Seven persons submitted applications for positions
The backup agenda material for the commission’s regular meeting on July 3, explained that the Planning Board terms of Damien Blumetti and Kathy Kelley Ohlrich expired at the end of June, and they both had served two full, consecutive terms. Thus, they were ineligible to apply for reappointment.
Altogether, seven people put their names in the figurative hat for the two open seats on the Planning Board.
During the July 3 discussion, Vice Mayor Liz Alpert first nominated DeLeo, saying, “I think he would be very good.”
Commissioner Erik Arroyo concurred and then seconded that nomination.
However, while Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch — who was participating in the meeting virtually — agreed with the nomination of DeLeo, she also asked her colleagues to consider postponing the votes on the new Planning Board members until October, after that board has completed its public hearing on issues related to the One Park development proposal for the Quay Sarasota on the city’s waterfront.
(Technically, the Planning Board hearing — which had to be continued, because of its length on March 8 — involves a proposed amendment to the Quay Sarasota Development Agreement with the city. The request is to amend that agreement to allow for vertical construction of the One Park condominium tower in the air space that connects Blocks 1 and 9 of the Quay. As the staff report explained, that connection would be approximately 17 feet above Quay Commons, which would block public views and create a barrier between the Quay Sarasota and the adjacent Bay Park to the north. The staff report pointed out, “The potential massing [of the One Park structure] over Quay Commons would be a total height of 18 stories (approximately 272 feet in overall height from ground to the top of the building).”)
Ahearn-Koch reminded the other commissioners on July 3 that, having served on the Planning Board herself for six years — prior to her election to the City Commission — “it’s understood that you will continue to serve [on any city advisory board] until the commission appoints somebody [else].”
She pointed out that the Planning Board’s first hearing on the One Park proposal lasted about six hours. “I don’t know how fair it is to have a new Planning Board with two new members [tackle the issues related to that application].”
During public comments at the outset of the July 3 City Commission meeting, attorney Matt Brockway of the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, which is representing the One Park project team, said that City Manager Marlon Brown had called him last week to propose that Blumetti and Olrich remain on the Planning Board until after the Quay Sarasota hearing had been concluded. Brockway objected to that, stressing that allowing them to stay on past the end of their terms would violate city policy and procedures.
Commissioner Debbie Trice was the first to voice an objection to Ahearn-Koch’s suggestion. “The old Planning Board members will start hearing new stuff,” Trice pointed out, “which will then complicate things for the new ones who will not have heard [those discussions].”
“I agree,” Alpert said, adding that the situation would be no different for new Planning Board members than it is when new city commissioners have been elected and have to address continuing issues. “You just need to learn what’s going on.”
Arroyo also concurred with Trice and Alpert. “We don’t want leftover appointments. Term limits are in there for a reason.”
“It’s a tremendous responsibility and privilege to be able to serve in any public capacity,” Arroyo continued. “We also want new people getting involved in public service …”
Mayor Kyle Battie agreed, as well, with the majority of the commissioners’ comments in response to Ahearn-Koch’s proposal. “It goes with the territory,” he said, “in terms of bringing yourself up to speed.”
“I respect your point of view,” Ahearn-Koch told her colleagues.
Then she raised another idea: appointing the Planning Board alternate, Douglas Christy, a regular member of the board, since he had applied for one of the open seats. Typically, she noted, whenever a current advisory board member seeks reappointment, the commissioners honor that request, “unless there’s been some gross negligence” on the part of that person in city service.
Then she asked whether the commissioners that day legally could go ahead and appoint another applicant to serve as the alternate.
City Attorney Robert Fournier responded that the advertisement of the agenda item made no mention of an appointment of a new alternative during the July 3 City Commission session. However, he continued, he believed the commission could do what Ahearn-Koch suggested, but the service as an alternate would be dependent upon the agreement of the person named to that position, out of the group applying for the two open seats.
Alpert replied that she would not be in favor of appointing Christy to one of the seats, unless a new alternate could be seated to take his place.
“I agree,” Arroyo said.
Finally, City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs asked for clarification about whether the commissioners were in agreement on naming DeLeo to one of the Planning Board seats. After Ahearn-Koch concurred with his appointment, Griggs announced formally that she had consensus to add DeLeo to that board’s roster.
Ahearn-Koch then nominated Christy for the second seat.
“I was leaning toward Dr. [David] Lewis,” Trice said, adding that she believed his professional expertise would be of value to the Planning Board.
In his application, Lewis wrote that he holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree and doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology. “The majority of my career in architecture was spent in academia,” he continued, listing Georgia Tech along with the University of Florida and Mississippi State University as the institutions where he had been on the faculty. He ended his career, he pointed out, as associate dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Design at Mississippi State.
