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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Image Sarasota Tree-lovers Never Saw

Following the testimony of fourteen citizens in support of the trees, 
The City Commission voted unanimously to go back
and try to address flooding issues while saving the palm trees. 

The Motion (Chapman) : "I move to delay the project to determine the feasibility of resolving the flooding issues while saving some or all of the existing palm trees." Second (Snyder)

Watch a summary here starting at 3:52
The City of Sarasota maintains that it held over twenty public meetings at which the public could have objected to removing 26 cabbage palm trees from one block of Palm Avenue. That's probably true. It is also true that not one individual in all those advertised meetings mentioned anything about saving any of the palms.

That is going to change Monday night, August 18th at the City Commission meeting. 

Please be there and bring a friend. (If you can't make it, send an email - addresses below)

The City would like to believe no one showed up to speak for the trees because everyone either liked, or at least accepted, their plans to kill the palms (they were not going to relocate them). I believe no local tree lovers or history fans showed up because no one ever saw the image below:

X marks the spot.  Every x a native cabbage palm targeted for death.
Once citizens learned the implications of the city's proposed landscaping changes, pressure developed and built until City staff finally announced they would suspend work on the project pending direction from the City Commission. That will occur at the meeting that starts at 6:00 pm in City Hall on Monday August 18th. This is our last best chance to save the historic trees. 

But that suspension did not stop them from working to move their original project forward. The Downtown Improvement District Board (the entity that initiated the project) recently voted (after a half hour PowerPoint presentation from City Staff and the Landscape Architect) to recommend to the City Commission that the City move forward with the project as originally designed. They also have a signed document from merchants that want the project to go forward as designed. Their big concession- instead of killing the palms - move them somewhere else. Along the way I received something between an interrogation and a civics lesson. Click here to review that strange exchange.


Some of the palms have been in that location for 90 years, a fact the City neglected to research.

• This is Palm Avenue, repeat, Palm Avenue.

• The palms create dense shade, are very low maintenance, are native, and are OUR STATE TREE.

• This is most pedestrian friendly section of Palm Avenue. Pedestrians can use the sidewalk, or walk on turf from the sidewalk to the curb.

• An independent review by an arborist has found them to be healthy.

• Three separate City policies specify that there should only be one species of tree there (that is the case now, they are proposing two or three).

• Another City policy directs that "All reasonable efforts should be made to maintain and protect existing trees in the public space or right of way." Downtown Greenspace Policy V.3

• The City never held a public meeting it was scheduled to hold. Instead they talked privately with merchants, and property owners.

• The Downtown Improvement District actually has the following goals: "Be the place to go to avoid 'anywhere and everywhere' of the American suburbia." and "The place must be unlike those of competitors, recognizably different."

We need a good turnout.  Being right is not enough -- we need to demonstrate that lots of people object to the destruction of our natural and cultural heritage just to "mirror" the landscape in front of a parking garage. Please be there and bring a friend. (If you can't make it, send an email.)

City staff will be presenting several options:

1)Keep the project as designed and transplant the existing eligible palm trees off-site. There is no implied warranty on the transplanted palms. This will increase project costs by approximately $7,000.

2)Keep the proposed sidewalk as designed
a)Temporarily remove existing eligible palm trees during construction and transplant back to the site. Survival rates will depend on health of the trees and no implied warranty will be provided. This will increase project costs by approximately $8,000.
b)Plant new palm trees instead of proposed canopy trees in the approved design. New palm trees will include a warranty. There is no projected cost increase.
c)Plant new palm trees instead of proposed canopy trees and transplant existing eligible palm trees off-site. New palm trees will include a warranty. Transplanted palms would have no implied warranty. This will increase project costs by approximately $7,000.

3)Delay the project to determine feasibility of resolving flooding issues while saving some or all of the existing palm trees. This will add approximately $9,000 cost to the project for up-front engineering costs, if determined feasible, additional construction costs may be required. This option will delay the project by a minimum of 3 months. 

I have been corresponding with City staff about variations of their 2a option - ways to keep all the trees by moving them offsite and then back again. I have arguing to replant the historic trees in their original locations. It is too soon to tell if some common ground can be reached. But you should feel free to argue on behalf of Option 3. -- going back and respecting the trees from the start. That's what they should do, but it would cost more and require them to concede they erred, so they keep looking for ways to salvage their existing design.

Here are the email addresses for the Commissioners.

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