Attorney for Rivolta project seeks reconsideration of TDR prices

Charles Bailey III says his client’s offer was tendered before the County Commission set its new policy of higher fees

Charles D. Bailey III. News Leader photo
Charles D. Bailey III. News Leader photo

On April 27, the Sarasota County Commission set a policy that future sales of Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) would represent 10 percent of the median price of houses sold in the county in June. That month typically accounts for the highest amounts, county Planning Division Manager Allen Parsons explained.

Because the median value in June 2015 was $230,000, one TDR would cost $23,000 as of that time.

However, the board members left open the possibility they would negotiate other prices, depending upon the deals presented to them.

One such offer will come before them this month, thanks to a unanimous commission vote on June 21.

During the Open to the Public portion of the board’s morning session that day, Charles D. Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota appeared on behalf of his client, Piero Rivolta of Sarasota, requesting that the board authorize County Administrator Tom Harmer and staff “to please place on the first available agenda” an agreement for the board to consider the purchase of TDRs for a Rural Heritage/Estate development under the guidelines of the county’s 2050 Plan.

Part of that plan’s goal is to concentrate density in certain areas east of Interstate 75. TDR purchases from county-owned natural areas and private property allow for an increase in the number of dwelling units in specific areas in exchange for preserving natural parts of the county, Parsons has explained.

An aerial map shows the general location of the Ibis Street and Baxley Lane properties. Image from Google Maps
An aerial map shows the general location of the Ibis Street and Baxley Lane properties slated for the Rivolta development. Image from Google Maps

On June 21, Bailey pointed out that in September 2015, he made a formal offer to the county for Rivolta to purchase TDRs at the price the 2013 County Commission set for the first 100 of them sold, to spur the use of TDRs in 2050 developments: $4,462.50.

In September 2015, Bailey continued, “we were going through a [county] Comprehensive Plan amendment” under the 2050 Plan’s provisions. He added, “We characterized — I think, accurately — Rural Heritage/Estate and Conservation Subdivisions as … the forgotten sibling, the forgotten child of 2050,” compared to other 2050 developments such as villages and hamlets.

He reminded the board members that they approved the Comprehensive Plan amendment in August 2015 and then made it plain that Rivolta should pursue the purchase of TDRs to achieve the desired density for the project. “We heard you loudly and clearly,” Bailey added.

On Sept. 4, 2015, he continued, the Rivolta team made a written offer of $4,462.50 for each TDR it wanted to buy.

A graphic shows the overall TDR concept for the county under its 2050 Plan. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic shows the overall TDR concept for the county under its 2050 Plan. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Two other, larger developments gained commission approval for TDR purchases at that lower price, Bailey said, stressing that both were further ahead on rezoning petitions than the Rivolta team was during that period.

On June 16, he noted, the county’s Planning Commission unanimously approved the requested Rivolta rezoning petition, which will come before the County Commission during its regular meeting on July 13.

The Planning Commission action formally approved a petition to rezone about 69.6 acres of property at 6785 and 6951 Ibis St. and 7198 and 7304 Baxley Lane to allow a residential density incentive of up to two dwelling units per acre, that advisory board’s agenda shows.

Therefore, Bailey pointed out on June 21, the Rivolta team had planned to appear before the County Commission on June 21 to seek approval of its purchase of the necessary TDRs at $4,462.50 each, but county staff had taken that item off the agenda as a result of the April 27 action.

Commission’s decision

County Administrator Tom Harmer. File photo
County Administrator Tom Harmer. File photo

During his report to the County Commission on June 21, County Administrator Harmer explained that staff had informed the Rivolta team that the low price previously set for TDRs “was no longer available …” When he asked for direction on how to proceed in light of Bailey’s comments that morning, Commissioner Charles Hines made a motion “to bring [the Rivolta] offer to us for discussion.”

Commissioner Carolyn Mason seconded it.

Hines told his colleagues he believed they needed to review the timing of the Rivolta offer, especially whether it was pending when the board voted in April on the new pricing.

“I agree,” Mason said.

In April, Deputy County Attorney Alan Roddy had advised the board that it always could negotiate the exact price of TDRs when it had an offer on the table, regardless of whatever policy it set.

At that time, Hines likened TDR transactions to those in which an individual has had his home appraised and has put it on the market. If someone proposes a cash deal with a lower price than the homeowner has set, Hines said, the seller might find the offer attractive enough to take it.

Harmer told the board last week that he would make sure the discussion Bailey requested was on the agenda for the next set of regular meetings, which will be held on July 12 and 13.

“That’s good,” Hines replied. “As soon as possible.”