Saturday, July 20, 2019

Recap before pending Celery Fields decisions

The Celery Fields offers residents the freedom of walking, exercising, birding, kayaking, fishing - as well as a touch of fresh air, cool breezes at the summit, fantastic sunsets and tranquility.

Celery Fields drone photo courtesy of Emanuel Guzman

While things might be quiet there now, they're not dull. At the moment, our public lands adjacent to the Celery Fields are in a suspended state. We await a critical area plan report that is anticipated to be released in time for a Nov. 6 Board discussion. What the Board decides then is likely to lead to rezonings, area plan amendments, and one or more key public hearings.

Below is a recap of recent activity regarding future possible decisions on the public Quad parcels near the nature and birding sanctuary.

After the Gabbert Waste Facility hearing of August 23, 2017, the Board never swayed from its plan to sell our public land to industrial or other uses. More than 60 people spoke to them at that hearing about all the reasons the public Quad parcels should serve uses that benefit the people. The Board did nothing.

In 2018, after 10 months of input from residents who initiated a formal process to bring ideas from the community for our public lands, the Board did nothing.

Meanwhile James Gabbert began work on his Waste Transfer Station (or, the WTF) on six acres of land he bought adjacent to Quad Parcel #2. Work is ongoing - this is a heavy industrial use situated on thin, failing roads; it will be visible to drivers along the Interstate. Commissioners Al Maio and Charles Hines voted to approve this plan of Gabbert's back in 2014. For more background, see this detailed timeline.

After one commissioner said no further uses - industrial or otherwise - ought to be considered on the Quad parcels unless something is done about the roads, the Board in January ordered the Planning Department to undertake a Critical Area Plan, or CAP of the Quad parcels and the surrounding area.

That process has continued since then. Lead planner Steve Kirk held a neighborhood workshop on May 14. The Church of Hope venue overflowed with citizens offering input. No one spoke in favor of selling our public lands for commercial or industrial uses.

In advance of the workshop, several new proposals or planning concepts were submitted to the Planning Department, which reposted them on this page.

After the May 14 workshop, a few new ideas arose as well:
  • Sarasota Audubon proposed an Urban Forest on Parcel #1, the SE Quad next to the Celery Fields wetlands. Such a forest would offer diversified habitat for birds, new nesting areas, as well as walkable parkland for residents.
  • The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast called for identifying a larger Rural Heritage Conservation Area that would offer a variety of uses and serve as a Central Park for eastern Sarasota, which is about to explode with new development. The area would include the Quad Parcels, the Celery Fields, and more properties totaling 1,300 acres.
Conservation Foundation Vision of Rural Heritage Area
  • In June, Commissioner Hines threw out an idea to put affordable housing on Parcel #2, and said he'd like to see some action toward that end before the Board took its summer break beginning July 22. 
  • In June, environmental advocate Jono Miller wrote to the Board advising against affordable housing on the Quad parcels. Miller proposed another possible use for the Quad parcels, a history and natural history center. 

Looking West at Sunset

A couple of days ago, lead CAP planner Steve Kirk offered a few updates by phone. Key points are summarized below (italicized sections are not from Kirk but from the editors):
  • The May 14 workshop was the sole public workshop to be held in this process. The gist of the public input was clear - "pretty black and white," as he put it.
  • Kirk aims to present results of the CAP study to the Board -- the tentative date is Nov. 6, 2019.
  • Planning will transmit the critical area plan results - including community input - to the Board a week before the public discussion on Nov. 6 (or whenever it's held). No information about the findings of the area planning process will be available to the public before it is transmitted to the Board, Kirk noted. The Board authorized the report, and its contents will not be shared with the public ahead of when it's sent to the Board.
  • When the Commissioners discuss the CAP, that discussion is not a public hearing. Yet, at that point, the Commissioners can do as they wish - they asked for the study, but are not bound by it, so they can ignore it and proceed to authorize a rezoning for whatever purposes they wish.
  • Whatever the Commissioners decide, they will probably order a rezoning of the Quad parcels, and a CAP amendment to enable changes to the plan. They could even order a Comprehensive Plan Amendment, Kirk added. Each of these processes calls for a public hearing. For example, if the Board votes to rezone one or more parcels for industrial use, even if no industrial developer is known to be asking for it, that rezoning process can go forward.
EDITOR's NOTE: This could lead to a peculiar step in planning: At an industrial rezoning hearing, for example, the public will be given the opportunity to speak, but there might be no information as to what sort of industrial use could eventually go on these lands near the Celery Fields. Should the Board decide to authorize industrial rezoning, respect for the area and for the community demands that any such directive be very specific, and include strong proactive and protective constraints: No heavy industry, no trucks, no environmental pollution, no eyesores, etc. Anything less would open the doors to yet another Gabbert waste facility, giant slovenly warehouse, or worse.

