Thursday, February 28, 2019

The "First Impression of Sarasota County"

The Quads -- four parcels near the Celery Fields -- are public lands. We own them, but we could lose them to James Gabbert's trucks or Bob Waechter's warehouses.

Here is the objective set in the I-75 Corridor Study, a forward-looking plan done by County Planning in 1989.

Here is James Gabbert's planned Waste Transfer Facility (WTF), approved to be built on six acres at Porter and Palmer -- on broken roads, in clear view of the highway, with the Celery Fields in the background for highway drivers to see:

WTF indeed.

Feb. 28, 2019: Two citizens met with the lead planner for the county's new process, revising the Critical Area Plan for the Quads. The planner assured us that they are willing to speak with anyone who wishes to provide input. Also, they intend to have a public meeting open to all - not yet scheduled, but likely to be set for mid-May.

Anyone wishing to be added to the notification list can send an email to or to Be sure to reference this Critical Area Plan process - say something like: "CAP for the Quads near the Celery Fields" and ask to be notified of all meetings and actions.

Waste Transfer Truck

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sarasota Board's "park-like setting" is a WTF

This photo was taken from I-75 near Palmer Boulevard, looking east. In the distance is the Celery Fields Mound. In the foreground is the six-acre site where James Gabbert will build a Waste Transfer Facility:

Site of Gabbert Waste Transfer Facility

The site is immediately next to the highway, bounded by thin, fragile Porter Road on the west, and equally narrow Palmer Blvd. on the North. In the distance is the gorgeous mound and wetland area of the Celery Fields, an internationally known bird habitat. A home or way-station to over 225 species of birds, this area is so prized by bird lovers, recreationalists and tourists that that the Audubon Society spent over $1 million to build a nature center there. 

Behind the row of trees lies a 10.6-acre parcel of public land, which Gabbert once wanted to buy to build a full-blown unenclosed waste processing facility. The citizens came out in August 2017 in droves to oppose that scheme, and the proposal was voted down (but supported by Commissioners Maio and Moran). But the six-acre waste transfer station - a facility that essentially serves as a temporary dump where waste is moved from small vehicles to large trucks - was approved by the County in 2015. Gabbert has revised his plan a number of times, and it is very close to getting final approval. Word is, that will come in February. 

Waste transfer operation at a facility 
designed and built, 
but no longer operated, 
by James Gabbert
Residents and highway motorists will soon be treated to the vision of mounds of construction debris being moved from small trucks to large a stone's throw from the highway.

In order for this to happen, the Board had to violate its own ordinance as well as a Federal law.

When the Board approved Gabbert's site rezone in 2015, it violated a county ordinance that specifically mandates that  lands running alongside this area of I-75 present a "park-like setting." Here is the law --  I-75 Corridor Plan #89-35, Exhibit B, Item M -- which states:
In recognition of I-75 as an area of critical concern, all critical area plans within the I-75 Critical Area of Concern shall be consistent with the following where applicable: 
       (m) a positive image for I-75 through the establishment of quality development within a park-like setting.
Further, the Board approved Gabbert's WTF in violation of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which among other things aimed to beautify highways by screening or forbidding junkyards:
The act called for control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs, along the nation's growing Interstate Highway System and the existing federal-aid primary highway system. It also required certain junkyards along Interstate or primary highways to be removed or screened and encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development.[2] Highway Beautification Act
Robert Waechter
How did this location ever get approved for a waste station in the first place? Gabbert and his pal Bob Waechter have financial and political clout. Both Gabbert (who is a developer, lender, and head of a local bank) and Waechter (who was once head of the Republican Party in Sarasota, and owns a group of run-down industrial warehouses immediately south of Gabbert's waste transfer site) are significant money-men behind key county commissioners. Commissioner Al Maio has held campaign strategy meetings in Gabbert's offices; Waechter has spent money viciously smearing Democrat and Republican candidates who ran against Maio, and was convicted of identity theft in an attempt to destroy a fellow Republican's reputation.

Despite (or because of) the dirty tricks, Waechter wields considerable political clout. As former head of the local Republican Party, he has participated in redrawing electoral districts to ensure Republican control of the Board of Commissioners, which appoints the Planning Commission. He is also closely involved with the Charter Review Board. His close associate, developer and waste king James Gabbert, has long been a member of that Board.

Waechter and Gabbert has worked diligently to put Al Maio and Mike Moran on the Board - and most recently have backed Christian Ziegler, who replaced the independent-minded Paul Caragiulo.

Small portion of Gabbert's contributions to Al Maio's 2014 campaign

A minor sample of Gabbert's contributions to Al Maio's 2018 campaign

Al Maio

Sunday, February 24, 2019

An Evacuation Route next to a river

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

River Road is a major hurricane evacuation route for south Sarasota County, Englewood and north Charlotte County. It is a great example of the historic and current  lack of thought given to hurricane evacuation when approving development. River Road is apply named as a large portion of the road parallels Myakka River, which makes it a very undesirable hurricane evacuation route.

River Road is woefully inadequate to safely move residents out of harm’s way. The increase in residential density that has occurred adjacent to River Road leaves existing residents of Sarasota and Charlotte counties extremely vulnerable to the devastating effects of a hurricane. There are still thousands of homes planned for the area.

There is no reason to continue to compound the mistakes of the past.  River Road already creates a dangerous hurricane evacuation situation, increasing density along River Road will not correct the mistakes of the past, it will put more people in harm’s way.

The City of North Port previously expressed significant concerns regarding River Road as a hurricane evacuation route:

There should be concerns regarding the impacts to River Road, this is a failing roadway and adding ever more trips just makes the failures that much more imminent as this is a hurricane evacuation route serving North Port, unincorporated Sarasota County, and Englewood…

Finally, there should be concern whether or not there is the need for more home sites in southern Sarasota County at this time. The West Villages Improvement District in North Port has been approved for 15,000 Dwelling Unit's (DU's), Sarasota National in unincorporated Sarasota County has approximately 1900 DU's approved, and Stoneybrook at Venice has a similar number, therefore, almost 20,000 potential DU's have been approved to be located in roughly a 2-mile area.

