Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Red Tide: Jono and Julie interview Cris Costello - plus an RtCW update

 If you have an interest in understanding Red Tide, or in how some of the local resources like Mote Marine have interpreted red tide phenomena, you might find this interview with Chris Costello of the Sierra Club eye-opening.

Here's the intro from environmentalists Jono Miller and Julie Morris:

Today's Guest: Cris Costello, Senior Organizing Manager of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club. Get ready to learn about the Legislature and fertilizer, offshore fish farms, and remember that time back in 2014 when 3 out of 4 of us voted to buy more wild land? The government still hasn't complied. 

The show airs Tuesday's at 9 am on WSLR. 

Interview with Cris Costello, WSLR, Tues. July 11, 2023

WSLR archive 

How to listen to WSLR online 


Here's an update on where Petitions to create a Florida Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Clean Water can be obtained and dropped off. 

Questions? Contact Rona Turek.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Wetlands can protect developments (but developments can destroy wetlands)

On June 21, we wrote to Kelly Klepper of Kimley Horn, asking for an update on timing of the DR Horton submission of its plan for 160 homes on the Raymond Road farm to the County's development review coordinating committee (DRC). Still waiting to hear back.

Here's a story from Marketplace.org that offers the kind of vision, common sense, awareness of science, and human ingenuity that we could use more of in Sarasota.

It's about restoring wetlands along the northern Mississippi River in Wisconsin. They're finding that wetlands protect developments that banks are invested in. In fact, banks love these wetlands, and some even offer better interest rates to developers who restore them.

    Mike Sertle, who manages wetlands restoration projects on the Mississippi River for Ducks Unlimited, motions how high the water can get in a roughly 250-acre restored wetland behind him in Southern Illinois on May 24. Eric Schmid/St. Louis Public Radio
Is there something here we might apply to our Celery Fields, and to the proposed DR Horton heap of homes across Raymond Road from them? 

I've put some notes below, but the story is available at this link - it's only a couple of minutes long:

  • Climate change - Riverfront developments
  • The river is a tourist draw - parks, kayaking, fishing, birding
  • Developments - multi-million$ want to tap into natural river activities.
  • Wetlands restoration to manage water - Raskie slough - 60 acres of tall grasses, shallow ponds - birds abound - this slough can hold excess water, but eventually it flows back into the Mississippi - 
  • This Mimics a natural system - $250,000 to restore wetland 
  • Stem flooding from snow melts - Lacrosse Wisconsin  - pumps move from lower areas to wetlands, stores it there - marsh in the city

Having nature "work for them" reduces risk, plus, banks offering loans - give better interest rates on developments that preserve wetlands because the “wetland creates a natural buffer to protect what we’re buying/paying for.”

Your thoughts are most welcome. 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

A local contact for the Right to Clean Water Amendment

A message from Sarasota's local contact point for the Right to Clean Water:

My contact information for The Right to Clean Water is ronaturek@gmail.com

I'm the county ambassador for the initiative and should be contacted by any seeking more information as well as those wanting to help get this proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot for the voters to decide whether they want clean and healthy waters. 

Our legislators have doubled the number of signed petitions required for a citizen-initiated petition drive. By a deadline in this November, we need 900,000 signatures of registered Florida voters on our petitions to qualify for placement on the ballot. So we need your signatures and volunteers who can help for as little as a couple of hours one day gathering signatures, recruiting and informing their neighbors, helping at public venues, and spreading the word to voters in any Florida county.

Anyone may volunteer to help with this initiative, clean water is a concern to all — even if not a registered Florida voter, anyone here is concerned about unhealthy waters — and the other critters will benefit as well. 

website —  https://www.floridarighttocleanwater.org/


donations of any amount  —  https://www.floridarighttocleanwater.org/donate 

walkup location - to sign petition or leave signed petitions —

Architectural Salvage
1093 Central Avenue
downtown Sarasota

volunteer petition gatherers will be at many public venues and events


local contact   ronaturek@gmail.com 

  • get blank petitions   
  • return signed petitions to us locally
  • get yard signs
  • get questions answered  
  • volunteer locally  
  • arrange for a speaker to your neighborhood, group, organization

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sarasota Audubon: Join the Neighborhood Workshop Tuesday 6 pm

From Sarasota Audubon, regarding an intense development proposed on Raymond Rd. A Neighborhood Workshop will be held via Zoom Tuesday, May 23, at 6 pm.

The Zoom link:  https://kimley-horn.zoom.us/s/98962380195

Audubon Logo2leftBanner.jpg


  • Zoom Meeting This Tues. May 23, 6:00 PM
  • Read below and click link for more INFO

49 ACRE Raymond Rd. Farm being

Developed by D.R. Horton Homes

Within the last few weeks, we have learned that the Raymond Road farm is up for sale. This 49+ acre farm is opposite the Raymond Road boardwalk at the Celery Fields, Sarasota. The developer (D.R. Horton Inc.) is in the process of applying for rezoning so that 160+ homes can be built there. On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 6 pm, the developer and Kimley-Horn Associates, the design engineers, are holding a neighborhood information Zoom meeting. You can join the Zoom meeting at the link below.