Commissioners Hines and Detert

The Board has not yet given any indication to Planning about affordable housing. They could address the issue upon their return. A"Think Tank" workshop for the Board is scheduled for Aug. 21.

While the Commissioners could direct planning to take steps to put affordable housing on the Quad parcels, doing so before the CAP process is complete would be out of sequence.

If the Board has any respect for sound planning or for the community, it will allow the planning department to complete a rigorous critical planning process, then use the results as the basis for considering the best options for our public lands at the Celery Fields.

Courtesy of Chuck Behrmann

Monday, July 1, 2019

Conservation Foundation update: Contributions total 7% of deadline goal

Verbatim email from Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast:

Dear Friend of Conservation,

As you know, we have been on a fast track to save Graceland, with a goal to raise $650,000 in community donations by June 30th in order to fulfill the terms of our contract and protect this land forever.
Although we raised $46,240 from generous supporters in the community, this represents only 7% of our goal. Therefore, sadly, Conservation Foundation is unable to meet the initial deposit deadline, which terminates our contract to purchase Graceland and conserve it for generations to come.

We are extremely grateful to all who helped spread the word about this campaign. Our deepest appreciation to those who donated to protect this rural area for wildlife and for those who live, work and play in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

If you made a donation, please know that you have the option to allow your gift to go towards other Conservation Foundation projects that save land and unique places in perpetuity. Or, you may request a full refund. Please click on the button below, and let us know your intention.

Conservation Foundation cares deeply about the community's open space needs. And, we support the community's ongoing efforts to protect the Celery Fields and its surrounding lands like the Quad parcels. 

Thank you again for your support and advocacy of our mission to save our region’s beautiful and wild places.

Yours in conservation,
Christine P. Johnson

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Conservation Foundation seeks Rural Heritage Area

Public Notice from the County announces rezoning of the NW parcel of the Quads at Apex and Palmer from its open use rural designation to Government Use. Hearing scheduled for July 10, 9 a.m. It appears that the rezone is solely addressing the fire station portion of the parcel - 2 acres - leaving about 7 acres for another use yet to be determined.

At the eastern end of the 1,300 acres which the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast envisions for a Rural Heritage Conservation Area (this "central park" would contain the Quads, the Celery Fields, Big Cat Habitat and more) the Foundation is trying to preserve 24 acres near Tatum Ridge Elementary from yet another housing development. If the Foundation can reach its goal, he parcel would become a permanent conservation area set aside for the community's benefit. It currently has a horse farm on it.

If you have a little spare cash, please consider helping them meet a June 30 deadline to come up with an installment payment of $650,000. Your help would also demonstrate community support for the larger Rural Heritage vision.

If the County sees we care about this "Central Park" for East Sarasota, perhaps they'll be less inclined to expand industrial uses on our public lands at the Celery Fields.

Thank you.

Monday, June 10, 2019

June Update on Public Lands at the Celery Fields

Barely had June 2019 begun when two new proposals involving our public "Quad" parcels at the Celery Fields came forward -- one from a County Commissioner, the other from a private foundation. The differences in their approaches are revealing.

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast proposes to acquire 24 acres on Palmer Boulevard across from Tatum Ridge Elementary School to set aside for conservation. Currently it holds a horse farm called "Graceland," but a developer is seeking to put a housing development there -- 42 quarter-acre homesites.