River Road still is and will always be an inappropriate hurricane evacuation route. But this problem could have been avoided. Hurricane evacuation should have been a priority in approving any development that relies on River Road as an evacuation route. 
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Republican bigwig gets emergency food contract from Sarasota County

Courtesy of the Sarasota News Leader

Acting chair of Republican Party of Sarasota awarded Sarasota County contract for feeding of personnel at Emergency Operations Center in event of a disaster

Mattison’s wins contract as back-up vendor

Jack Brill. Photo from the Sarasota Young Republicans Facebook page

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s strike on Sarasota County in September 2017, county leaders were criticized about the county’s incurring a $130,000 bill to feed personnel at the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
With no contract in place at the time for such services, and the subcontractors of the previous vendor having been deployed to Texas to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, county staff has explained, the decision was made to work with Mattison’s of Sarasota to handle meals for up to 500 people a day at the EOC.
Following recommendations in the county’s After Action Report/Improvement Plan regarding Hurricane Irma, which was completed in March 2018, new procedures have been put into place to try to prevent a recurrence of the September 2017 situation.
As part of its Jan. 15 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the County Commission voted unanimously to award a bid for emergency feeding services to the Sarasota division of Metz Culinary Management. The company vice president who leads that division is Jack Brill of Longboat Key, who also recently was named acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota.
No commissioner offered a comment on the contract on Jan. 15.
“There is no expenditure amount specified for spending” under the terms provided in the contract with Metz, the document says. Metz “shall perform no work,” the contract adds, “until receipt of a purchase order from the County.” Even then, the contract notes that “no minimum amount of work is guaranteed …”
The contract with Metz, which is based in Dallas, Penn., may be renewed for two additional one-year periods, according to a Jan. 15 staff memo.
In April 2013, Brill was named vice president of business development for Metz, to handle the company’s Southern accounts, a Metz news release said. “His primary focus will be the state of Florida, home to Metz Culinary Management’s new Sarasota-based Southern Division Corporate Office,” the release pointed out.
Metz at that time had more than 160 food service and environmental service accounts in 14 states, the release noted.

This is the webpage for Metz Culinary Management in Sarasota. Image from the Metz website

“Brill has more than 25 years of progressive experience in the retail and foodservice industry,” the release said. “He has worked with multinational food corporations, independently owned family-run operations and military programs in addition to owning and operating two foodservice companies. Past responsibilities also include national sales management, sales force training and distributor program selling,” the 2013 release pointed out.
“‘I’m thrilled to join the Metz Culinary Management team and feel that we have services that are uniquely qualified for the South,’” Brill said in the 2013 news release.
“Brill resides in Longboat Key” with his wife, Antoinette, the release noted, adding that the couple has two children.
On Jan. 29, the County Commission reappointed one of Brill’s children, Victoria, to another three-year term on the county’s Public Facilities Financing Advisory Board.
Jack Brill’s position as acting chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota followed the election of former Chair Joe Gruters of Sarasota to the Florida Senate, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Gruters is preparing for the start of his first session of the Florida Legislature, which will begin on March 5. He already has been at work on a variety of bills he has filed.
Brill had been vice chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota for the past three years. He also is a former chair of the Sarasota Republican Club, the Herald-Tribune noted.
The need for a new contract
In September 2017, with the potential that Irma would hit Sarasota County as a Category 4 hurricane, inflicting severe damage, county staff executed its contract with Mattison’s of Sarasota. The meal services at the EOC commenced on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 and ended at noon on Sept. 12, 2017, according to the county’s After Action Report.
And even with the $130,000 expense, the report said, the feeding plan at the EOC “provided adequate nutrition during meal times that offered relief and an opportunity for staff to decompress before returning to work.”
The report added “that the mealtimes were a bright spot in the difficult days …”

Ed McCrane, the county’s emergency management chief (left) and Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden participate in a Sept. 6, 2017 briefing about Hurricane Irma, held at the EOC. Photo courtesy Sarasota County Government via Twitter

A Jan. 15 memo to the County Commission from Rich Collins, director of the county’s Emergency Services Department, explained how the situation with the Mattison’s contract evolved.
Since 2007, Sarasota County had had unfunded contracts with vendors to provide disaster feeding services, which included fee schedules if services were requested, Collins wrote. “As no funding was required, the contracts did not require approval of the [County Commission].”
Then, in 2014, Collins continued, “it was identified that the potential cost for feeding during disasters could exceed $100,000; therefore, contracts to provide [those services] are brought to the Board for approval.”
On July 7, 2015, the memo pointed out, the commission approved a contract with Gol-Let Enterprises Inc., which did business as Café L’Europe on St. Armands Key. While Gol-Let was designated the primary contractor for disaster event catering, Collins added in the memo, the County Commission also approved a contract with A Joy Wallace Catering of Miami as the backup vendor.
Slightly more than a year later — on Aug. 23, 2016 — the commission again awarded the contract to Gol-Let Enterprises.
Then, the memo explained, in January 2017, Gol-Let Enterprises notified county staff not only of a change in its representative for the contract, but also of “the loss of key personnel that staff believed was necessary to fulfill the terms of the contract. As a result,” Collins continued, “that contract was cancelled in June of 2017 and there was not a disaster feeding contract in place when Hurricane Irma impacted Sarasota in September of 2017.”
Because disaster feeding services “were needed immediately,” the memo added, “and the unknown impact that Hurricane Irma would deliver required an emergency contract that included feeding at the EOS as well as field operations, [Mattison’s] agreed to assist and negotiated with Procurement staff for the provision of the required services for a worst-case scenario.”
Those services “were consistent with the pricing in the cancelled contract,” the memo pointed out.