See also the attached notice from KHA and the accompanying plan of the development. This is not a County public hearing. We strongly encourage you to listen in so that we can all learn more about this proposed project.

Over the past several years, SAS has sent letters to the owners - the Smith family - asking them to consider a conservation easement on their land and referring them to the Conservation Foundation. Neither SAS nor CFGC received any acknowledgement or responses to our letters. Furthermore, we did not know about this impending sale; no for sale signs were posted.

Once we at SAS have more information, we will formulate a position to let you know what we can all do to help minimize the impact on the Celery Fields and its wildlife from this unexpected development.

Development Plan Notice
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Sarasota Audubon Society | 999 Center RoadSarasota, FL 34240

Friday, May 19, 2023

Development near Celery Fields raises many questions

Below: An open letter to the Board regarding the adequacy of online Neighborhood Workshops. The workshop discussed below is scheduled to be on Zoom only, on Tuesday, May 23, at 6 pm. 

Zoom link:  https://kimley-horn.zoom.us/s/98962380195

To: The Board of Sarasota County Commissioners, Mr. Moran, Mr. Cutsinger, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Neunder

From: Tom Matrullo

Date: May 19, 2023

Re: Workshop for housing proposed next to Celery Fields Wetlands

A proposal for intense single family housing on some 49 acres along Raymond Road has lately come to the attention of the Sarasota community. As the Celery Fields is a beloved environment prized for its nesting and migrating birds -- a unique asset that brings tourists from all over the world, the cumulative impact of 160+ new homes in close proximity to these nesting wetlands raises a host of questions and concerns.

Part of site plan for Raymond Rd
In order to address important community questions that could involve everything from bird and animal life to ecotourism and water quality, neighborhood traffic, flooding, lighting and more, all steps in the planning process deserve to be handled with integrity.

To this end, I and others ask that you require a Neighborhood Workshop that will be held live (an online component could be included for those out of state.) I'm sure you've heard from citizens who have been frustrated when seeking to participate in various workshops via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Many citizens do not even use tools like Zoom, some do not own computers.

What's more, these online meetings depend on the developer's agent for their timing and informational quality. I can attest that at some online workshops I've attended, the information presented was minimal, the images were small and blurry, sound quality was poor, the question period was brief, and the opportunities for follow-up questions were non-existent. 

Given that the birding, hiking, fishing, kayaking and ecotourism at the Celery Fields are activities that mean a great deal to our citizens, the questions surrounding the impacts of this proposal go far beyond the number of homes, parking spaces, and entrances. An online Workshop will not do justice to the complications of this proposal.

A live workshop with stormwater quality experts, environmental and tourism personnel on hand as well as the developer's agent is warranted to address the full range of issues raised by this development.

For the sake of a fair, open process, please require a live workshop with appropriate staff to get the planning process off to a reasonable start. This project is likely to eventually land on your desks -- here's an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand our concerns and are doing what you can to allow the public to examine the potential impacts from this project's intensity and proximity fully and fairly.


Tom Matrullo

Thursday, May 18, 2023

160 Homes Proposed next to Celery Fields Wetlands

A developer's proposal to build 160 single family homes on Raymond Road opposite the Celery Fields will be presented on Tuesday, May 23, beginning at 6 pm. The workshop will be online only. Concerned residents must use this Zoom link to attend:

Zoom link:  https://kimley-horn.zoom.us/s/98962380195

The land immediately south of Palmer Boulevard and across from the nesting area of the Celery Fields wetland has been mostly empty except for a few cows for many years. The property appraiser lists it here. 

The paperwork submitted by the planning firm calls for 160 homes to be built by D.R. Horton on the 49-acre site, but also suggests the number could be higher. 

Kimley Horn will present the Workshop, which will have no in-person gathering.

Although the Celery Fields is a publicly owned asset, the Planning Department only advertised the Workshop to homes within about 750 feet of the property.

About Neighborhood Workshops:

Neighborhood Workshops are a preliminary step in the planning process -- it gives the developer an opportunity to present a proposed project to the public, and receive public comment. 

With the arrival of Covid-19 in 2020, many public meetings moved online, including these workshops. This has led to a degradation of the value of this step in the process, for a few reasons:

1. Online, the presenters have made very brief presentations, leaving out important context. A complex plan for a Benderson project was presented in less than 10 minutes.

2. The public has no chance to view the maps and other data first hand. 

3. Some residents are not familiar with Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. In a recent meeting that utilized Teams, all that could be seen were small, blurry images, while the sound cut in and out. About half the meeting was inaudible. 

4. The online meeting is under the control of the planning firm hired by the developer. Some agents allow time for questions and follow-ups, but others end the meeting before attendees have all their questions answered. More on this here.

5. Advocates for fair land use planning have been asking the County Commission to return to live Workshops, but this one is still online only. The Zoom link should be live at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23.