The Foundation's vision goes beyond acquiring this parcel, however. Graceland, says Foundation President Christine Johnson, would be the easternmost parcel within a continuous area extending from the highway to Tatum Ridge Road: a 1,300-acre "rural heritage conservation area" comprehending the Quad parcels, Audubon Nature Center, the Celery Fields and a 140-acre wildlife conservation park that includes Big Cat and beyond to Tatum Road.

Under this plan, the 24-acre Graceland parcel would receive a conservation easement barring development in perpetuity. The land could be dedicated to equestrian uses benefiting the public: riding, hippotherapy, school visits, education, and more, says Johnson, who noted that several schools are nearby, including Tatum Ridge, Fruitville Elementary, McIntosh Middle, the Farm School, and more.

As the map legend below shows, the Foundation projects beneficial public uses on the Quad at Apex and Palmer, including an urban forest and wildlife habitat, a history center, a school bus shelter:


The second new idea involving our public lands came on June 4, when Commissioner Charles Hines suggested selling the southwest public parcel (#2, 10 acres) to a developer of affordable housing.

Quads Parcels at Apex & Palmer
Mr. Hines noted that developers of affordable housing have not been knocking down his door, but didn’t articulate why. Perhaps, for example, the Board's willingness to tolerate developer overreach -- e.g. Siesta Promenade, LT Ranch, Waterside and more -- has disincentivized low-profit housing construction.

And, while affordable housing is indeed a goal that requires careful planning and policy incentives, Mr. Hines' fixing on public land that has been the subject of intense community interest for more than two years seemed to lurch suddenly out of left field.

In fact all four Quad parcels were the subject last year of a 10-month citizen effort to recommend compatible public uses that would rule out private industry. Sarasota Audubon has proposed an urban forest, others including Jono Miller have spoken of a history museum, a multi-use community estate, and more. Commissioners Al Maio and Mike Moran have both gone on record favoring sale to private industrial profiteers, including waste plant operator James Gabbert.

In January the Board found the Quads to be an area of critical concern, and, given the current narrow two-lane roads and levels of service, admitted that industrial development is not possible on these parcels. It ordered staff to reopen the Critical Area Plan, or CAP, for the area. This launched an in-depth, 11-month process examining all factors relating to potential uses of the public parcels -- roads, surrounding uses, trending demographic and environmental changes and much more. A public workshop held as part of the CAP process on May 14 brought out some 300 residents -- not a single one of whom spoke in favor of industrial development or affordable housing.

A Board decision approving affordable housing on parcel #2 by July 22 (Sarasota News Leader) will disrupt the methodical critical area planning now underway, as well as fly in the face of community and environmentalists' long-held views.

A view of "Graceland"

Clearly two very different approaches are exemplified here. The Foundation is advocating uses in keeping with the trends and surrounding human communities, integrating a long-range vision of a lasting rural heritage and wildlife conservation for future generations.

Mr. Hines conversely is promoting a quick fix to motivate the private construction of less costly housing, apparently without regard to how such an initiative would impact a host of significant social, environmental, economic and infrastructural concerns in a complex, radically changing area.

Another difference has to do with scope. The Foundation is looking wide and long term. The Board appears to be looking at one 10-acre parcel as if it existed in a spatio-temporal vacuum. The history, context and future of the Quad cannot be ignored -- which is why the county ordered the Critical Area Plan in January.

A credible CAP will form a faithful portrait of the entire Quad/Celery Fields area -- so that Sarasota as a community can assess the future needs and benefits of realistic options in a meaningful public process.

A lot is riding on this. If our elected officials have insufficient information, their decision-making authority is compromised. But if they have that information and choose to ignore it, a different public response will be needed.

It’s in our voting power to change the political landscape -- as dramatically as 246 species of birds have transformed the nature of a former industrial area. When good things happen -- like the Celery Fields -- they deserve prudent stewardship for all our citizens.

The Conservation Foundation seeks donors to help realize its vision

(This conservation effort ended June 30)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Jono Miller: History and Natural History at the Celery Fields, Workforce housing elsewhere

This letter was sent to the Board of County Commissioners (Chair: Charles Hines) from Jono Miller, who proposes two new projects -- a history and natural history facility on one of the public parcels, and affordable housing near the bus transfer station and current Sarasota archive on Porter Rd.

