Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sarasota's "park-like setting"


This is the site of James Gabbert’s pending Waste Transfer Facility as seen from I-75, with the Celery Fields in the distance. The row of trees separates Gabbert’s planned facility from the Public’s 10-acre quad parcel #2. Gabbert received his permit Jan. 31.

James Gabbert received county approval to build his Waste Transfer Facility (WTF) (six acres at Porter and Palmer next to the highway) on Thurday, Jan. 31, 2019. Mr. Gabbert's parcel is immediately adjacent to I-75. He owns his site, the small rectangle at the left side of parcel #2. The numbered parcels are public land.



Maio
The land that Mr. Gabbert purchased in 2014 did not allow this use. He asked for and received a "Special Exception" from the Board in 2015, at a "public hearing" that few if any residents of East Palmer knew about. A copy of the WTF site plan is here; related documents are here. "This is a special exception that needs to be approved," said Commissioner Al Maio, in moving it to a vote. Here's the permit letter.


Why is this a problem?
  • This is an open facility: Tall piles of construction debris will present a highway eyesore, blighting the view and character of the Celery Fields public lands (photo above).
  • This WTF will be the first thing drivers see coming through the I-75 underpass at Palmer Blvd.
  • Trucks entering and leaving the facility on Palmer by Bell Rd. could clog traffic from the industrial parks residents Palmer Blvd 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.
  • This heavy industrial use required a special exception (the land was originally zoned for light industry). This harsher use could influence future planning for the public lands at Apex and Palmer. For example, the county could consider affordable housing on the 13-acre public parcel #2 next to it - but given the WTF, they might incline to see heavy industry as "more compatible."
In short: The Board of County Commissioners used its role of public steward to create blight where none exists.

Gabbert
Mr. Gabbert's permit is granted for land adjacent to public land. That makes us all stakeholders. We can write to the County to require the developer to mitigate the negative impacts. Various kinds of mitigation are possible:


>>>>>ACTION ITEM<<<<<<


Write to your district commissioner (copying the others) and relevant county staff and demand that this incompatible plan be mitigated every way possible. 
  • 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
Email addresses:

Planning
  • Mark Loveridge - Planning and development permitting: mloverid@scgov.net
  • Matt Osterhoudt - Planning Director: mosterho@scgov.net
  • Jane Grogg - Long Range Planning: jgrogg@scgov.net  
  • County Administrator Jonathan Lewis: countyadministrator@scgov.net 

  • CC or BCC: Fresh Start: freshstartSarasota@gmail.com


Elected Officials - This land is in District 1, Commissioner Moran's district:

District 1: Mike Moran: mmoran@scgov.net
District 2: Christian Ziegler: cziegler@scgov.net
District 3: Nancy C. Detert: ncdetert@scgov.net
District 4: Alan Maio: amaio@scgov.net
District 5: Charles Hines: chines@scgov.net

All five commissioners can also be copied by using commissioners@scgov.net

NOTE: Commissioners Maio and Moran voted FOR Gabbert's larger Waste Processing Facility that the citizens of Sarasota strenuously opposed, ultimately persuading three Commissioiners - Caragiulo, Detert, and Hines - to vote against the dump in August 2017. Gabbert already had his 6-acre site approval. Mr. Gabbert and Robert Waechter have long been paying supporters of four board members (only Detert is not funded by them), and political allies of Maio in particular.

=========

Further points

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.
Most reasonable citizens would say that the Board's action violated both laws.



This project will blight the landscape and "brand" this area of Sarasota for tens of millions of drivers on I-75. The character of an area fortunate to have unusual natural beauty as well as recreational and international tourist activity will suffer.

The Board is about to reopen a critical area plan that concerns these public parcels. Some fear that the Board’s thinking about Parcel #2 might be impacted by Mr. Gabbert’s WTF, as well as Robert Waechter’s warehouses along its south side. The Board might find it easier to say, “Although this parcel is public land, it’s already bordered on two sides by industrial uses, so it should be industrial too.”

This is supposed to be the Board's' role as public steward and 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 stratagems. When planning and considering the sale of public lands, the only appropriate civic use of the term "highest and best use" is “a use that serves some significant public good.”

What are some potential public uses for these parcels?

