November 27, 2015 Edition

City seeks dismissal of ACLU lawsuit filed over homeless shelter issue

Andrea MogensenNov. 23 motion in federal court cites lack of standing and inappropriate use of supporting material among its assertions

On Nov. 23, attorneys for the City of Sarasota filed a motion in federal court in Tampa, seeking dismissal of a lawsuit the Sarasota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Florida filed against the city and Police Chief Bernadette DiPino in late September on behalf of several homeless defendants, The Sarasota News Leader has learned. Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen had filed an amended complaint against the city and DiPino on Nov. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. It added two more homeless individuals to the list of plaintiffs. The original lawsuit was filed on Sept. 30 in the 12th Judicial Circuit in Sarasota. (Read more »)

First Street facelift in Sarasota scheduled for January completion

Bijou Cafe on First Street Google street view Nov. 24 2015The long anticipated, $2.24 million project is bringing updated utilities and a more walkable streetspace to the thoroughfare north of Main Street

When The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota opened about 12 years ago, JP Knagg, owner of The Bijou Café, thought the city would update First Street, since it was the most direct route from the Ritz to downtown. But those improvements did not come. Then in 2012, First Street business owners watched as the city wrapped up projects to upgrade the appearance of both Main Street and Palm Avenue. (Read more »)

Volunteers sought for Sarasota County committee to tackle the affordable housing crisis

Low income housing problems chart 2011-16 Consolidated PlanFormer commissioner has offered suggestions to spur policy revisions as the county undergoes an update of its Comprehensive Plan

At the suggestion of a former Sarasota County elected official, the County Commission is seeking volunteers to serve on an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to help address the community’s critical need for more moderately priced dwellings, The Sarasota News Leader has learned. Former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton proposed the idea to County Commission Chair Carolyn Mason after learning that Manatee County was organizing such a group, he told the News Leader in a Nov. 23 interview. (Read more »)

County Commission thus far has not sought a formal briefing on the Lido Key Beach renourishment project peer review it commissioned

Siesta beach sceneCounty’s coastal resources manager tells a Siesta Key organization that creation of a contingency plan in the event of unintended consequences would give board and community ‘a comfort level’

Just days after a Siesta Key resident urged the Sarasota County commissioners to take a careful look at the peer review the board authorized last year of the Lido Key Beach renourishment project, a county spokesman told The Sarasota News Leader that no individual briefings for the board members had been scheduled thus far. In a Nov. 20 email response to the News Leader, spokesman Jason Bartolone also said no formal presentation of the peer review, undertaken by the Atkins firm in Sarasota, has been planned for the commission. (Read more »)

Sarasota mayor questions tentative lower ranking of affordable housing among federal funding priorities for the city and county

Willie Shaw BCC SCC Oct. 22 2013 NormCity Commission approves the draft lists on 4-1 vote, however, with the assurance that further public comment and board review will be part of the process

A draft of priorities for the 2016-21 Consolidated Plan the City and County of Sarasota must submit in August 2016 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) won City Commission approval last week on a 4-1 vote. City board members did not question the change in language the County Commission sought the previous week in regard to a shelter or triage center for the homeless. (Read more »)

Two-story building pitched for east end of Main Street in Sarasota

Street view of 2101 Main St. Sarasota GoogleProject would house a restaurant on the first level and preserve several large trees

An architect-developer is proposing a two-story, 6,740-square-foot commercial building on the east end of Main Street in downtown Sarasota. The project, at 2101 Main St., would feature a first-floor restaurant with outdoor dining space, as presented to the city’s Development Review Committee (DRC) on Nov. 18. The location is at the northeast corner of Main Street and East Avenue. (Read more »)

Siesta Seen

Light Up the Village 2013 Beach Bazaar float copySKA members learn more details about beach renourishment; county agrees to pilot program for collecting beach trash; Light Up the Village is Nov. 28; the Condo Council announces its holiday lighting contest; annual Chamber award nominations encouraged

Although the upcoming South Siesta Key renourishment project was the focus of a presentation Laird Wreford, Sarasota County’s coastal resources manager, made on Nov. 5 to members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), other questions arose relative to sand replenishment. As more developed areas seek to add sand to eroding beaches, Wreford said, “you’re going to be seeing more and more — and innovative — ways of doing beach renourishment.” (Read more »)

County on track to add nine new bus shelters a year for the next five years

Bus shelter closeup at Southgate Mall March 13 2013 RBHDuring a Nov. 19 advisory board presentation, the new SCAT director acknowledges his frustration with the slow pace

Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) has set a goal of completing nine new bus shelters annually over the next five years, its director, Rocky Burke, told members of the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council (TDC) during their Nov. 19 regular meeting. He is hoping to obtain more funding from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Federal Transit Administration, he added, to increase that number because “a lot of locations need [the shelters].” (Read more »)

County sees 9.3-percent increase in visitors in last fiscal year and 12-percent rise in their spending

Haley and BCC May 21 2013 NormArts and cultural programs also record higher tourist participation

Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley reported to the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council (TDC) on Nov. 19, “We finally went over 1 million in visitors staying in paid lodging” during the 2015 fiscal year, but “what has me really excited is to look at that spending number.” The latter figure is 12 percent higher than it was in the 2014 fiscal year, she pointed out during the TDC’s regular meeting. (Read more »)

County advisory council members asked to work on new strategies to protect trees on development sites

Canopy road sign Hibiscus Robinson Nov. 23 2015County Commission also eliminates minimum requirement for length of travel way in the canopy road ordinance

On the same day they voted unanimously to eliminate the minimum length requirement for a segment of travel way to be designated a canopy road, the Sarasota County commissioners also proposed initiatives for an advisory board and their staff to encourage more nurturing and protection of trees in the community. (Read more »)

Sarasota County Commission votes to forgo full presentations during ‘routine’ public hearings

Charles Hines Tom Harmer BCC Oct. 28 2015 RBHSix-month-old pilot program estimated to have saved equivalent of one-and-a-half days of board time

Amid an agenda brimming with debate over what might be called “heavy issues,” such as the location of a homeless shelter and purchasing new voting machines, the Sarasota County commissioners last week enjoyed what observers might call an unusual level of levity. (Read more »)

Sarasota county property tax discount deadline approaching

Barbara Ford-Coates Legacy Award Sept. 2013Three ways provided to make payments by end of the day on Nov. 30

Monday, Nov. 30, is the last day to pay property taxes with a 4-percent discount, Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates has announced. “This is one of the busiest days of the year,” she said in a news release. Customers wishing to pay in person on Nov. 30 may take advantage of the drive-through service available in downtown Sarasota, at the office’s South County location and in Venice from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Read more »)

Two meetings planned for public to comment on Parks Master Plan

Sarasota County Parks logoGulf Gate Library and Woodmere Park to host sessions in December

Community members are invited to share their thoughts on the future of Sarasota County’s parks, preserves and reserves at two upcoming public workshops, the county has announced. The sessions will feature previews of the forthcoming long-range plan for the parks, “which is aimed at preserving, protecting and enhancing some of our community’s most valuable resources,” a county news release says. (Read more »)

North Port Library to hold Christmas celebration with 19th-century flair

North Port Library scgovHistorical program planned on Sunday, Dec. 6

Members of the public are invited to “step into a simpler time as the North Port Public Library hosts its annual 1800s Christmas Celebration historical program on Sunday, Dec. 6,” Sarasota County has announced. This family event will feature music, crafts, fashions and personalities reminiscent of 19th century Florida, a news release says. Both children and adults will “experience the wonder” of an old-fashioned Southern holiday. (Read more »)