Charles et al.

I'm writing in reference to the article in the Herald Tribune this morning regarding surplus lands and affordable housing. I applaud any approach to surplus lands that places what the land can do for the County or its mere cash value.

I don't know if any commissioner's have advocated using any of the quad parcels for affordable housing, but, based on the handout at the May 14th public workshop, we know the public has suggested co-housing development, tiny homes, assisted living facility, assisted living apartments with staff housing, adult day care, elder cottage housing, AND affordable housing. There's probably a need for all those, but I don't they they represent the highest and best uses for the quad parcels.

As I testified at the workshop, I think the question we should be asking regarding the three quad parcels (or any surplus land) is " What can be done here that benefits the community, that cannot be done elsewhere?" That's because at this time It is only the three quad parcels that have the potential to synergistically contribute to the Celery Fields Stormwater Facility (and de facto nature park). Uses that are either neutral or detract from the Celery Fields should be located elsewhere. What sorts of uses might augment the celery fields? Projects that build off of the unique aspects of the site -- aspects related to water management, agricultural history, bird watching, or outdoor resource-based experiences in general.

Having said that, I am supportive of using county land to facilitate workforce housing, but I don't think the County should be giving surplus land away for such uses. Selling at a discounted rate might make sense, but I fear eliminating land costs for some projects could render other potential workforce housing projects that have to buy land unfeasible and create a presumption that the County will provide additional land in the future, absolving entrepreneurs of the burden of making the numbers work otherwise.

I am once again attaching a proposal to maximize the potential of county land adjacent to the bus transfer facility (for workforce housing) as a means to maximize part of one of the celery field quad parcels (by co-locating cultural history interpretation with natural history). The ability to reduce the number of household cars by creating workforce housing adjacent to the bus transfer facility is an example of something that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere. Location, location, location. And using that land sale, even at discounted rates, to fund a complementary publicly accessible amenity at the celery fields would potentiate both the transit-accessible housing and the celery fields.


Jono [Miller]

Documents included with letter:

Add caption

Regarding Critical Area Plan Scope: A Letter to Planning

Note: this originated as an email to the chief planner working on the Critical Area Plan authorized by the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners for the area of the public parcels at Apex and Palmer Blvd, often referred to as the "Quad" because they form the four quadrants at that intersection, adjacent to the Celery Fields on the east. See also here.
The four public lands known as the Quad parcels

Dear Steve Kirk,

I have been collecting some questions from our community that have come up since the May 14 Quads public workshop, and will list a few of them here. 

1. Will you be providing a transcript of your audio recording of workshop, and if so, where may we download it?
On this point, a video of the workshop is posted here - it's complete but for the first minute or so:
2. Thank you for sharing our community proposals on your site - will you continue to post proposals as they come in? I ask in part because I recently saw one from Jono Miller which has yet to be posted to the CAP site.

3. What are the tasks left in your timetable, which I understand could extend to November? 

4. When will your report be published? Will it be simultaneous with handing it to the Board, or in advance?


5. Can you help us understand in some detail the "scope" of your study? Allow me to explain why this matters. 

For our purposes, we believe your process will perform a very valuable service in meeting the objectives listed by the County:

As the county description below states, the purpose of a CAP is manifold:

The CAP approach looks holistically at development and existing communities by coordinating drainage, transportation, water and sewer, environmental systems and the protection of habitats.
  • Purpose and objective of a Critical Area Plan:
  • Provides a bridge between the general characteristics of the Comprehensive Plan and the specific nature of permits.
  • Provides information for evaluating future development proposals in critical areas of concern to ensure consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.
  •  Provides a public process for the planning, development and redevelopment and infill, of critical areas of concern and the adjacent areas. It does this through the consideration of historical resources, the environment, utilities, drainage, community services, transportation and land use.
Our question about "Scope" arises in relation to the specific dataset you use for your plan. If you choose to keep a very tight, narrow focus, you will see things that are near -- e.g. Gabbert's new Waste Transfer Facility and Mr. Waechter's warehouses, and the new fire station -- but limiting your data to this, you'll not capture the true profile and profound changes happening in the area.