This is an exhibit in the Metz contract regarding pricing. Image courtesy Sarasota County
This is an exhibit in the August 2016 contract with Gol-Let Enterprises. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Irma’s last-minute change of course made it unnecessary for Mattison’s to provide “sustained disaster feeding,” Collins noted.
After the county ended up with the $130,000 bill for Mattison’s services, Collins wrote, staff chose to pursue a more cost-effective approach. It would pursue separate feeding services contracts: one covering the meals at the EOC — which likely would be needed more often, the memo said; and a second, more expensive contract that would cover feeding of personnel at “disaster base recovery camps and field operations.” Collins noted that the latter scenarios are foreseen to be far less frequent.
The Metz contract says the company would provide equipment and labor to perform the food preparation, delivery and serving of the meals, and transportation for the delivery, as needed. Four “nutritional and well-balanced meals per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnights)” would be covered, Collins pointed out.
Separate contracts will come to the County Commission later for the field services and base camp operations, he added.
Few bids for a new contract

This is the evaluation committee’s ranking of the two bids for the EOC feeding contract. Image courtesy Sarasota County

According to a Procurement Department document provided to the County Commission in its Jan. 15 agenda packet, three companies submitted bids for the new EOC catering services contract, which was advertised on April 20, 2018. Along with Metz, they were Mattison’s and A Joy Wallace Catering Production in Miami. However, a subsequent Procurement Department document explained that Wallace Catering was not found to be eligible for the award of the bid, as its proposal was “for base camp services and not for the Emergency Operations Catering Services,” as explained in the county’s Request for Proposals.
On Jan. 15, the County Commission also unanimously approved a contract with Mattison’s as the back-up, or secondary, contractor. A June 7, 2018 memo from Emergency Management Division staff to Kimberly Radtke, then the acting county procurement official, explained, “In the event that our selected Primary Contractor has any barriers in performing to the scope of a given scenario, whether it be due to size, complexity, storm damage, staffing shortage, etc., the Secondary Contractor will provide the necessary support to ensure feeding services are provided as required.”
The memo added, “Sarasota County will greatly benefit from having two vendors contractually obligated to the County if we are impacted by a disaster.”
Two of the three members of the Evaluation Committee ranked Metz first, for award of the primary contract. Both were business professionals with the county — one, with EMS Fire Operations; the other, with the Health and Human Services Department.
The person who ranked Mattison’s first was Anne Miller, a division chief with the county’s Emergency Management team, Procurement Department documents show.

Letter from a concerned business owner

Letter regarding the January 2019 Waste Transfer Station approval at Palmer Blvd. and Porter Rd. from Steve Baran, who has owned a business on Apex Road in the office park near the Quads since 2013. More letters and comments from residents here.

February 5, 2019

I disagree with the county's decision to approve a waste transfer station to occupy the property located at the corner of Porter RD and Palmer BLVD. It is my opinion which is based upon my daily commute to take my child to school at Sarasota Christian School every weekday and then traveling to my office located at 640 Apex Rd. I travel Palmer BLVD, no less than eight round trips per week, including the trips taking my child to and from after-school activities at Sarasota Christian School.

The issues I believe the county must address prior to any further approval of any business along the Palmer BLVD corridor is as follows:

The intersection at Apex RD and Palmer BLVD

Waste transfer
The intersection at Apex RD and Palmer BLVD, which is just east of Porter RD and Plamer BLVD- This intersection is extremely dangerous to traverse as there is no traffic signal nor a traffic circle. Vehicles traveling east/west on Palmer BLVD move quickly as the speed limit is 40mph. Couple that with the traffic that is trying to travel north/south across Palmer BLVD on Apex RD, this is very dangerous. I have witnessed multiple accidents and many more close calls. With the approval of a Waste Transfer Station at Palmer BLVD and Porter RD, my belief is that traffic will increase on Apex heading south to Palmer BLVD, which would be a natural path for trucks traveling the highway and exiting on Fruitville to get to the Waste Transfer Station.

The Intersection at Apex RD and Porter RD

This intersection has a traffic signal. This area is congested currently with commercial and residential traffic. There are several communities are accessed from Porter RD. Many homeowners use Porter RD for this purpose. WIth the Waste Transfer Property being on the corner, how will ingress/egress of construction trucks have a further adverse impact on the traffic congestion that currently exists at this intersection?

Celery Fields Area, Sarasota County, FL

The Intersection at Palmer BLVD and Packinghouse RD

This intersection is a nightmare currently. The traffic signal is not sufficient to handle the current traffic that travels this roadway. The roadway itself is in extremely poor condition. Detwilers and the Shell Gas Station are two of the main business that generates the majority of the traffic for this area. Between 7am-9am many commercial frequent the Shell station and rarely can you find an open gas pump. Again in the afternoon, the Shell station is very busy, not quite as the am rush hour. Detwilers is slammed busy most hours of the day, even more so during the busy season October til April. The congestion in this area is commercial trucks, parents taking kids to school either Tatum Ridge or Fruitville Elementary, in my case Sarasota Christian School. This is in addition to the folks trying to get to work in the business parks between Fruitville RD and Palmer BLVD, south to Porter RD. Again, how will increase construction truck traffic have an adverse effect on our current traffic issues? Furthermore, how much more damage will there be to the roadway at the underpass at Palmer BLVD and Porter RD and just west near Palmer BLVD and Packinghouse RD?

Just to give you a mental picture of the distance between the three mentioned intersections, the distance is under four-tenths of a mile.

The intersection at Packinghouse RD and Cattleman RD

This intersection is treacherous. Now we are adding additional construction traffic to this intersection? No traffic signal or roundabout? How far do you think traffic will back up now?

