A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

South Sarasota County Wants Answers

Last week the Venice Gondolier posed a number of questions they thought District One County  Commission Candidates should be able to field. I agree and I wrote my responses within an hour and a half of receiving the questions, but held off posting them while I tried to see if the paper would run them. That was Friday, and today I learned the paper is willing to print my answers. Below is longer version of my answers..

What's the biggest city in Sarasota County? (Trick question).

Not that tricky…North Port in terms of land area and population but not, last time I checked, in terms of registered voters -- still 450 behind Sarasota -- that's not meant as a put-down, more of challenge to increase registration.

• What can Sarasota County commissioners do to improve relations with North Port city government? Be specific, please.

After basic respect, three things: 1) County Commissioners need to understand the territory. I remember North Port when after Warm Mineral Spring about all you saw until Charlotte County was the Police Hall of Fame (now converted to a church). I first studied North Port in the early 80's and got to know both the landscape and some folks I met then are still around. 

2) County Commissioners need to know the people. I’ve been knocking on doors in North Port and spent most of primary day at the Mullen Center greeting voters. I have more visits planned before the election. Come hear me speak on October 6th at the Mullen Center.

3) County Commissioners need to know where North Port is headed. That will involve spending time one on one with North Port Commissioners, City Manager Crowell, and I’m also interested in learning more about Vision North Port.

* Do you support construction of a new jail in South County? If so, should it be situated in North Port? 

Yes, and probably.

• Do we need to improve River Road? What steps have been taken in the past year and what are the realistic options for funding in the future?

Its great to have the engineering done, but apparently growth didn’t pay for itself because we don’t have the money too build it. The good news is North Port and the County agreed on impact fee schedules and seem to have agreement on the 41 River Road Intersection. I am open to suggestions, but right now it looks like this project may depend on federal funding and it is not at the top of the list.

* The next time commission districts are redrawn, would you favor a North Port-only seat? 

Hmm, not sure. I’d have to know more about rules and goals of redistricting. I don’t think there is any ignoring North Port’s increasing political power.

* What area does the Lemon Bay Watershed encompass? What can we do to protect it?

I’ve actually given presentations (last one at Tringali Center) about the Lemon Bay watershed. We’ve done a good job protecting much of the remaining undeveloped land, and now we need to work on stormwater retrofits to improve the quality of water entering the bay. Some of this will be lot-by-lot and some will be more regional.

* What was the Gottfried Stewardship District? Would you have voted for it? Why or why not?

Anyone can Google this (3,662 acre overlay district proposed to be developed at two dwelling units per acre), but I was one of about five citizens to testify before the Planning Commission regarding GSV. One planning commissioner asked how I would vote and I said I would take more time with it to address some unanswered questions.

The only responsible answer for how I would vote as a county commissioner on this issue is that I would have to had read the entire proposal (511 pages, I have a copy in my lap), considered planning staff comments, incorporated public testimony from the planning commission and county commission hearings and any North Port or agency comment, reviewed DCA’s analysis and then reflected on the changes proffered by the applicant. To shoot from the hip would be unfair both to the applicant and south county citizens. I have a reputation for being open-minded and listening to all sides and I will thoroughly understand any subsequent re-surfacing of this proposal before voting.

* What's the purpose of the Englewood Community Redevelopment Area? What is the most pressing need there? 

The CRA exists to improve and redevelop what I think of as the older sections of Englewood. The stormwater issues need to be resolved and I support the Low Impact Development approach. Personally, I tend to focus on the historic charm of Dearborn Street and the potential for better connection to the Bay, but I understand the CRA encompasses a broader area.

* Are the county parks in North Port adequate? 

No, but we can't blame GDC for all of that. More park areas were originally set aside, but they later vanished. Now we're playing catch up. I support work on the Myakkahatchee Corridor and have been a leader in seeking protection of the lots adjacent to crucial manatee habitat on the Warm Mineral Springs run.

* Is the State Road 776 Corridor Plan working? 

This is the question I couldn’t answer at Boca Royale. Its my own dang fault because I have copy of the plan here at home. It’s a VERY ambitious plan filled with dozens of amenities and features planners and citizens like, so I imagine progress must seem slow. It’s gratifying to see that two projects I worked on, Lemon Bay Park and Manasota Scrub Preserve play an important role. Because it is so ambitious and money so tight, I support a reality check to prioritize the most crucial and feasible projects.

• What can we do to boost industrial development in South County?

I think the county paid for a study that recommended more intense use of existing MEC zoning. Some of the other impediments are at the state level, like taxing equipment at the ad valorem rate.

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