Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Consultant recommends industry near Celery Fields


Earlier this year, Sarasota County hired a consultant to study the "highest and best use" for parcel #3 of the public lands near the Celery Fields known as "the Quads." That report is now in (link here) -- it recommends rezoning 7 acres of parcel #3 for industrial use:

Some preliminary observations:

Specialized Approach: The $61,000 report from Miami-based Lambert Advisory LLC follows a specialized "highest and best use" (HBU) approach, which looks at real estate comparables solely to form an estimate of highest potential dollar value. By design HBU ignores quality of life, community benefit, impacts on the environment, potential social or economic gains from other uses, and basically everything other than top-dollar price for this public land.

Siloed Consultancy: Since January, Fresh Start repeatedly asked to communicate with the consultant. We were told that at the County’s direction, the Consultant was to work walled off from residents or anyone else, to “limit the influences on the data.”

Fiscal Motive Evaporates: Last November, the Commission cited a need to sell public lands to cover a temporary budget shortfall as the compelling reason for this rezoning. Since then the Board has revised its view. Commissioner Maio now says the county is in excellent fiscal health and that there is "no shortfall" this year or next (audio clip: longer; shorter). 

Warehouse south of parcel 2
Dominoes: Rezoning parcel #3 to industrial is not only about parcel #3. IF/when that rezoning is complete, the southwest parcel (#2) will be surrounded on three sides by industry (Parcel #3 to the north, James Gabbert's planned waste transfer station to the west, and Robert Waechter's warehouses immediately to the south). Private industrial interests will use this "enveloping zoning" to argue for making parcel #2  industrial. (Parcel #2 is the 10.6 acres Mr. Gabbert wished to situate a giant open waste processing facility on last year.)

Fresh Start will present a very different vision of the prospects for the Quad parcels to the commissioners next Wednesday, Sept. 12 at approximately 9:30 a.m. As it is not a public hearing, input from the public will be limited to 3 minutes before or after the Agenda.

The Fresh Start Executive Council


  1. As I remember one of conditions from original owner was this land not to be sold or developed,ever. What happened here?

  2. Politicians and money happened.

  3. We are at a time in our history when politics and moneyed interests are determining the future for all of us. "Highest and best use" excludes the intrinsic values of nature and the importance of proactive environmental restoration and preservation for the health of every species, including ours. To ignore the voices of the people who have to live in the conditions our officials and their "experts" are determined to create is ignorant and inhumane. Deterioration of our beloved Celery Fields is inevitable if industry encroaches on it. Once that extraordinary habitat is gone, birds and other wildlife will vanish with it. So will the potential for ecotourism and its positive benefits to residents in the area and to Sarasota businesses, including hotels, restaurants and other attractions, both short and long term. To place blinders on the consultant to insure that the definition of "highest and best use" will be industrial development, and to cut him off from input from nearby residents and HOAs, is a travesty and a betrayal of the understanding between commissioners and Fresh Start Sarasota that citizen input would be treated with the respect that it deserves.