I have shared all of this and have not mentioned the Fire Station that is located on Apex RD just north of Palmer BLVD. I believe there are plans to construct a permanent fire station. That is a good idea, it is needed with all of the residential development that continues less than three miles away at Palmer BLVD and Lorraine RD. The last thing we want is Fire/Rescue to be held up due to traffic in this area. It is my argument that currently, Palmer BLVD does not fully meet the capacity of the current traffic that travels it daily. Most of the homes (at least another 600) in the near future will come online at Artistry and Worthington subdivisions. People avoid Bee Ridge due to the traffic circles or at least I do. How many of the subdivisions along Palmer BLVD going east from Porter RD, have been built, after the land use code for this property was established? SRQ County got stuck with the bill to fix Palmer BLVD at Lorraine RD (which Artistry was originally required to accept the cost of) due to a technicality. Who will be responsible for connecting Lorraine RD to Fruitville RD? When will this happen? Only this project taking place, would allow me to briefly rethink my current position, as I believe most of the traffic comes from Tatum Ridge Elementary School and heads west toward the hornet's nest that is Apex RD, Palmer BLVD, Porter RD, Packinghouse RD.

Now on to the environmental concerns. It is my understanding from gathering information throughout this process as well as attending the county commission meetings online, that debris will be unloaded, stack, sorted and reloaded at this facility. Debris blowing extremely close to a bird sanctuary does not seem a very good idea. Most of our weather systems seems to come from the west and travel toward the east, correct? In the occasions that the weather system comes from the east and travels westbound, that would mean that debris could be blown onto Porter Rd or worse, Interstate I-75? Do we think that drivers need more distractions when they are traveling in the excess of 70mph? I don't think so.  I am sure the experts can cite many other issues that will arise from this waste transfer station. I am sure that those are very important and I do not mean to downplay their importance in any manner. I am sharing from a homeowner, business owner and parent who travels this road quite frequently. In my opinion, putting a lemonade stand at the corner of Porter RD and Palmer BLVD is not a good idea. The roads in this area are in very poor shape now and will only get worse. Traffic in this area is very heavy already and the roads do not contain the necessary signals roundabouts needed to maintain safe traffic flow. These are issues I SRQ County must address prior to any further development anywhere South of Fruitville RD to the Plamer BLVD Corridor. Let's not forget, Lakewood Ranch BLVD is currently being extended and there is no doubt in my mind that Apex RD traffic, as well as the other intersections I mentioned above, will be further adversely impacted. Should this communication find its way to SRQ County, I am pleading with you to address these issues. This is only an issue that the commission can solve. I am begging to look into these items post haste!

Rev. Steve Baran
As President
National Christian Counselors Association
640 Apex RD
Sarasota, FL 34240

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Residents and organizations write to oppose waste transfer station near Celery Fields

Board of Sarasota County Commissioners
l. to r. Ziegler, Moran, Hines, Detert, Maio, Administator Lewis, Atty. de Marsh

A sampling of some of the letters and comments that have come in from Sarasota residents in response to news of the county's granting a permit to James Gabbert for a Waste Transfer Facility (WTF) at Porter Rd. and Palmer Blvd., adjacent to public lands, near the Celery Fields, in full view of I-75. If you wish to add your own thoughts, see the link for the addresses of relevant county officials and personnel. Copy if you do.

Dear Commissioners,

The Manatee/Sarasota Sierra Club is opposed to a Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Rd. and Palmer Blvd.

The transfer sight and piles of construction debris being moved and reloaded will blight the Celery Fields landscape and birding habitat, impact roads and further clog traffic, degrade local small business and the character of East Palmer Boulevard.

This facility will be visible from the Palmer and I-75 overpass. The Board violated County Ordinance 89-35 and the Highway Beautification Act. in approving this facility.

We request that the county immediately take the strongest measures possible to contain and mitigate all anticipated negative impacts of this facility on the Celery Fields, adjoining public lands, residents and small businesses in the East Palmer Blvd area.


Gayle Reynolds
S.C. Conservation Co-Chair
Manatee/Sarasota Sierra Club

"I disagree with the county's decision to approve a waste transfer station to occupy the property located at the corner of Porter RD and Palmer BLVD. It is my opinion which is based upon my daily commute to take my child to school at Sarasota Christian School every weekday and then traveling to my office located at 640 Apex Rd." -- Detailed letter from a businessman with an office in one of the office parks in the area See the entire letter here. 

Dear Sarasota County Commissioners, 

We were saddened to learn that you had approved a waste transfer station for land near the celery fields.  We fear that the trucks, noise, and air pollution created by the facility will damage the beautiful environment that is the Celery Fields, both for the people that enjoy visiting the park and for the wildlife that live there. Please require that the owner mitigate these negative aspects to the extent possible, by requiring an indoor facility, fencing, and buffer planting. 

We hope that public lands directly adjacent to or near the celery will be saved for the public good, by extending the open space that the celery fields provides. Wouldn’t it be great to have some natural un-mowed fields for ground birds --that are rapidly disappearing and becoming endangered, such as meadow larks, bobwhites, and killdeer-- to use for nesting?
With development occurring at such a rapid pace and open space disappearing, it becomes very important to think what future generations will value.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. 


Carolyn and James McLaughlin

I strongly protest the county’s approval of James Gabbert’s Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Road and Palmer Boulevard.

Isn’t it bad enough that our coastal area has lost millions in tourist dollars due to red tide and now we want to openly invite all those driving along I-75 to see our utter disregard of any environmental protocol by having them look down upon construction debris? And they’ll be moving along slowly due to all the traffic already in this area. They’ll not be zipping by at 70 mph. The traffic in this area, while already bad, will only get worse when the new homes on the other side of I-75 at Packinghouse Road are sold. And just down Cattleman another mega rental complex is about to open with 100’s more cars clogging this already busy intersection, and you want to add big, ugly, sluggish, open trucks to the same area! You don’t frequent this area very much do you?