    Robert Waechter's warehouses south of parcel #2
We believe that to fulfill the mandate of a CAP as outlined, the process must capture a rich profile of the many social, economic, natural, vehicular, eco-touristic, and environmental changes that have occurred to this area since the FLUM was last updated in 1985. To not take all these manifold changes into account would be to miss the most important empirical data and, quite possibly, the very purpose of doing a CAP.

I'm not a planner, but it seems to me that such data would include several items - some of which I mentioned at the workshop - here's a list, which surely can be added to. By the way, this is in acknowledged in the planning memorandum: “An analysis of the general conditions should be performed for the entire CAP area.”

At a basic level, the CAP process can gather layers of data, such as:

  • The rate of the area’s new housing, with prices over time, with radii showing distances from the Quads parcels;
  • The number of vacancies in the nearby industrial/office parks, and trends of vacancy rates in the various office parks;
  • Trends for rents in the nearby industrial/office parks;
  • The number of school buses and school children that are bused along Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road each school day;
  • Which schools currently run buses on Palmer Blvd., where these buses stop, the impact on traffic, the times they operate;
  • The time it takes cars going from a point on Palmer Blvd. -- say from Raymond Road -- to another point, e.g. Honore Blvd. (Take these traffic timing measurements now, and again after Mr. Gabbert’s Waste Transfer Station is in full operation);
  • Assess the impact of Mr. Gabbert’s operation on real estate values in the surrounding area;
  • Analyze the visual impact of Mr. Gabbert’s operation, smack in the line of sight of the Celery Fields for millions driving on I-75;
  • Obtain trending tourist visitation numbers for Audubon Nature Center and for Big Cat Sanctuary over the last 5 or more years.

Widen the scope further, and significant trending changes come into view:
  • Nearby developments include projects already underway like Worthington and Artistry, as well as others yet to start, such as sectors of the Fruitville Initiative (see, for example, this information about “Southwood Village”);
  • Potential synergies from the planned flyover that will bridge the highway to connect Benderson Rowing Park with Lakewood Ranch’s new Waterside development (5,100 dwelling units along with commercial and recreational uses), with road and trail links to the Celery Fields;
  • Palmer Blvd. should be looked at as a whole in this CAP process - it’s one road, and decisions on land uses will affect its performance east and west of the highway.

And of course the reality of change can't be addressed without including the time frame from 1985 to the pent-up demand of developers who are coming with giant new East County subdivisions, including:
  • More than 30,000 dwelling units planned (some already under construction) at Hi Hat Ranch; Waterside; the Fruitville Initiative; Pat Neal's project formerly known as Lindvest, with even more housing proposals on the way.
  • Detailed projections for needs - all these new residents will seek open space, recreation, community spaces, a “Central Park for Sarasota”;
  • New tourism options - such as a Visitors and History Center.- to connect with new potential synergies coming with the flyover connecting Benderson Rowing Park (and the planned relocation of Mote Marine) to Jensen's Waterside and down via Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Coburn->Apex->the Quad parcels -> The Celery Fields -> Big Cat and more.
Please note - the above is all coming to you as a large question, regarding the scope and ultimate dataset of your study. It is consistent with our concern that the truly new, and unique natural and social profile of the area be fully taken into account, and considered within the context of current trends and future projections.

So our final question (for now) is this: Please give us some detailed sense of the tasks before you, and the extent to which they are designed to capture the data, trends, population projections etc. which we feel are basic to this vital decision about this vitally important area.

