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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sarasota's Plan for Palm Ave. Far Worse Than I Suspected

I first got interested in the City's plan to remove 26 cabbage palms from Palm Avenue because of my deep interest in and understanding of our state tree. But the more I learn about this project, the worse it gets. City staff tried to make me feel as though my suggestions were contrary to adopted policy, so they provided me with several folders containing their policy. What I learned is that the City has routinely ignored their own policies.

The City was supposed to promote retention of existing trees. They didn't. They were supposed to protect existing trees in the right-of-way. They didn't. They were supposed to provide shade trees. They already had them and propose to replace them with less shady trees. They were supposed to have canopy trees. They already have them and are proposing to get rid of them. Three separate manuals said they were supposed to have only one species of tree. They are proposing three. They claimed they were "undergrounding" utilities. There are more utilities aboveground in their proposal than exist now. They were supposed to favor trees with clear trunks and high canopies. They didn't.


And they claimed they wanted to provide a better pedestrian experience and a more walkable community. But their proposal will have 20 times less pedestrian space than exists now. In the graphic on the left, the public can walk on the green sod and the sidewalk adjacent to the storefronts. But the graphic on the right shows the landscape bed that will be packed with mulch, ground covers, shrubs, and a few trees. Bottom line: the City's proposal will result in far less walkable space than the present condition.

The next meeting of the Downtown Improvement District is Tuesday July 8th at 9:00 am. Please consider making the scene. If you can't, contact a city commissioner and let them know this is scandalous.

See also my previous post: Saving the Palms of Palm Avenue

Sunday, June 29, 2014

View from the Mainland

I was there 284 days ago, on September 18th 2013, when the Corps of Engineers showed up at a Sarasota County Coastal Advisory Committee meeting to pitch their hole-in-the-shoal solution to Lido Key erosion. I spoke and objected to both the process and the content of the proposal. I was there on October 22nd when the Corps pitched the idea to a joint meeting of the County and City Commissions and once again I complained. Since then I have appeared on a Tiger Bay panel, posted blog entries, given public presentations, and had a guest column printed in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. My objections have been consistent and, for someone with no financial or familial interests in either Lido or Siesta Keys, I suspect I have been one of the more engaged stakeholders. Aside from digging a deeper foxhole, the Corps has not shown much interest in alternative approaches, negotiating, or otherwise engaging the public, but now there is some reason to be optimistic.

Here's my take on the current situation: 

Lido Key residents are understandably preoccupied with the current status of their beach, which has made them susceptible to desperation-driven decision-making because the Corps proposal has seemed to be their only hope. Their reluctance to negotiate reflects the Corps' pouty insistence that nothing can be tinkered with. While desperation of the Lido residents has made their position more motivated and powerful, it doesn't address any of the real-world obstacles that need to be overcome. These include the threat of additional legal actions from Siesta Key, the Corps re-starting the scoping process, the need to undertake a variety of studies and environmental assessments that must precede permitting, and the ultimate uncertainty of federal funding. These obstacles could easily take two to three years to address and even then there is no guarantee of federal funding.