Workforce housing
Civic center 
Outdoor arena 
History and tourist center
Athletic facilities 
Garden 
Food trucks or eatery 
New forested bird habitat to buffer the Celery Fields
Send us more ideas




Background:

County Ordinance #89-35, Exhibit B, Item M requires that development along the I-75 corridor offer “a park-like setting.”

Timeline of Board handling of WTF and Waste Processing Facility

08.20.2015: Planning Commission 8.20.2015 hearing on WTF Item 4 (video)

10.14.2015: Board of County Commissioners hearing on WTF Item 8 (video) Gabbert's waste transfer facility was approved. Moved for approval by Maio, approved by Commissioners Maio, Hines, Robinson, Caragiulo, Mason.


“Park-like setting”?
Spoonie courtesy of Chuck Behrmann

Monday, January 28, 2019

Waterkeeper to address Red Tide at CONA Sarasota

CONA logo graphic
Sarasota County Council of 
Neighborhood Associations - CONA





      MondayFebruary 112019
 
        -  monthly meeting  - 
  
 
how we feed red tide
      
  On February 11, 2019, please join CONA-Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, to hear the executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper, Justin Bloom, discuss factors fueling red tide that potentially, are within our control and steps that may be taken to reverse our contributions to the exacerbation of the natural cycle into the protracted toxic calamity we have been experiencing.  
            
  Suncoast Waterkeeper is a Sarasota-based nonprofit that seeks to protect and restore waterways in our community and beyond, through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy, and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources. It is one of more than 300 waterkeeper programs around the world. Waterkeepers are a combination of watchdog, investigator, scientist, educator, and legal advocate, protecting rights to clean water and empowering citizens to defend their waterways.
         
  CONA will hold a series of programs related to red tide in order to encourage community action to reduce factors. Understanding all of the factors may lead to the identification of actions the community can take to reduce red tide and point to the best timetable for actions as we tackle the reduction of red tide.
                      
 
 Following a traditional half-hour social beforehand, the meeting will open with brief neighborhood updates about their issues, including Chris Bales on Arbor Lake PreserveBen Cannon on Bath and Racquet ClubSura Kochman on Siesta Promenade, and Tom Matrullo on the Celery Fields and Fresh Start.
                                                                         
  See www.conasarasota.org/meetings.html for more information.
               
social 6:30 p.m. -  meeting 7:00 p.m.

        
neighbors helping neighborhoods since 1961
 
                                                 
    
CONA meetings are free and open to the public as well as members of the more than seventy associations the organization represents and its individual members. Unless otherwise noted, the meetings are held at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota, which is at the intersection of Tamiami Trail, south of the Municipal Auditorium. Parking and the entrance are reached from Van Wezel Way. Socials precede the meetings at 6:30 p.m., the meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.  
                   
For additional information about CONA and our schedule of upcoming meetings, 
please see the CONA web site

copyright © 2019 Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations 
all rights reserved
      

Friday, January 25, 2019

UPDATE: Developers seek utility, intensification in rural East Sarasota

East Sarasota residents at neighborhood workshop

It was standing room only at Yeshua's Love Biblical Fellowship in East Sarasota Thursday evening as residents came to listen and to speak back to planning and land use engineer Donald A. Neu.

Neu pointing to area of planned
Super Hamlet at Fruitville/Verna
At the Jan. 24, 2019 neighborhood workshop, Neu presented a plan for a master water and sewer utility and housing development at Fruitville and Verna roads. The plan would double the density allowed for a hamlet by the County's Comprehensive Plan. The concept, still in the early planning stage, calls for 3,200 homes on 1,600 acres, and proposes using transferred development rights generated by the land within the same property. Some commercial development might eventually be added, Neu said during his brief presentation.
The response from the community lasted 45 minutes, with virtually every speaker raising concerns about density, traffic, and potential impacts on their rural way of life. 

"2050 [the county's comprehensive plan] was built for a reason," said one man, adding it was designed to draw lines between areas of higher and lower density that aren't supposed to be crossed. "With this," he added, "2050 is out the door."

Another person said the 2050 plan's intent was to "protect the rural character" and "respect diversity."

"You're creating sprawl at the very eastern end of the county," a woman added.