             Zoom link:  https://kimley-horn.zoom.us/s/98962380195 

The 2023 Florida Legislative Session

 A few slides from the 1000 Friends of Florida's May 17 Review of Florida's 2023 legislative session.

Bills passed: 

Bills that should have passed, but didn't:

This legislative failure is why a Right to Clean Water Amendment needs to be in the Florida Constitution.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Some Florida counties don't leave their people in the dark

In some Florida counties, elected officials meet with constituents, take calls, and reach out through emails. If Sarasota County Commissioners ever did much of this, that ship long since has sailed. 

Our public hearings are often divisive, with poor information and little public awareness. These days the very time of a "public" hearing might be shifted at the last minute, without notice to the public.

How might our county be different if our elected representatives shared information about upcoming agendas the way this Board Member from Orange County has been doing?

May 2, 2023 BCC Meeting Preview

Celebrating at the Florida Puerto Rican Day Parade & Festival on April 22nd

Board of County Commissioners Update

Happy Friday, West Orange County!

Our next Board of County Commissioners meeting is on Tuesday, May 2nd. Residents are able to attend these meetings and speak about any specific item for which a Public Hearing is scheduled. This portion of the meeting begins around 2:00pm. We'll be happy to see you participate.

It's been a busy month in District 1. If you haven't yet, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates from our side of Orange County. Also, Be sure to check out our Year in Review where we celebrate all of our office's accomplishments, progress, and fun times from 2022.

Watch the BCC Meeting Live!


  • Proclamation recognizing May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — click here to find a list of upcoming events to celebrate!

Consent Agenda

  • Item J-5: Approval to decrease the speed limit on Turkey Lake Road from Central Florida Parkway to Vineland Avenue from 45 mph to 40 mph. (click here for full report)
  • Item J-8: Approval to decrease the speed limit on Town Loop Boulevard from John Young Parkway to East Town Center Boulevard from 35 mph to 30 mph. (click here for full report)
  • Item J-9: Approval to decrease the speed limit on John Young Parkway from Equity Row to Central Florida Greenway from 55 mph to 45 mph. (click here for full report)
  • Item J-11: Approval of a multi-way stop condition at the intersection of Summerport Village Parkway and Lake Smith Circle. (click here for full report)

Discussion Agenda

  • Item A-1: Visit Orlando Annual Update from Cassandra Matej, the company's President and CEO.

Work Session Agenda

  • Item 1: Stormwater Management - Moving Towards a Resilient Future

Since entering office, I've requested updates to our stormwater management standards and formulas, often after hearing from D1 residents experiencing standing water in areas that were dry in the past. In the aftermath of 2022's hurricanes, these concerns were amplified by the entire Board.

As a result, two stormwater management work sessions have been scheduled for the May 2, 2023 and May 23, 2023 Board meetings. The first work session will review the impacts of the 2022 flooding events and will review the County's existing stormwater-related programs. This will include our design standards, basin studies, maintenance and inspection, and capital improvement


Public Hearings

Item G-14: Lake Dennis Planned Development/Lake Dennis PSP (Case # LUPA-21-11-335)

  • Applicant is requesting to to subdivide 45.17 acres, generally located north of Lake Star Road and west of Avalon Road, in order to construct 95 single-family residential dwelling units. Click here for full report.

Item H-17: Waterleigh Planned Development/ Land Use Plan (Case # CDR-22-11-355)

  • The applicant is seeking to update the conceptual Village Center layout and add two new permitted uses in the Village Center District. including a liquor store and a self-storage facility. Click here for full report.

Item I-18: Hamlin West Planned Development (Case # LUPA-21-11-335)

  • The applicant is seeking to rezone 19.11 acres from A-1 (Citrus Rural District) to PD (Planned Development District) and add the property to the existing Hamlin West PD; and designate the area as Corporate Campus Mixed Use District on the Horizon West Land Use Map. Click here for full report.

Item K-20: Village at Avalon PD/LUP (Case # LUP-22-06-199)

  • Applicant is seeking to rezone property located west of Avalon Road, south of Grove Blossom Way, and east of the Lake County line from Village (V) to Growth Center-Planned Development-Commercial/Medium Density Residential in order to build housing units and commercial space. Click here for full report.

ABC's of the BCC

The Board of County Commissioners meets every other Tuesday.

Come on down!

Board of County Commissioners meetings occur every other Tuesday with a morning agenda and an afternoon agenda.

The morning agenda allows public comment on any topic at 9:00am, where a constituent may come to the Orange County Administration Building in person and give your thoughts on any item except for a public hearing, which is later.

Work Sessions or items on the Discussion Agenda are up for debate by the Board and are not voted on.

Public hearings begin after 2:00pm, which include zoning variances, public appeals, ordinances, and more. This is where constituents can submit public comments in person on a specific issue.

To attend the BCC, please find information here.

As always, do not hesitate to reach out to our office with any questions or concerns at district1@ocfl.net

Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson, District 1 | 201 S. Rosalind Avenue, 5th Floor, Orlando, FL 32801