And that doesn’t even get into the problem of toxic cement dust covering the Celery Fields, a beautiful, thoughtful bird preserve, and those of us who live just beyond.

Furthermore, the Board violated County Ordinance 89-35 and the Highway Beautification Act in approving this facility. Mr. Gabbert has been hearing the community’s strong voice of opposition for years, yet he persists. What kind of man does that? What kind of public servants are you, to rubber stamp his proposal? I request that the county immediately take the strongest measures to remove all such approvals and look to installing businesses in keeping with the fragility of the area.

You say you can’t think of anything else to put there. Here’s some clean ideas:

·         Civic center
·         Outdoor arena
·         History and tourist center
·         Athletic facilities
·         New forested bird habitat to buffer the Celery Fields

 Thank you for reading my concerns.

Barbara Wolfe
Sarasota, Florida

Mike Moran
Sarasota County Commissioner District 1

Dear Commissioner Moran,

It is my understanding that James Gabbert recently received permission to build and operate a waste transfer station at the corner of Palmer and Porter roads. This is deeply concerning to me on several levels: 

I am a resident of this area living within a one mile radius of the transfer station site. Traffic volume and flow as well as the increase of noise expected by the additional truck activity will likely have a negative impact on our area directly affecting the area's standard of living.  

This will be directly adjacent to the Celery Fields, a water management project that has become a natural bird and wildlife habitat enjoyed by many county residents. The Sarasota Audubon Society regularly schedules activities for those interested in learning more about Sarasota's diverse wildlife populations. These activities could well be impacted by the operations of a transfer station that will undoubtedly create noise and disruption to the natural environment.  

Given these concerns, and not having seen a building plan of the site, I hope for the following considerations: an attractive visual barrier to minimize unsightly operations consistent with the Celery Fields and neighborhood traffic, sound abatement measures for the same reasons, appropriate hours of operation, appropriate lighting, and road upgrades (such as turn lanes) to maintain traffic flow.  

Thank you for your time regarding these issues and I look forward to any and all signs of these suggestions being implemented. 

Sincerely yours, 

Mary N.


Sarasota County Ordinance 89-35 calls for "a park-like setting" along the I-75 corridor. . . 

Waste transfer truck

Celery Fields

"The Board of County Commissioners used its role of public steward to create blight where none exists." - Tom Matrullo


Commissioner Moran,

I understand that the Gabbert Construction Waste Facility has been approved on Palmer Blvd. This decision was made despite overwhelming opposition from Sarasota County residents including an organized and extensive citizen effort to identify alternative uses for this property consistent with its surroundings.

It makes no sense to oblige the wishes of one person while compromising the Celery Fields (a nationally recognized wildlife sanctuary with an Audubon facility) to the east, and numerous commercial establishments to the west (including a grocery store and restaurant with outdoor seating).  The Celery Fields can't relocate.  A construction waste transfer station has other site options.

As a resident of District 1, please explain the rationale for this decision.  And since the Palmer/Apex Road intersection contains multiple parcels of surplus public lands, please assure this constituent that you will mitigate the negative impact of this massive construction waste site by designating the remaining adjacent public parcels parcels as a non-industrial buffer (e.g., parks and recreation areas).

Finally, do you hold public outreach meetings with your District 1 constituents?
If so, when and where will the next meeting be held?  If not, please do so immediately.


We are residents in the area of this facility and are grossly disappointed that this type of waste plant was approved by you. We elected you to protect and enhance our surroundings, not make a dumping ground of them. There have been plenty of beautiful options put before you to increase the value of living in our lovely Sarasota and enhancing our birding and jogging surroundings of the Celery Fields. We elected you to protect us and plead for you to do so. 

All the residents will keep a close eye on this especially during future elections. 



This incompatible plan  must be mitigated every way possible, such as:
  • attractive buffering 
  • landscaping 
  • appropriate hours of operation 
  • enclosed facility (the plan calls for an open facility) 
  • compatible lighting 
  • sound fencing 
  • themed fencing - perhaps something linked to birding or the celery fields? 
  • safe turning lanes

Why spoil what we've worked so hard to build?

Nancy M.


Gabbert and Maio are joined at the hip like Siamese twins when it comes to their determination to undermine the celery fields. It is apparent that they will not stop until they have succeeded thwarting the peoples efforts to save this precious property. Is up to the rest of the commissioners to put an end to their egregious activity once  and for all.

Is there no limit how many times the PEOPLE have to confront them ??

Robert & Patricia K.

I protest the county's approval of James Gabbert's Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Rd. and Palmer Blvd. The sight of piles of construction debris being moved from trucks to bigger trucks will blight the Celery Fields landscape, clog traffic, and degrade the character of East Palmer Boulevard. Furthermore, the Board violated County Ordinance 89-35 and the Highway Beautification Act. in approving this facility. Mr. Gabbert has been hearing the community's strong voice of opposition for years, yet he persists. I request that the county immediately take the strongest measures to mitigate all anticipated negative impacts of this facility. MF.


I am disappointed that the county committee passed the waste transfer station by celery fields. My wife and I moved to Sarasota last year. We chose Sarasota because of the beach which has been a huge disappointment with the red tide. So we bought a house east of interstate 75 because of the rural landscape and less congestion . Now reading the county committee passed a waste transfer station in the middle of such a rural and residential area is again very disappointing. When there is waste which is never a good material and not well regulated can seep into the ground just from gravity alone but from not being handled carefully. As business people that we are, known to sometimes turn our heads for convenience and profit , that will lead to waste seeping into the ground and aquifers regardless of what the so called experts say. Coming from NY you try to prevent problems  instead of reacting when its too late. Please reconsider putting an eye sore in such a lovely setting. I’m sure you would not be happy with a waste facility so close to living areas. 