After 35 minutes of discussion, Rod Krebs, one of several landowners who agreed to explore this development plan, addressed the room. He said he appreciated the courtesy of those who came out, drawing applause when he added, "I may not go forward - I just have to evaluate this."


More about the plan below.



A Jan. 24 neighborhood workshop will propose yet another intensifying amendment to the 2050 Comp Plan. Developers Don Neu and Rod Krebs want to create a new master utility in East Sarasota County at North Fruitville and Verna roads. They will seek to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow sufficient density to enable the sewer system to be economically viable.

Area of Northeast Sarasota County where intensified
hamlets served by a new master utility are envisioned

Neu and Krebs will ask the county to bless an expanded notion of the hamlet form (more density) and use transfers of development rights in an unprecedented way to increase hamlet density. The novel idea would use TDRs generated by the site on the same site.

In the Comprehensive Plan, hamlets are conceived as low density, consisting of perhaps 1 or 2 units per acre, with a maximum of 400 units. This plan would seek permission for a higher density on more than 2,000 acres north of Fruitville Road at Verna Road.

As one planner notes in the video, the Comp Plan envisioned larger Villages closer to the highway, and smaller, rural hamlets out farther east.

This proposal is designed to stimulate development farther East where Fruitville Road ends, and will require an amendment basically to reverse what the 2050 plan envisioned.

Video of the discussion at the Development Review Committee in December:



The neighborhood workshop:

Thursday Jan. 24
8893 Fruitville Rd. (Yeshua's Love Biblical Fellowship)
6 pm


Area image provided by developers


Monday, January 21, 2019

North Port to consider Resolution on State Amendment 1


 This communication from City of North Port Vice-Mayor Debbie McDowell will be proposed on Tuesday at the city. It seeks action on Amendment 1:


I wanted to let you know on Tuesday, January 22 at 6 p.m. I have requested a vote on a resolution to urge the state legislature to fund Amendment 1. You’ll remember Amendment 1 was voted on in 2014, statewide, to set funds aside to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands. 


If this passes, I will be requesting a copy of the resolution be forwarded to our state legislature and the Florida League of Cities with the hopes they will enact a similar resolution.  I will also request the resolution be forwarded to other municipalities and county governments. 

I hope you will be able to attend the meeting to encourage a “yes” vote from the rest of the commission.   Public comment is welcomed and encouraged.  If you can’t attend, please email all of the commissioners at once --  Commissioners@cityofnorthport.com.

Have a great evening.

Debbie McDowell
Vice-Mayor
City of North Port
4970 City Hall Blvd.
North Port, FL  34286
Office:  941-429-7071
City Cell:  941-628-0486


On Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, North Port became the first municipality in Florida to adopt a resolution asking that the new governor reinitiate the statewide Advanced Stormwater Treatment Rule. This Rule would set in motion a scientific testing period for a process that could reduce the outflow of nutrients from stormwater systems statewide by 80% or more. Current systems function at a rate of 40-45%, according to scientists who have worked on this for nearly two decades. Find out more about this North Port initiative here.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Community sues to halt Siesta Promenade


Courtesy of the Sarasota News Leader

Subscribe to the SNL

Lawsuit filed to try to halt construction of Siesta Promenade at U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection


Siesta resident seeking contributions to pay for litigation

This is the binding development concept plan for Siesta Promenade approved by the county Planning Commission and the County Commission. Image courtesy Sarasota County

A petition filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court on Jan. 11 argues that the December 2018 decision of the Sarasota County Commission to allow the construction of the Siesta Promenade mixed-use project was unlawful for a multitude of reasons.
James P. Wallace, a Siesta Key resident since 1964, told members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) during their regular meeting on Jan. 10 that he was angered by the series of commission votes on Dec. 12, 2018 that figuratively paved the way for the project to proceed.
Only then-Chair Nancy Detert voted against all but one of the motions following a public hearing that lasted approximately seven hours. Commissioner Charles Hines joined her in opposing the motion to rezone most of the 24-acre site in the northwest quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. The only motion Detert voted in favor of allows street vacations of portions of Crestwood Avenue and Brentwood Avenue; the vacation was designed to facilitate the site plan and traffic flow around the property.
Wallace acknowledged to his fellow SKA members on Jan. 10 that he did not get involved in the fight against Siesta Promenade until shortly before the Dec. 12 public hearing. “My wife kept telling me I needed to worry about this thing,” he said, but he was busy with major projects for his work.
(When he testified during the Siesta Promenade public hearing, Wallace told the commissioners he is a systems engineer.)
“The more I got involved,” he said during the SKA meeting, “the madder I got, frankly. … This [commission decision], I think, [is] a really serious problem.”
Wallace added of the lawsuit, “We need to win this. We absolutely need to win it.” He said he would “try [his] best to stop this project by any legal means possible.”

