rules time and time again to suit developments that essentially would not exist if county and state protocol had been followed.

Remember Restaurant Depot? I do. County Attorney Alan Roddy (and this is on county video and in a court transcript), when it was clear that the county was breaking the Sarasota County Charter (our county constitution) by not requiring Restaurant Depot to disclose the owners of the LLC’s listed to buy county owned Celery Field Quad Properties, Alan Roddy responded “we do this all the time, we have done this before.” He openly admitted before a full house of witnesses that the county breaks the Sarasota Charter “All of the time.” Fortunately, the sale didn’t occur with Restaurant Depot, but the only reason the sale did not go through was because there were many constituents who were watching and refusing to let the Charter be broken.

Last night at the Zoning Appeal meeting I presented irrefutable information that Mr. Gabbert, his engineer Weber Engineering had lied on a document from submitted to the FDEP.

At the Board of Zoning Appeals last evening, the final vote sided with William W. Merrill III, James Gabbert, Bo Medred, and Jon Mast against County Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson. Ms.Thompson had ruled that Mr. Gabbert needed to get the County Commission's approval for two changes to the site design of his WTF. One of seven realtors, builders and architects on the BZA, Jon Mast is CEO of the Manatee Sarasota Building Industry Association. He deftly turned the Board around. At first the vote was 4-3 for Ms. Thompson's ruling, and against Gabbert. Mast then asked to "amend" the motion, and amended it so far as to fully approve Mr. Gabbert's appeal. Gabbert's new stormwater plan was unclear, without dimensions or even a structural drawings. The Board partly based its changed vote on answers to technical stormwater questions answered not by an independent expert or County stormwater engineer, but by Merrill III and Gabbert himself. So it is with all our Boards - the applicant is the authority. What a departure from Sarasota's enlightened past.

Board Member Mast kept insisting that “We do these types of exceptions all the time.” The problem is this isn’t just any exception. This is an open air WTF and Mr. Gabbert always had the intention of being the Waste King off of Palmer Boulevard, with not only his WTF but also his failed attempt to build a recycling dump. So Mr. Mast is wrong, entirely wrong, because the exception pushed Mr. Gabbert to change his build out plans for his WTF because by losing out on the Quad parcel, it was impossible for trucks to enter and leave his WTF without that extra acreage. With that he has had to modifiy and move his stormwater plans which I find to be completely incompatable with the area, especially now that we know the Quad parcels are going to be preserved.

But hey, “We do this all the time” and that is what is wrong with Sarasota government and development. [Ed.'s note: See for example this illustration of Mr. Gabbert's campaign "donations" to the Board.]

Below is the statement I read to the Zoning Appeal Board Members. Included are pictures of what I handed to them. 

I will be filing an investigation complaint with the Florida Department of Environmental Services but I have learned to expect nothing when it comes to ethics in Florida pertaining to honesty, due diligence and following protocol.

Date: 11/18/19

To: The Sarasota County Board of Zoning Appeals Members: Mr. Arthur, Mr. Malatesta, Mr. Mast, Mr. Piatchuk, Mr. Powell, Mr. Radauskas, Mr. Taylor
cc: County Staff Contact: Donna LaDue / County Commissioners / Planning Department / Sarasota Press Outlets

From: Adrien Lucas

Re: Zoning Appeal 19-155651 ZZ: a request by TST Ventures LLC to appeal a Zoning Administrator's interpretation letter dated August 28, 2019, interpreting that the modification of the stormwater pond is a substantial modification to the binding concept plan and the approved Special Exception will need to be amended. The property is zoned Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehousing (ILW) and is located at 6150 Palmer Boulevard and 1099 Porter Road, Sarasota (Parcel ID No. 0237050001 and 0237120001). Willam W. Merrill, Esquire, Agent

Documents Attached:
9/19/19 Drainage Calculations cover page submitted to SRQ County from Weber Engineering 
5/9/16 TST Ventures Letter of Interest - 10.3 acres on SW corner of Palmer Blvd. & Apex Rd.
9/2/16 Self Certification form submitted to FDEP from Weber Engineering

The Weber Engineering packet submitted to the county on September 9, 2019 titled “Drainage Calculations” for 6150 Palmer Boulevard included a letter dated September 16, 2016 from the FDEP regarding “Self Certification for a Stormwater Management System...” and Mr. Weber submitted the certification specifically and only for the privately purchased 4.27 acres that Mr. Gabbert is developing his WTF on.

Lawrence Weber certified through the Department’s Enterprise Self-Service Application portal that the TST Ventures project was designed by the above named Florida registered professional to meet the following requirements and lists:

Item No. 5 - The project is not part of a larger common plan, development, or sale; 
But that was not a truthful submission. On May 9, 2016 TST Ventures submitted a letter of interest to the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners to buy 10.3 acres of county owned surplus land on the SW corner of Palmer & Apex Road in order to allow a Construction and Demolition debris recycling facility to serve the residents of Sarasota County.

Weber Engineering "certification"
This means that the submitted project to the FDEP was presented falsely and was part of a larger common plan, development, or sale as and was submitted, four months before the September 16, 2016 letter from the FDEP. 

TST  Ventures (Gabbert) letter of interest May 9, 2016
I am asking the Board of Zoning appeals to uphold Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson’s recommendations regarding today’s zoning appeal for TST Ventures and let this go before the Board of County Commission for a decision. Any modification not specifically listed would require an amendment to the Concept Plan approved by the County Commission.

The State of Florida and Sarasota county development protocol exist for a reason. We, the people, should be able to trust that due diligence is applied to all development projects of such importance; especially a waste transfer facility (and Mr. Gabbert’s denied potential dump)  being on top of the headwaters of the Phillippi Creek.

Time and time again, TST Ventures has put the cart in front of the horse regarding building out his WTF. What else exists with the current build out to the WTF that is being rushed?
We will be conducting a forensic file search on everything submitted for the WTF with county documents.

How can we trust that the FDEP form submitted by Weber Engineering is correct regarding: 
That Item No. 6. The project does not:

  1. Cause adverse water quantity or flooding impacts to receiving water and adjacent lands; 
  2. Cause adverse impacts to existing surface water storage and conveyance capabilities;
  3. Cause a violation of state water quality standards; or
  4. Cause an adverse impact to the maintenance of surface and ground water levels or surface water flows 

We cannot trust the above to be true without substantial background materials that are really unknowns. 

With super storms staying not 24 hours but up to 72 hours hovering over smaller areas of land, it is awful to think of what awaits the untested Celery Field stormwater retention facility and the WTF being built on this unsuitable parcel for an open air construction waste transfer facility.

I am neither an attorney nor an engineer but I can assure you, the long trail of documents submitted to the County for Mr. Gabbert’s WTF provide little insight on numerous unanswered questions, especially when it comes to Mr. Gabbert’s assurance that his WTF will be able to keep the people and waters of Sarasota County healthy. 


Adrien Lucas