Thanks in advance,

Tom Matrullo with Glenna Blomquist, Gary Walsh, et al

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Thaxton snubbed for third time for Planning Commission

Courtesy of the Sarasota News Leader

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Thaxton once again loses out on bid for Planning Commission seat

Stultz wins reappointment to advisory board, with Peters to fill out Neunder’s unexpired term

Former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton. Photo courtesy of Sarasota County

This week, for the third time in almost six years, former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton lost out on a bid to join the advisory board considered the most prestigious in county government.
Although Commissioner Nancy Detert nominated Thaxton for a term on the Planning Commission on May 8, she was the sole commissioner to support him.
Instead, on a 4-1 vote, her colleagues reappointed T. Andrew Stultz to a seat on the Planning Commission. Stultz’s term was due to expire at the end of the month, according to a memo provided to the County Commission in advance of the May 8 meeting.
Each term is four years.
Stultz, a Venice resident, owns Atlas Building Co. of Florida LLC, a construction company, his application said. He has been a resident of the county for 13 years, the application noted, adding that his firm “pursues Sarasota County construction projects.”
Stultz also wrote that he is a member of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange “and various industry groups.”
Detert did support the naming of Andrew Peters of Sarasota, vice president of wealth management for LCM Capital Advisors, to fill out the unexpired term of Dr. Joseph Neunder, who had resigned from the Planning Commission.
In his application, Peters wrote, “The most pressing planning and land use issues in Sarasota County involve strategies to properly [cope] with the immense population growth in Sarasota in ways that can appease both current residents of Sarasota while continuing to encourage new residents to make Sarasota their home. In order to resolve this issue a very long term planning view must always be taken into account when making current planning decisions so that new projects and developments do not negatively impact future developments that have not yet begun the planning process.”
Maio nominated Neunder, a Nokomis chiropractor, to the Planning Commission in January 2017. Neunder was one of the contributors to Maio’s re-election campaign in 2018, campaign finance records showed.
The May 8 staff memo said Peters’ term would be in effect through January 2021.

Andrew Peters. Image from the LCM Capital Advisors website

When Chair Charles Hines introduced the agenda item on May 8, county Planner Todd Dary pointed out that eight applications had come in for the two positions. However, the staff memo to the board noted that two of those “were received after the April 19, 2019 deadline, as indicated on the Applicant Appointment Worksheet.”
One of those was from Douglas Christy of Sarasota, which came in on April 26, the worksheet said. The other was from Ellen Silkes, which came in on April 22.
Christy is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Sarasota, he noted in his application. Silkes is a retired “physician/surgeon,” she wrote on her application. She lives in downtown Sarasota.
Thaxton was the earliest of the eight to submit his application, according to the worksheet: March 25.
Thaxton stepped down from the County Commission in 2012 after three terms. A lawsuit filed by a citizens group had led to the implementation of a two-term limit for the board.
An Osprey resident, Thaxton is senior vice president for community investment with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation in Venice. He won respect on the County Commission as an environmental advocate, including serving as a champion of the endangered Florida scrub jay. He also was one of the primary proponents of the county’s ban on nitrogen-based fertilizers during the rainy season each year, an effort to reduce the runoff of those nutrients. Researchers consider nitrogen the biggest source of fuel for red tide blooms. (See the related story in this issue.)
With the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Thaxton has been prominent in community discussions regarding measures to help reduce homelessness and to create more affordable housing stock.
He noted on his application that he had learned of the unexpired Planning Commission term from Neunder. Thaxton previously applied for a Planning Commission seat in 2013 and in 2015. In that first attempt, he won support only from then-Commissioner Nora Patterson. On Thaxton’s second attempt, no county commissioner voted for him. The unanimous decision went to Kevin Cooper of Sarasota, then vice president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. (Cooper went on to lead the Chamber for several years.)
The other applicants for the open seats this time were James DeNiro of Sarasota, a retired sergeant with the Sarasota Police Department and a licensed Realtor; Mark Hawkins of Sarasota, a general contractor who is a past candidate for the County Commission; and Bruce M. Iorie of Osprey, a retired electrician.

T. Andrew Stultz. Image from LinkedIn

After Chair Hines called for nominations for the two seats during the commission’s regular meeting on May 8, Commissioner Alan Maio put up the names of Stultz and Peters.
“I have a conflicting nomination,” Detert announced, noting that she wanted to nominate Peters and Thaxton.
After conferring with County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht, Hines called first for a vote on Peters. Following the board’s unanimous approval of that appointment, Hines then called for the vote on Stultz. With Maio and Commissioners Michael Moran and Christian Ziegler voicing support for Stultz, Hines said, “I’ll vote ‘Aye’ on Andy Stultz,” which made that a 4-1 decision.
Then Maio told his colleagues, “I think we owe a thank you to Dr. Joe Neunder for his service for several years as he moves on to another thing in his life,” which necessitated his resignation.
Referring to the applicants, Hines said, “Great group.”