An aerial map shows part of Pine Shores Estates next to the Siesta Promenade site. Image from Google Maps

The complaint has a single plaintiff: Sura Kochman, a resident of the Pine Shores Estates community, which would be the immediate neighbor of Siesta Promenade. Kochman had been a leader of opponents of the project, as it was designed. Her ownership of a home in Pine Shores gives her “standing” in the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, as the legal document explains: “As a direct and proximate result of the [County Commission’s] approval, including the Project’s higher density, [Kochman] will be adversely affected by increased traffic, increased height, increased density and increased intensity and use of the [property].”
Benderson Development also won County Commission approval of a Critical Area Plan (CAP) designation for Siesta Promenade, which allowed the company density as high as 25 units per acre, instead of the 13 units per acre provided for under county regulations for districts zoned Commercial General.
Along with the 80-foot-tall hotel, Benderson plans one condominium/apartment tower that would stand 65 feet high, as well as 40-foot-tall residential buildings. The latter would be closest to Pine Shores residents.
During the Dec. 12 hearing, Commissioner Hines talked of the potential discomfort of Pine Shores residents coming out of their homes to get their morning newspapers and looking up at balconies in that 65-foot-high residential structure in Siesta Promenade.
Many of the speakers during the hearing also stressed that traffic at the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection already is terrible during the height of tourist season, as people try to reach Siesta Public Beach via Stickney Point Road. Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office personnel wrote $166 tickets early this year to drivers who created gridlock at the intersection as they tried to make it through the traffic signals to reach Stickney Point Road.
Additionally, a number of those who testified talked of worries that, with Siesta Promenade on the northwest corner of the intersection — generating even more vehicle trips every day — emergency personnel will encounter long delays reaching people suffering medical emergencies or responding to major structural fires on Siesta Key.

Traffic is at a standstill on April 3, 2018 at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, where the proposed Siesta Promenade would be built. Contributed photo

The emergency vehicle response issue is one that Wallace focused on during his SKA remarks.
“How could it be that the board would sit there and hear so many excellent legal as well as traffic analyses [and arguments related to planning issues] and just vote to approve [Siesta Promenade]?” he asked.
As he and his wife have lived on Siesta Key for decades, Wallace continued, they have “a pretty good feel for the ramifications of treating [the Siesta Promenade] corner … like any other corner on [U.S.] 41.” Yet, Wallace pointed out, that intersection, “is clearly the primary entrance” to Crescent Beach on Siesta Key.
Crescent Beach is south of Siesta Beach Park.
The attorney handling the complaint is Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral.
The petition indicates that Sarasota attorney Robert Lincoln is representing Benderson Development. The Sarasota News Leader did not get a response from Lincoln to its request for a comment.
The policy of the Office of the County Attorney is not to comment on litigation that is underway, county staff has explained on several occasions to the News Leader.
Paying for the litigation

James P. Wallace addresses Siesta Key Association members on Jan. 10. Rachel Hackney photo