Comments via Social Media
Far from complete - just a sampling of comments from Sarasotans

This is awful. Doesn’t any of those elected officials care about anything decent at all? Everything is all about money. I’m getting so disgusted with politics and greedy politicians


Yes, this is ALL they care about...$$$$$$$


Total disaster for quality of life in the area, almost criminal for residents, commuters, and visitors on the roads, which cannot in anyway, as constructed, handle the volume of trucks and traffic this will bring.


I cannot go back to see the damage they are doing to this city.


I swear to God these people fly over a city/town and where they see green parcels they feel compelled to fill them. Nature be damned.


absolutely!! There’s a tenant in appraising called “highest and best use” of land and it refers only to $$$.


yes, so true. Best use defined by highest property tax.


Sad. Where would be the last place on earth you’d place a dump? Sad indeed.


 I thought all the protests had worked...unbelievable the visual and environmental blight this will bring. Sarasota will look even more horrible from the freeway than it already does. I wrote to all of them back then...will do so again. Sad, sad.


Also got NO acknowledgement of my emails to any of them when I did write - arrogant & rude, I thought. Probably won't this time, either! 🤑😝


Just what you need to see from I-75. Also, the traffic in that area is terrible. Are they going to widen Palmer?


thank you for doing what I wish EVERYONE would do! Please call, email, write, send letters to the Herald Tribune, Sarasota Audubon, Sierra Club, etc.

The county obviously want this to go quietly under the radar and is counting on most citizens in Sarasota County to be unmoved and/or unaware! This is not over -there are four more pieces of buffer land for sale next to the Celery Fields. The county refers to them as “surplus land” (because they were not used in the flood control project). Not only are they NOT “disposable surplus land” but they are feeding grounds for the birds and wild life that make the Celery Fields a eco-tourist draw and its important that they not be sold off and build on!

The bright side is we'll probably see more eagles. 
(Joking- there is no bright side! Uhg!)


Voting has consequences.


FREAKIN UNBELIEVABLE!!!! What is wrong with these IDIOTS


Please remember this at the next election for county commissioners. We can now vote for a commissioner in your home district. One who will be accountable to the residents of the district.


 voters have short memories. Developers have deep pockets. Commissioners love what’s in the pockets


How many commissioner lunches did this project cost the developer?


Interesting the WTF abbreviation can be understood in at least 2 ways. Given the amount of development East if I-75, and that area being a corridor to the highway and City I have always been shocked that this proposal was ever even considered!! Now it will look like parts of 301. Hardly something that melds with the beauty of Sarasota.


maybe you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Gabbert. He opens up dumps all over the county with a small investment in his part, and then sells them to Sarasota county at a huge profit. We already have more than enough of his dumps.


Where should these types of facilities be built? How about not smack dab adjacent to a premier natural area that attracts birders worldwide. Just stand on the boardwalk and listen to the foreign languages spoken.


WE elect the people who make these decisions for US.


can’t believe they voted for these people again. I really thought we were going to get new blood!!!! Supported Wesley and Rita


Honestly, unless they have plans to widen the roads and create large turning lanes apart from the flow of traffic, I cannot imagine how this is sustainable in terms of the roads handling the traffic this is going to create. I imagine the trucks etc are going to be entering the WTF from Porter Rd? They've literally permitted this WTF directly at the bottleneck that already is causing brutal traffic. Commissioners shot down the other facility this guy wanted to build in 2017 because of traffic concerns, among other reasons. How is this enhancing anyone's quality of life, you know, aside from the politicians bought and paid for? Its going to impossible to unwind this once this WTF becomes the disaster it is destined to be in this area.


it seems the entrance/exit will be on Palmer Blvd. near Bell Rd. Image is from the latest version of the plan. 

Image may contain: drawing

Thanks Tom...for the clarification. This is just a complete clusterf*** in the making. Is anyone aware if there are road improvements in the offing ahead of this construction, which I believe I read will take up to a year to construct? Apart from the clear eyesore this will be, the traffic is set to become at best gridlock, at worst dangerous to the taxpayers.


There are no current road plans, Philip, as far as I know. They have just reopened the Quad parcels - our public lands - for rezoning. The staff memo speaks of getting public input - but the immediate incentive was a study the Board paid for that ignored every actual condition - roads, surroundings, Celery Fields - and stated that the highest and best use of our lands is industrial. Some more info here 


What are the options of a class action to halt the construction of this mess, and hold those responsible for permitting something that will clearly defile the community and quality of life in the area? Does anyone know if we have options or a hole card to play? I don't think its a reach or overreaction to come to the clear conclusion that this WTF is going be a very real problem for people that live, travel in and enjoy the area, and create dangerous road conditions for people/families/visitors.


Well I intend to listen once again to the Board approval from 2015 - perhaps an astute legal expert (which I am not) might find something there that would justify such an action. This hearing begins at 1:52 


 I read some report about "special exceptions" and the creeping damage they do to comprehensive plans. I'll have to see if I can dig it up.


Didn’t Gabbert get shot down from trying to put this thing on Cattlemen? A stones throw from where he has authorization now? This is such a calculated plan, it stinks like his dumps. He’s known for a while all the housing going in to the east and beyond. He likely knew if his master plan got shot down he’d have this in his back pocket to tenderize the area plan. This reeks of good ol boy corruption from the head down. it’s it within bounds?. I’ve watched all the video after 2015, and it’s clear this guys knows his business and is plugged into our county government... anyway, ground we’ve all covered. The calculated nature of this all is placing individual need ahead of taxpayers and constituents. There’s too much land to develop to the east to unseat these muppets though.Shame on any who approved this!


The 2015 special exception was approved by Maio (who pushed for it), Hines, Caragiulo, Mason, and Christine Robinson. The hearing is rather strange and interesting - it's here, beginning 1:52


Maio and Moran in 2017 approved duel waste facility.. the other commissioners had moral compass.. is there a statue of limitations for approvals dating back to 2015? Hundreds of houses are going in.. life’s a bit different than 3 plus years ago.. traffic and congestion...