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Media Updates: Fresh Start and the Celery Fields, 2017-19

ABC7 WWSB: Sarasota County asking for public opinion on future of land . . .

SRQExperience Overview of Celery Fields and Quads - thanks to Len Besterman.

Herald Tribune May 13, 2019: Matrullo: A big idea near the Celery Fields

Sarasota News Leader: May 3, 2019: Permitting Process continues for Waste Transfer Facility near Celery Fields

Herald Tribune March 9, 2019: Waste transfer facility to be built near Celery Fields in Sarasota County

Sarasota News Leader, Oct. 12, 2018: Commission calls for analysis before rezoning Quad parcel #3

Herald Tribune Oct. 10, 2018: Sarasota County still contemplating uses for land near Celery Fields

Sarasota News Leader Fresh Start Initiative leaders plead for County Commission to undertake commonsense approach to future planning around Celery Fields, making use of connectivity and recreational opportunities  (For non subscribers: Link courtesy of publisher)

Herald Tribune  Matrullo: Protect sites near Celery Fields

Sarasota News Leader The goal is to maintain a welcoming place

WWSB ABC 7 MySuncoast: Community group leaves disappointed by Commissioners response to Celery Fields proposal  (Taylor Torregano reporting, 9.12.18

Herald Tribune: Plans for land around Sarasota County’s famed Celery Fields still up in the air

Local Group Turns In Celery Fields Proposals - (video) Taylor Torregano reporting, 7.13.18

WWSB ABC 7 Fresh Start Initiative Submits Proposals for Celery Fields (print)

WUSF Tampa: A Community Group Presents How Public Wants To Use Land At Celery Fields In Sarasota 7.12.18

"Cultivating Happy Accidents" - Urban Planner Daniel Herriges discusses the Celery Fields public lands and the Legacy Trail controversy in addressing land use practices in Sarasota County, in Strong Towns.
The root problem is that Sarasota County will have budget shortfalls for the foreseeable future because its development pattern is unproductive.

Herald Tribune
Sarasota County extends deadline for Celery Fields development plan April 25, 2018

Sarasota News Leader

The Observer

Commission eager to find profitable use for Celery Fields properties April 25, 2018

Group to give ideas for land by Celery Fields April 18, 2018

Residents to give commission ideas for future of county-owned land Dec. 7, 2017

Commission votes not to allow recycling facility outside of Celery Fields, Aug. 23, 2017

Herald Tribune
Celery Fields advocates propose uses for surrounding land

FPL weighs option on transmission line route east of Interstate 75

Lyons: Why so much county welcome for an unwanted neighbor?

WMNF Tampa: Sarasota environmentalists oppose waste facility near Celery Fields

WGCU (NPR Fort Myers-Naples-Sarasota) + WUSF (NPR Tampa)
Sarasota Planning Board Rejects Plant at Celery Fields, June 2, 2017
Celery Fields Birding Enthusiasts Hope Serenity Remains, June 14, 2017
National Audubon Society President Focuses on Florida

2.25.17 Bradenton Times: Sarasota Stalks Celery Fields for Recycling Plant

***Alan Cohen interviews Cathy Antunes, Audubon's Rob Wright, and former Sarasota Commissioner Jon Thaxton about the influence of money upon County Officials:***

WTSP 10 Tampa

WSLR Sarasota

WSLR Sarasota

Peace & Justice Weds Aug 16, 2017 – 9 a.m. – Sarasota Sustainability and Celery Fields