In response to Trice’s nomination, Alpert said she liked both Lewis and LaMay. “Mr. Lewis does have this tremendous background,” Alpert added.
“All of the applicants are very qualified,” Arroyo pointed out. Nonetheless, Arroyo continued, he believes LaMay’s viewpoint on the Planning Board would be similar to that of outgoing member Blumetti, who also is an architect and who has an eponymous firm in the city.
Mayor Battie also expressed support for LaMay.
After Ahearn-Koch again noted her support for making Christy a regular member of the Planning Board, she did acknowledge that his wife apparently has a conflict with the One Park issues, so Christy would have to recuse himself from the continued Planning Board hearing on the Quay Sarasota issues. However, she reminded her colleagues that if they went ahead and named a new alternate that morning, the alternate could serve in Christy’s place for the continued hearing.
Arroyo argued against taking a vote that day on a new alternate.
Nonetheless, Alpert seconded Ahearn-Koch’s nomination for Christy. That ended up failing, with only Ahearn-Koch and Alpert supporting him.
When Griggs called for a vote on Lewis, that also failed after Alpert seconded Trice’s nomination.
Finally, the commissioners unanimously agreed to name LaMay to the second open seat.
More application details
In response to the city application question about why the individual wanted to serve on the specific advisory board, LaMay wrote, “As a young architect whose studies focused on the Sarasota School of Architecture, and whose passions align with its principles, I’m particularly interested in the built environment of the city of Sarasota. As a resident, and as a taxpayer, I’m directly affected by the decisions made surrounding its growth. More and more, I feel a responsibility to use my unique experience and skills to affect positive change in the city I chose to raise my family in; a city that is evolving rapidly.”
LaMay also is a member of the city’s Board of Adjustments.
In regard to the same question, DeLeo wrote, “The City of Sarasota is my home where I am raising my children and I want to have an opportunity to positively impact the current and future planning and development of this community consistent with my philosophy as a servant leader. As a lawyer with a knowledge of development, real estate and business and as an involved leader in our community of more than 18 years, I believe I can bring a balanced and informed perspective to the issues before the [Planning] Board. Through my legal training and nearly 25 years of legal practice, I have acquired substantial knowledge and experience that perfectly prepares me to perform the work of the Board. I believe my work as a business owner which employees approximately 10 people, my service in local business organizations, and my long and substantial service to city neighborhoods, makes me an ideal Board member.”
DeLeo is chair of the board of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and a member of the board of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, he noted in his attached resume.
In his application, Christy explained that he had been serving as an alternate on the Planning Board since his appointment “early last year” and that he would like to be on the board “on a more permanent basis.”
He, too, is an attorney, and he has his own firm in Sarasota, he noted in the resume he attached to the document.
From March 2019 until June 2022, he added, he served on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which deals with transportation planning for the two counties. County and city commissioners representing their elected boards serve on the MPO board itself. Additionally, he served two stints on the city’s Nuisance Abatement Board, he noted: April 2013 through June 2014 and from July 2025 through April 2022.
The other applicants for the Planning Board seats were as follows:
- Carl Shoffstall, the longstanding president of the Lido Key Residents Association who also is a member of the Sarasota Parking Advisory Committee and a past member and chair of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection advisory board. “I am very involved with city growth and development,” Shoffstall wrote in his application. “[T]he growth of the [city’s] future is very important to me. I feel I would be a very good asset to city staff.”
- Michael Tatro, who is an employee of the Sarasota County School Board and a past employee of Sarasota County Government, for which he was a landscape worker, he noted in his application. He has lived in the city for the past 15 years, he wrote. He holds an Associate of Occupational Studies degree in culinary arts from the New England Culinary Institute, he noted in his resume.
- Jordan Allison, who has lived in the city since 2009. His work is focused on real estate investment and development, “with a special interest in adaptive re-use,” he wrote in his application. Over the past several years, he pointed out, he has managed more than 100 custom homes in Sarasota and Charlotte counties, whose construction expense was in a range from $325,000 to $3 million. Since May 2022, he noted, he has been the development project manager for the Bay Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that is managing and raising private funds for the city’s 53-acre Bay Park on the waterfront. Allison also is a member of the Indian Beach-Sapphire Shores Association, he added.
- Raymond Knowles, who wrote in his application, “While a resident of New York City I was appointed by two different Borough Presidents of Manhattan for three two-year terms to serve on [the] local Community Board. The Board dealt with applications for zoning changes, approval changes for site use, and types of businesses permitted in a particular building.” He added that he is a member of the Sarasota Economic Club, the Alliance Francaise, the Sarasota World Affairs Council and the “Senior Friendship House.” (The Senior Friendships Centers has a popular location in Sarasota.)