Commission gives tentative nods to agenda items

Photo by Norman Schimmel

The  Sarasota city commissioners gave tentative approval to several items during the June 4 meeting.

After a presentation by the Florida Department of Transportation, they gave the green light to plans for a four-block stretch of U.S. 41 between 10th and 14th streets. There will be roundabouts constructed at each of those two intersections.

The FDOT representatives used an animated presentation to show how traffic would flow around these four-lane intersections and how pedestrians would be able to cross the streets. The FDOT representatives said traffic would flow through the roundabouts at about 21 mph.

Rod Warner, a a Sarasota County representative on the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Citizen Advisory Committee, told the commission the two traffic features “are the entry to the cultural heart of Florida,” as they convey traffic into Sarasota’s downtown. “They should be distinctive.”

Robert Carlson, who lives in a condomium nearby, wanted assurance pedestrians would be part of the design. “There needs to be safe, easy ways to cross,” he said.

The City Commission endorsed the FDOT design, but it urged a stronger look at the design of the centers of the roundabouts and the landscaping in the medians. City Commissioner Shannon Snyder was the one pushing for more attention for the centers of the circles. “These need to be signature pieces from day one,” he said.

The Benderson deal

The city commissioners also gave a tentative approval to a land deal with the Benderson Development Group for a parcel on the northeast corner of Beneva and Fruitville roads. The argument hung on the value of the property over time.

Commissioner Snyder opened the discussion by making a motion not to sell the acreage. He said it would be worth more in the future as land values rose. Larry Feinberg with Benderson argued strongly that putting the property on the tax rolls with working businesses would provide money every year to the city.

“I don’t understand why you can’t understand this is a good deal,” said Feinberg. “The revenue you lose from taxes will make the difference between any potential increase in value. If you want to wait five years, and do the math with sales taxes and property taxes, you’ll see it’s better for the city to be paid $1.4 million now.”

Feinberg’s pitch carried the day, but barely. Snyder’s motion to refrain from selling failed by 2-3. Commissioner Terry Turner then moved for staff to wrap up a contract with a $1.4 million price, but that would rise to $3 million if the property wasn’t developed within three years. The motion passed 3-2, with Snyder and Commissioner Willie Shaw in the minority.

New procurement code

Efforts to create a modernized city procurement code moved ahead at the meeting as well. Finance Director Chris Lyons reminded the commissioners the city cannot operate like a private enterprise, because of state law, case law, local preference and other factors.

Purchasing Manager Mary Tucker said she was trying to put all the requirements and regulations for procurement into one document, and she was incorporating suggestions from the National Institute of Government Purchasing.

One hang-up was the definition of “local.” Tucker said, “You can have a home office, but no customer visits, no sign, no employees working there. That’s the city code.”

Commissioners wanted staff to conduct more outreach to businesses for comments. By consensus, the commissioners agreed to keep the public hearing open on the matter for 30 days and revisit the ordinance.