Celery Fields in the News - 16 news stories about the Celery Fields

WSRQ - The Detail: Cathy Antunes Show
Jan 20, 2017 - Tom Matrullo
Feb. 10, 2017 - Adrien Lucas & Tom Matrullo
Feb. 24, 2017 - Rob Wright
March 3, 2017 - Wade Matthews
April 7, 2017 - Adrien Lucas & Tom Matrullo
May 26, 2017 - Glenna Blomquist, Brian Lichterman, Jono Miller, Tom Matrullo
June 9, 2017 - Carlos Correa & Luigi Verace
Aug. 18, 2017 - Adrien Lucas
Aug. 25, 2017 - Adrien Lucas & Tom Matrullo
Dec. 1, 2017 - Elizabeth Gomez-Mayo, Dan Kriwitzky & Tom Matrullo
April 20, 2018 - Carlos Correa & Gary Walsh 

Control Growth Now News

CONA Sarasota Meetings

Herald Tribune Letters to the Editor

County should postpone sale of lands next to Celery Fields

Debris Plant at Celery Fields - Jono Miller

NEXT . . .

Scope of Critical Area Plan is what's critical

published 5.13.19 in The Herald Tribune


Matrullo: A big idea near the Celery Fields

On Tuesday, Sarasota County will conduct a public workshop, part of a detailed study of some 38 acres of public lands adjacent to the Celery Fields known as “the Quads.” These four parcels galvanized public attention in 2017 when it became known that one parcel might be sold to a developer for a 16-acre waste processing plant.
The Quads sit at the center of a landscape in radical transition, between an aging industrial sector with giant-truck traffic on thin roads to the west; and to the east, 360 acres of open space featuring wetlands attractive to more than 220 bird species, and the unique “Mount Celery” offering humans great recreation and startling views.
The County Commission’s commendable decision to formally analyze the area’s roads, drainage, mobility constraints and more came after realizing that nothing can be done here without upgrades to the infrastructure. When such changes are considered, public comment is required.
The public’s opportunity comes at 6 p.m. Tuesday, when planners will gather input from “stakeholders” — residents, visitors, warehouse landlords, bird lovers and more — at a workshop at the Church of Hope, 1560 Wendell Kent Road.
Last year, citizens fearful of industrial development spent 10 months working on alternative ideas for the Quads. A cornucopia of ideas poured from our communities. Among them: public gardens, urban forests, meeting and exhibition rooms, an ecolodge, visitors center, exercise areas and infrastructure improvements to better serve our residents, visitors and wildlife.
The commissioners went with a different initiative, hiring a Miami firm to assess one parcel for sale, with an eye toward price, without examining compatibility or feasibility. Industry was recommended for the northwest parcel. A final decision about rezoning the parcels is expected in August. Meanwhile, James Gabbert has begun building a waste-transfer facility adjacent to the southwest parcel.
Commissioners Al Maio and Mike Moran have favored selling our land to private developers. But a far more transformative prospect is staring us in the face: a highway flyover with bicycle, pedestrian and automobile lanes is planned to connect University Town Center/Benderson with the new Waterside development and the Celery Fields. We wouldn’t need the highway — or even a car — to go from one end of this tri-dimensional area to the other.
How does this relate to the Quads? They sit at a key intersection: No car or bicycle can go from Benderson or Waterside to the Celery Fields without going through our public parcels.
Industry would add trucks, deaden walkability, and degrade visitor experience. Configured for recreational community, and visitor uses through a modest investment of tourist tax dollars, the Quads add value to this larger economic catalyst in revitalizing highway neighborhoods and businesses.
At Tuesday’s workshop, planners will listen to the public’s ideas about the Quads. But will the County Commission? Can we turn the county’s thinking in a positive direction?
Our commissioners have the power to create new value: an inland environment engaging three large and diverse assets with manifold synergies would make for a superb large-scale destination. Will the board instead choose to sell our lands so private developers can profit? Their decision will be permanent, and deeply concerns us all.
So here’s a suggestion: We citizens can offer thoughts, but we’re not Frederick Law Olmsted.
The county needs to retain a visionary planner — today’s Olmsted or John Nolen — to ensure that these three fine areas connect in a diverse, balanced, and accessible way. Because this public opportunity is big — unless our officials choose to make it small.
Tom Matrullo, a Sarasota County resident, has been actively working on Celery Fields issues for several years.