Wallace further pointed out to the SKA members that he has been working to raise money to cover the expense of the lawsuit. The estimate he had received, he said, was $75,000.
Both SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner and the Siesta Key Condominium Council (SKCC) already have sent out email blasts to inform members of their organizations about the legal challenge.
In their Jan. 11 notice, the Condominium Council leaders pointed out that they had opposed Siesta Promenade by sending letters to the County Commission, speaking at the county Planning Commission hearing on the proposal, which was conducted on Nov. 15, 2018, and addressing the County Commission on Dec. 12. “These actions were taken on the belief that the vast majority of the Condo Membership were against the development,” the notice says.
Both Luckner, during the Jan. 10 SKA meeting, and the Condominium Council leadership have explained that if anyone desires to provide financial support for the lawsuit, the person may send a check to the Sarasota law firm of Bentley & Bruning, with the notation that the money is for the Siesta Promenade lawsuit. Wallace explained on Jan. 10 that Bentley & Bruning will compile all the funds in a trust account.
The firm’s address is 783 S. Orange Ave., Suite 300, Sarasota, 34236.
Any money not spent, Wallace stressed, will be returned on a pro-rata basis.
Facets of the complaint
Among the arguments in the petition is that the County Commission did not allow members of the public sufficient time to provide testimony during the public hearing as they addressed facets of Benderson’s proposal. “This was an extremely complex set of four different applications that experts for the opposition opined did not meet requirements of the [county’s] Land Development Code,” the complaint says. Nevertheless, the speakers “were cut off” after only 3 minutes into their presentations “(for all 4 applications together!),” the petition says.
Typically, the County Commission allows 5 minutes per person during a public hearing. However, after then-Chair Detert reported that 90 speaker cards had been turned in before the start of the Siesta Promenade hearing, she asked the audience members whether they would be willing to shorten their statements to 3 minutes each. The majority of them agreed to that, as indicated by a show of hands.
Brookes cites two opinions of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal and one of the Third District Court of Appeal in arguing that more time should have been allowed for the speakers.

A graphic shows how Benderson Development has planned the transition of building height in Siesta Promenade. Image courtesy Sarasota County

For Siesta Promenade, Benderson was seeking not only the rezoning and the Critical Area Plan designation but also a Special Exception for inclusion of the hotel on the site and the approval of the street vacation.
“The denial of a meaningful opportunity to be heard and present expert opinion evidence … violates fundamental procedural due process,” the complaint says.
On another point, the petition contends that county staff and the commission failed to adhere to a county ordinance specifying how a Critical Area Plan (CAP) application should be handled. Brian Lichterman of Sarasota, a consultant who worked for decades as a county planner before opening his own firm, was among those who pointed out to the commissioners that county regulations required their approval of the boundary of the CAP as an initial step in the process. Yet, the CAP approval did not take place until after the Dec. 12, 2018 public hearing had concluded.
Further, the complaint argues that the County Commission did not consider how Siesta Promenade could lead to restricted access to Siesta Key.
The petition also contends that Benderson Development did not provide “any competent substantial evidence” that the project “was compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.” The term “competent substantial evidence” is used in reference to local government hearings that are conducted like trials. An applicant must demonstrate that he or she will be in compliance with all of the affected local government’s land development regulations.
The complaint points out that traffic from Siesta Promenade will travel the roads in “surrounding residential neighborhoods,” which is a violation of a Future Land Use policy in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

A table in a county staff report offers these details about anticipated traffic generation related to Siesta Promenade. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Additionally, the complaint argues that the County Commission ignored “uncontested testimony and evidence” that the installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C “will have a negative effect on emergency access to Siesta Key.”
Benderson Development’s traffic consultant on the project — Kimley-Horn and Associates of Sarasota — recommended the traffic signal as a means of dealing with the thousands of extra vehicle trips anticipated on a daily basis in the area of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road after Siesta Promenade has been completed.

These are among the arguments outlined in the Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Image courtesy Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Siesta Promenade: Citizens take legal action

Dear All,

A very concerned and motivated resident of Siesta Key has been pursuing an avenue through which the approval of the Siesta Promenade application by the Board of County Commissioners could be overturned.

This resident has, on his own, raised funds which enabled Attorney Ralf Brookes to be  engaged to handle this case with the pro bono assistance of Morgan Bentley.  As most of you may know, Morgan laid the groundwork for an appeal by sending letters to County Attorney Alan Roddy, pointing out the many procedural and other errors that were taking place. To see these letters, please visit the website:


A Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was filed on Friday, 1/11/19 with the 12th Circuit Court of Appeal. 
 
A plaintiff with unquestionable standing and affected status was needed. I was asked, and did agree, to be the plaintiff, as I live within 20' of the Benderson property.

This Writ of Certiorari is a request for an order of the court to quash and remand the decision for failure to afford procedural due process and failure to comply with essential requirements of law.  A link to the Writ will be made available on the website mentioned above, under the "Updates" tab once amendments are finalized.   

