Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Next Steps for Fresh Start

Fresh Start: A grassroots effort to perform 
common sense planning for public lands in Sarasota.

The Fresh Start Initiative is on track. The process begun nearly five months ago to seek commonsense, community proposals for uses on two public parcels near the Celery Fields has stayed on course.

In February we called on the community to describe uses they would like to see on parcels #1 and #2. More than 40 plans and ideas came in. In March, a highly skilled group of local advisers -- architects, storm water specialists, planners, environmental specialists, urban designers and more -- gave freely of their time to help evaluate each concept in light of four criteria:
  • Feasibility - it must be doable
  • Utility - useful to the communities around it
  • Compatibility - adding to, not impairing, what's already there
  • Viability - an enhancement people will support
Now in April, it's the community's turn. On April 10, representatives from HOAs and businesses surrounding the Celery Fields will gather in a roundtable format to examine, discuss, and vote on the proposals that have been deemed viable for the area -- a variety of uses for each parcel for delegates to choose from.

Essentially they will serve as the eyes and ears of the community -- examining, comparing, discussing and voting in a roundtable format. Several advisers will be on hand for questions.

Quad Parcels at Apex and Palmer

Birdwalk in the wetlands of the Celery Fields

The votes will be tabulated, and on April 25 the proposed uses with the strongest support will be presented to the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners. It would be great to have a lot of people there on the 25th (time to be announced).


Why are we doing this? Last August 23, the Board heard the people who came out in large numbers to oppose a plan for parcel #2 -- a heavy industrial waste processing facility -- and denied the petition by a vote of 3-2. Two commissioners saw no problem with putting such an operation on weak roads near a bird sanctuary, businesses, schools and homes.

Further, the Board could have taken a proactive step, directing staff to take a new look at the Celery Fields area and come up with better ideas -- even produce a new critical area plan, so developers don’t propose uses based on a 40-year-old "future" land use map.

Essentially that's what Fresh Start is about. The county is currently poised to see an explosion of growth east of I-75, which until now has been largely populated by ranches or small clusters of homes.

Fresh Start's "big picture" aim is to put rational, coherent planning of our public lands back on the radar in Sarasota County. It's not rocket science. It just requires that those who make the decisions consult the community, and that they remember that beyond the spreadsheets and profit margins of developers' business models, there's a future landscape full of people living, working, driving, raising children, walking dogs. Their future quality of life, as well as ours, is at stake in the decisions facing us today.

With some commonsense planning, growth that respects and answers to the people can be a sustainable plus for all -- especially for the residents who will be here long after the developers are gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment