P.O. Box 1728
Nokomis, FL 34274
Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016 5:10 am
SARASOTA, Fla. -- At the corner of University Parkway and Honore Avenue sits 4 acres of previously protected wetlands. It's a last remaining piece of nature in the middle of urban sprawl, says environmentalist Andy Mele.
"It feels like you're stepping into a medieval French cathedral," said Mele of the property, "with shafts of light coming down on water."
The small piece of land is the site of a large controversy. Now there's lawsuit against Sarasota County.
"We've been watching them for awhile," said Mele of the County Commission, "and this is the place where we decided to draw the line."
In January, the county heard from those against construction as well as a few in favor.
"I go to Whole Foods at least twice a week," said one local resident, "but I have to go all the way across town."
Commissioners also heard from county staff who called the wetlands "relatively rare" with a "high degree of environmental importance."
Ultimately the county voted to allow developer S.J. Collins to build a Whole Foods shopping center and Wawa convenient store, a decision environmentalists say goes against the county's comprehensive plan.
In exchange, Collins agreed to purchase wetlands to be preserved in Manatee County's Rye Preserve, but Glenn Compton of Manasota 88 says that addition doesn't offset what's happening in Sarasota County.
"The fact is the wetlands that are being set aside would probably never be developed anyhow," said Compton, "so there's really nothing being gained."
Plus, Compton says this could affect much more than just these four acres, potentially setting a precedent for other construction in the county.
"We think we have a very good chance of winning this case," said Compton, "and hopefully not allowing for the precedents to continue moving forward."