Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Statement to Board at discussion of Lambert industrial recommendation at Celery Fields

Quad parcel #3 is near the Celery Fields, not far from an elementary school, surrounded by thousands of new housing units you have recently approved. It’s owned by the public.

Last year, when two developers tried to buy and industrialize these public lands, you saw -- and heard -- heartfelt public opposition.

Now that the Board itself is playing the role of industrial developer, people will naturally ask why. They’ll want you to show that the proposed intensification will not endanger persons, property values, roads, or the community. None is in your paperwork for this discussion.

Does the lack of analysis mean that the public, who own this land, should not expect accountability, but instead just give you our trust?

Perhaps it’s difficult for you to offer a reason because this plan is not reasonable.

You have a letter from Fresh Start that summarizes numerous reasons why this plan and the study it’s based on are inadequate.

I have time for just one factor: You’ve approved six housing projects -- Worthington, Artistry, Sylvan Lea, Garden Village, Live Oak, and the Fruitville Initiative - a total of 3,470 new homes within a short walk or drive from parcel 3 and the Celery Fields.

At the same time, you’re seeking to allow an 80,000-square-foot industrial facility on parcel #3.

It’s as if you are seeing two completely incompatible versions of the same place at the same time. Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Waechter told you these fragile roads are already too full of dangerous large trucks to allow for a simple public park. Well how much more dangerous will they be after all the new homes are built, along with the 80,000-square-foot industrial facility?

What you in fact are planning is a slow motion car wreck -- a collision of industry and human lives that will imperil people, property, and community.

This can happen when you blind yourself to the larger picture.

At the same time, you’ve made no provision for the Celery Fields. It’s a pretty magnificent place, which many counties would consider themselves lucky to have. It needs some simple things -- parking, a shaded cafe, an exercise area.

Last month Fresh Start respectfully proposed that the Board dedicate the Celery Fields Quads to beneficial public uses in perpetuity

It’s a good plan. Stop this effort to put industry that no one wants in a place it no longer belongs. Stop it today, forever. Your communities, tourists, our children and 225 species of highly discriminating birds will thank you.

-- Tom Matrullo

After hearing from the consultant and considerable discussion, the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners agreed to direct staff to study reopening the Critical Area Plan for the Quad Parcels for possible modifications, and to come back after Jan. 1, 2019.


  1. Whatever happened to the county's promise to have staff work with Fresh Start to implement proposals for the three parcels? We heard that staff worked with Lambert. Were they diverted from us to Lambert? Did Lambert hear any biased comments prior to their study from any of the commissioners or staff that directed them to prioritize rezoning to light industrial use? Is it possible that someone with a vested interest in rezoning spoke with Lambert? Is there any chance that Lambert could have a conflict of interest? The commissioners voted unanimously today to turn the matter over to planning staff. Isn't it time to allow Fresh Start to provide input? The real experts on the heavy traffic on Palmer Road are the HOAs and residents who have to use it daily. Fresh Start has organized peaceful protests at the subject parcels as well as formally petitioning the County Commission to consider what Fresh Start, environmental groups, and citizens who enjoy the Celery Fields feel is "the highest and best use" of the parcels just west of the Celery Fields. Should we be offended at Comm. Detert's derogatory remark about "mob rule"? I was pleased to hear her say that the $1.5 million the county could garner from the sale of the lands in question doesn't warrant rushing to a final decision. Fresh Start's presentation included a list of large residential projects approved by the commissioners, without considering whether there were sufficient road systems to carry the additional traffic, or the impacts on the Celery Fields and residents who already live in the area. Why, after hearing those concerns, did commissioners suggest building multifamily homes on Parcel 3! When the commissioners led off their discussion with a reference to the Fresh Start proposals as lacking in specificity or words to that effect, and then ended with referring the Critical Area Plan for the Quad Parcels to the planning staff, without inviting input from Fresh Start, I left the meeting more determined than ever to keep the pressure on to insure that the Quad Parcels will enhance and protect the Celery Fields now and for future generations. The Legacy Trail is a long-term vision that will bring the Sarasota communities together. The Celery Fields deserves a long-term vision, too. It has already brought the whole world to our doorstep.

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  3. Thank you, Marian Yeager. Your questions and points are valid and deserve to be addressed by elected officials. Fresh Start stands ready to work with County and neighborhoods to find the "long-term vision" you speak of.