I would love for an investigative reporter to unearth the motivation behind the commi$$ion’$ vote$ for this travesty.


all 5 commissioners vote for this?


In 2015, yes. [ed. note: the 2015 Board consisted of Maio, Hines, Caragiulo, C. Robinson, Mason]


Palmer in the morning these days Is a traffic nightmare as it is..


The most damning evidence in the previous hearings was the testimony from doctors and a former EPA researcher who said that the grinding of concrete in that area could release airborne carcinogenic particulates that could easily reach to Fruitville or the newer Tatum Ridge Elementary schools depending on wind direction. Its already provable that area can't take the additional traffic (its seriously potholing even now) after the county's own transportation director has testified that Palmer in that area forever will be a two lane road, even with the addition of 2000 new mostly high end homes in recent years on land that once held only cows and horses.


While this facility is simply moving debris from small trucks to larger trucks, there will be dust (no grinding). However, the fact that this will be adjacent to parcel #2, which belongs to us, the public, could factor into the reopened planning the Board just began. That is, while the public has called for land uses on these parcels that benefit our communities, supplement the Celery Fields, and perhaps help the entire area become more walkable and consistent with the beauty and activities of the Celery Fields, the Board could "reason" that because Gabbert's WTF is right there, along with Bob Waechter's slovenly warehouses (next parcel south), the "highest and best use" can only be industrial. More on this here - 


The reopening of the plans for the Quad parcels - OUR parcels - must be open, transparent, inclusive, and recognize that we are all stakeholders 


LARGE PILEs of TRASH Piled HIGH ....for everyone to see ???? How can we allow this trash pile to be in our back YARD !!!! Someone got paid off !!!! SAD for this area ... imagine the stink TOO ... in our neighborhood ... from the trash 😵


Of course someone got paid off -- Mayo for one by having his buddy push funds from PACs into his campaign.


violated county ordinance and Highway beautification? are those violations grounds for a lawsuit? because this is sick!


I asked a county planner about these violations and was told that once the Board has approved a project, it is no longer within planning staff's scope to address them. Of course that doesn't speak to whether planning ought to have brought them up in preparing for the public hearing.


 or whether a private entity could sue them?


Another suggestion I've heard: Demand that any commissioner that has received more than 10 campaign contributions from entities controlled by Gabbert recuse him/herself from any future decisions regarding the Celery Fields area.'


Any commissioner who received $$ from Gabbert, directly or indirectly, is compromised and should have not voted on this issue in the first place.


What a disappointing thing to hear. Not only for the park but that must KILL property values of the neighborhoods out there. Terrible location for that operation!


"I am watching everything I loved about Sarasota being destroyed by people who are supposed to represent me. This may be one of the more overt examples of putting personal gain over the voices of the people and protection of one of the only sacred spaces left in SRQ."


More Letters

. . . I attended many of the meetings and listened to those who spoke in protest . . .. It is obvious that those who have been objecting to this travesty have no voice; those who showed up, spoke up, demonstrated, petitioned and brought sustainable, low impact, eco-friendly ideas for the out parcels ignored.  That those who pointed out the negative impact this would have on housing near by; the clogged roads unable to bear this type of traffic; the unsightliness of having a behemoth of a construction landfill visible as people drive on I-75 toward what is, our beautiful Sarasota.  

At a few of the meetings, those against were given hope that alternative plans would be considered; a glimmer of recognition that this was a poor idea.  It seemed clear that Mr. Gabbert’s proposal would be denied. Funny how that was prior to the election; how everything shifted back to favor now that positions on the County Commission secure.  The timing of this seems off.

A huge amount of housing is being built in Sarasota County; a substantial amount of what is on the ground does not lie off of Palmer Road; it does not lie off of Fruitville.  It does not lie off of University.  The development of Sarasota’s LWR is small by comparison to that which is being built in Palmer Ranch; off of Clark in East County; in the West Villages, North Port and Venice; around Nokomis or Osprey.  Palmer Road is not the center of Sarasota County.  Not only is this location a threat, but there are many areas where this would be more appropriate; areas that do not have hundreds if not thousands of existing units of residential housing near by; areas that would serve the building boom in a much broader sense; areas that are designated for this type of industrial entity which would have little impact on a nature preserve or an above ground watershed that attracts thousands of people from around the world.

And yet, in your infinite wisdom, this is the only spot Mr. Gabbert can put in a toxic ‘reclaimation’ center.  Even though zoning was changed to accommodate two well-monied players this location still doesn’t offer reasonable, high truck traffic access off of I-75 without creating a hazard to existing residential and light commercial flow.   It doesn’t create substantial employment for those who live in the direct area nor is there low income housing for those who are likely work the few jobs that will be offered. Don’t bother pointing out the plethora of new apartment complexes on Honore; an average over $1,500 per month does not support the housing needs of minimum wage / low wage positions.

So please explain why this is the one piece of ground that Mr. Gabbert must have so he can build a copy of what he sold a few years back; that which is somewhat short distance from this location.  We know what that looks like; we know what that sounds like and if you pull up aerials, we know that it was not built near tracts of high density single family housing, retail businesses, restaurants or grocery stores; it is not directly on a school bus route and has minimal effect on area traffic, the intersection at Fruitville re-designed to accommodate commercial traffic flow.  It is not resting at the gateway of our City; is not going to be impeded by the ‘merging diamond' intersection at Fruitville and I-75 nor do I recall that anyone protested when this was put into the industrial park. It was not built next to the major watershed for Philippi Creek; one that has morphed into a beautiful preserve; and, should you think back, the County was directly involved in doing so.

