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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

City To Propose False Dilemma for North Palm Ave Landscape


The City of Sarasota, which we understood had suspended work on the North Palm Avenue Landscaping Project and was going to seek advice from the City Commission on August 18th has apparently been hard at work re-jiggering and re-framing the project and will be presenting the Board with a false dilemma. (See City document below)

A false dilemma is "is a type of informal fallacy that involves a situation in which limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option." Wikipedia.

My favorite false dilemma as a child occurred when my mother asked if I would rather take a nap or a bath. In this case the City is providing three options, two of which are extremes (think hot porridge and cold porridge) and the middle option is supposed to be "just right".
Unfortunately, that middle option reflects a complete misunderstanding of the trees they seem so hell-bent on removing. 

One option (#3) is the do nothing option and that is clearly unacceptable due to the sidewalk flooding that the City has ignored for years.

Another (Option #1) involves going ahead as planned with the project, even though it is contrary to numerous adopted City policies and ignores the historic status of some of the palms, which have been there AT LEAST 89 years. I would argue this is unacceptable. 

The middle bowl of porridge in the City's view (OPTION #2) comes in several flavors, BUT THEY ALL INVOLVE REMOVING ALL THE PALM TREES!

The  "b" and "c" versions involves REMOVING ALL THE PALM TREES, planting them somewhere else and then implementing much of the original design except that the Hollies and Tabebuias  (and the Thrinax?) would be replaced with brand new (presumably cabbage) palms. "c" includes a warranty on the new palms, "b" doesn't. Neither plan insures the existing historic palms would live in their new location. 

So what about "a"? "a" involves REMOVING ALL THE PALM TREES and then bringing them back again (also with no guarantees).  The City claims this is necessary due to some unspecified underground utility issues. This is crazy -- the palms do not need to be removed to add sidewalk, adjust the drainage, or whatever. These are not oaks or pines -- they are used to having most of their roots removed and surviving. 


The City should be clearly defining what problems they are trying to solve there (and identify the criteria for success) and there should be a commitment to 1) being compliant with existing City policy, and 2) starting from a premise of saving as many existing trees as possible on site. 


Instead the City has homed in on the intolerable sidewalk flooding and is planning to present the City Commission with a false dilemma. Let me be perfectly clear: All the sidewalk flooding could be addressed and eliminated without removing any of the existing palm trees. 


If the City is not going to do it right (defining the problem and criteria for success at the front end) and instead jump to the solution for what they now seem to see as a flooding problem, let me suggest what that solution would look like.

1) The elevations of the Bay Plaza driveway where they meet the sidewalk are changed so that stormwater does not make a left turn and head down the sidewalk. 

2) The turf/sod between the sidewalk and curb are regraded so that the turf (or hardscape) is lower than the existing sidewalk -- that will enable any water on the sidewalk to drain street-ward. The cabbage palms do not care if six or eight inches are lowered in their vicinity. (Y'all have seen cabbage palms with virtually all their roots shorn off, traveling on flatbed trucks to a landscaping job. Removing a quarter of the roots would be minor in comparison.)

The City's current pitch appears below. Clicking on the pages should enlarge them.

The DID implemented the plan to "mirror the other side of the street".
How many of you think of flowers when hollies are mentioned?

Yeah, they are very obsessed with consistency. And nothing would make Palm Ave more boring than consistency. 

As far as I have been able to determine so far, none of the voting entities mentioned above were told by staff that
1)the design was not compliant with numerous officially adopted City policies, or
2) implementing the design would result in the elimination of 26 native trees from Palm Avenue. 

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