To continue go forward with this legal action, we will need additional funding. Morgan Bentley is providing an Attorney Trust account for all donations, without any charge. Having an Attorney Trust account provides a guarantee that all funds will be used correctly and also, returned, pro rata, should they not be fully utilized.

This case is winnable!  Our goal is to ensure that development of the land located at the Stickney Point Road/US-41 intersection is developed in a compatible manner with the surrounding residential neighborhoods and retail establishments. It should not be detrimental to their quality of life, health, safety and welfare, nor cause undue hardship for anyone wishing to access Siesta Key.


Your support is crucial and can be accomplished with a check made out to the following:
Bentley & Bruning, P.A
Re: Siesta Promenade Trust Account
783 South Orange Ave, Suite 300
Sarasota FL 34236

Thank you,

Sura Kochman
Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance







Monday, January 14, 2019

How Florida democracy turns to crooked bananas

Lies, Money, Crooked districts . . .

Behind the scenes, Bainter pulls strings

by Andrew Caplan, Gainesville Sun

“Rarely do you have someone so powerful that wants to remain behind the scenes,” said Daniel Smith, an elections expert and University of Florida professor.
Tucked away in an industrial park outside northwest Gainesville is a business run by one of Florida’s most influential operatives in GOP politics.

Despite his growing list of high-profile clients, being named in a gerrymandering scandal in 2012 and having ties to dozens of political committees that shift tens of millions of dollars every election cycle, few know the man who has helped elect dozens of lawmakers.

“He is the best-kept secret in Alachua County, if not the state,” said Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida. “Rarely do you have someone so powerful that wants to remain behind the scenes.”

Since 1987, Patrick Jay Bainter has steadily built Data Targeting from a startup company to a must-have campaign team for Republicans, often securing victories for candidates at all levels of government, sometimes with the help of associates and questionable tactics.

More - entire article worth reading

Sarasota enjoys two beneficiaries of this slimebucket shop: Vern Buchanan and Joe Gruters

via Herald Tribune

See also: Joe Gruters elected Florida GOP Chair

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Maria Ruhl now on the 12th District Bench



Venice attorney Maria Ruhl was sworn in Friday, Jan. 4, as the newest judge of the 12th Judicial District, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

Ruhl won her seat fair and square in the last election. Over the last few years, some judges have been appointed via a committee run by developer Pat Neal, himself an appointee of Rick Scott.

Born in Venezuela, Ruhl came to the US with her mother and 6 sisters when she was 3 years old. She is the District's first Hispanic judge.

Surrounded by the judges of the district, Chief Circuit Judge Charles E. Williams administered the oath of office to Ruhl, whose husband stood beside her.




Shake up?

In a district where judges often avoid having to run for election, Ruhl's victory could encourage more attorneys to challenge sitting judges, according to sources contacted by the Herald Tribune. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

New power lines will not be in Celery Fields area

FPL has made its decision on the route of the new transmission lines that will support growth in East Sarasota County, and it's the choice preferred by the communities near the Celery Fields and the Fresh Start Initiative -- the route along Clark Road:

FPL Power line route along Clark Rd (click image to enlarge)

Celery Fields advocates and residents had expressed concern at an optional route that would have taken the tall power lines along Palmer Blvd and Apex Rd. near the birding, wildlife and recreation area. Here is the communication from FPL manager Rae Dowling:
After an extensive route selection study by the project team, that included feedback from a diverse Community Advisory Panel, an open house meeting, and meetings with neighborhood groups and community leaders, I’m writing to let you know that Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) has selected its preferred route for the proposed Bobwhite-Howard 138 kV transmission line. On behalf of the entire project team, I want to thank you for your participation in our Community Advisory Panel and for the time you invested providing your perspectives for us to consider in our study.  Having the perspective of our customer’s voice in important to us and we truly value your contribution to this important project. The preferred route, which is included in the attachment to this email, follows along almost the entire 13-mile length of existing FPL transmission and distribution lines, a siting criteria consistently endorsed by our customers. Route surveying work will begin on this project this month.  If you have any questions, please contact myself at the numbers below or Daniel Hronec, P.E., Project Manager at (561) 904-3638 or by email at Daniel.Hronec@FPL.com. Thank you.