I seriously doubt that millions of dollars are being spent to attract tourists to our area so they can witness poor planning.  Sarasota is rapidly turning in to the butt of an series of man-made and politically generated disasters.  We have a plastic candy cane sewage system which is decades behind where it should be, adding to the pollution in the Gulf; are experiencing over-building which is having a negative impact on existing property; we’re ignoring infrastructure such as maintaining roads, monitoring and controlling traffic flow; avoided the politics of red tide until it became one of the most costly and devastating events our area has seen.  And yet, you see fit to approve a noisy, toxic, airborne and ground water pollution-generating, debris center earmarked ‘light industrial’ near a beautiful watershed filled with wildlife and those who are seeing a tiny bit of nature in this rapidly 'pave paradise' world . . ..

We have elected you to protect our city; our county; our lifestyles.  We have not elected you to serve one poorly placed, profit generating, private commercial enterprise.

For the people?  Or is this simply a case of ‘Buy the Politician'?  Never forget - you have been elected to serve the people of Sarasota County who put you into office.  Allowing this to move forward is not serving your station, as an elected official.



I protest the county's approval of James Gabbert's Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Rd. and Palmer Blvd. The sight of piles of construction debris being moved from trucks to bigger trucks will blight the Celery Fields landscape, clog traffic, and degrade the character of East Palmer Boulevard. Furthermore, the Board violated County Ordinance 89-35 and the Highway Beautification Act. in approving this facility. Mr. Gabbert has been hearing the community's strong voice of opposition for years, yet he persists. I request that the county immediately take the strongest measures to mitigate all anticipated negative impacts of this facility. 

Lory Cedano


Dear Commissioner Moran,

I  protest the county’s approval of James Gabbert’s Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Rd and Palmer Blvd. because of traffic congestion issues and violation of County Ordnance 89-35.

The approved plan has the entrance directly across from Bell Rd. which will create the following traffic congestion issues;
  1. Traffic will compete to either turn from an East bound Palmer Blvd direction into Bell Rd or turn from a West bound Palmer Blvd into the Waste Transfer Facility using the same intersection. 
  2. No turn lanes on either East or West bound Palmer Blvd traffic which will cause trucks to sit in travel lanes while waiting to turn into the Waste Transfer Facility. 
  3. The above two issues will be especially pronounced between 7:30 to 9 am and 2:30 to 5 pm Monday thru Friday
The sight of piles of construction debris will be clearly be seen from I-75 which is a violation of County Ordnance 89-35 and the Highway Beautification Act. This sight is not seen anywhere else in Sarasota County. This sight can be mitigated by using an enclosed facility and landscaping. 

I request that the county immediately take the strongest measures to mitigate the anticipated negative traffic and blight impacts of this facility.

Sincerely Palmer Glen Homeowner,

James L. Smith, P.E.


Re: James Gabbert receiving a county permit to build a Waste Transfer Station 1/31/1

Michael Moran
and 5 more...

Jan 31 at 7:40 PM

Sarasota County Commissioner Moran - District 1 

Please Mitigate in every way possible, Mr. Gabbert's permit that granted for land adjacent to public land. 
We are the stakeholders!

I protest the county's approval of James Gabbert's Waste Transfer Facility at Porter Rd and Palmer Blvd. 

The Board violated County Ordinance 89-35 and Highway Beautification Act in approving this facility to Mr. Gabbert. Not only that, but when purchased in 2014 this "Special Exception" from the Board in 2015 , at a "public hearing" that few if any residents of East Palmer knew about. 

You have been listening to your constituents for over three years now, and yet you have approved and totally disregarded thousands of e mail's and many hours of county meetings.

I request that the county immediately take the strongest measures to mitigate all anticipated negative impacts of this facility, such as :

Leaving the facility on Palmer by Bell Rd. will clog traffic from the light industrial, parks, residents of Palmer Blvd schools and many developments at the underpass. 

Six acres is small for such uses, and the location is just plain wrong. There's no evidence the county ever did a diligent site study as advised by the Federal EPA Guide for Waste Transfer Stations.

waste transfer stations decision making guide.pdf

Please consider the following :
  • attractive buffering 
  • landscaping
  • appropriate hours of operation 
  • enclosed facility (the plan calls for an open facility)
  • compatible lighting
  • sound fencing 
  • themed fencing — perhaps something linked to birding or the celery fields?
  • safe turning lanes

At least two legal considerations ought to have been addressed during the 2015 approval process for this plan, but neither appears to have been considered either by the Board or its attorney:

1. When the Board approved Gabbert's rezone of the six acres, it ignored a county ordinance that specifically requires lands along the I-75 corridor to present a "park-like setting." The I-75 Corridor Plan Ordinance #89-35, Exhibit B, Item M, states:

In recognition of I-75 as an area of critical concern, all critical area plans within the I-75 Critical Area of Concern shall be consistent with the following where applicable:
**(m) a positive image for I-75 through the establishment of quality development within a park-like setting.**

2. The Board also approved Gabbert's waste transfer facility in violation of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which aims, among other things, to beautify highways by screening or forbidding junkyards.

The act called for control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs, along the nation's growing Interstate Highway System and the existing federal-aid primary highway system. It also required certain junkyards along Interstate or primary highways to be removed or screened and encouraged scenic enhancement and roadside development.[2] Highway Beautification Act.

The Board's action violated both laws! This is not a question it is a fact- 

This Board did not consider the character, of an area fortunate to have unusual natural beauty as well as recreational and international tourist activity will suffer.

The Board's' role as the public representative had and has an opportunity to do something positive and of public value on our public lands.

Instead, the process has been a chess game in which the public is treated like an opponent that has to be outwitted through sneaky plan. When planning and considering the sale of public lands, the county commissioners have NOT considered the 15,000 + citizens, at all.

Should you need the 15,000 + citizen and world wide signatures, please let me know. 

 Kindly send a  (none automated) confirmation receipt of this e mail.
Thanking you in advance for your consideration and awaiting your reply, 

Paula Berkowitz
Sarasota County