DID offers Moran big raise; Marina Jack interested in parking deck

The owner of Marina Jack on the city’s bayfront reportedly is interested in building a one-level parking deck. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Sarasota’s Downtown Improvement District this week voted to give Operations Manager John Moran a whopping $10,000 raise, citing his excellent performance over the past 12 months.

Moran opened the July 10 meeting with a surprise: “We’ve received an increase in our tax [base],” he said. “We got a 6% surprise instead of the negative 4% drop we expected.”

The difference resulted in an increase of $33,000 for the district.

The Downtown DID levies a 2-mill tax on commercial property in a defined area downtown, with the money to be used to enhance that area. Most of the money is pledged to bonds for a three-stage street improvement program that is getting under way now.

When a city staffer told the DID board no city employee had received a raise in five years, the board shrugged him off. When one of the DID members said the $10,000 represented a 37% salary hike, other board members shrugged her off, too.

The motion passed 4-1. However, the raise is by no means automatic. It needs the approval of the city manager, a doubtful proposition.

Moran left the room for the discussion of his performance and salary.

Marina Jack parking garage?

One member of the DID board has been talking with Bob Soran, the owner and operator of the Marina Jack complex on the bayfront. Parking has always been a problem for the highly frequented facility. While the complex is not within the DID district, Soran reportedly held out the promise of joining the DID and paying the 2-mil tax.

Downtown observers know Soran was sued by Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst for payment of back taxes almost two years ago. Because of a clerical screw-up more than a decade ago, Marina Jack was able to slip through a legal loophole and avoid property taxes.

DID member Thomas Mannausa had met with Soran, Mannausa reported back to the board on July 10. “He has an agenda – a one-level parking garage, 12 feet high, adding 54 parking spaces,” Mannausa said. “He’s hired Bruce Franklin to create a design.”

The idea met a lukewarm reception. Would Soran pay the DID property tax if he doesn’t pay regular property taxes? “The lawsuit’s not fully settled,” said Mannausa. “Soran would be willing to contribute to the cost of the parking garage. The area right now is all public spaces.”

DID Member Dr. Mark Kaufman said, “If they want to join the DID, they should pay based on fair property values.”

Mannausa said, “He wants that parking garage, and he wants it bad.”

Andy Dror spoke up from the audience, a not-uncommon feature of DID meetings. “That 3-and-a-half acre plot is probably the most valuable site in town,” he said. “I’d be careful to get everybody on board to use this very valuable property. Recall [Andreas] Duany called for a hotel there, with parking.”

Duany is the nationally known urban planner who offered a proposal years ago to improve the connectivity of downtown to the waterfront.

Kaufman said the parking garage would disrupt the view over the water. “It’s not a good use of the property,” he said.

City Planner Steve Stancel said no plans have been offered or proposed to the city for the parking deck.

New ‘carpet’ for Five Points

Five Points Park will be re-sodded in the near feature.

“The park has a high level of wear and tear,” said Moran. He noted areas will be fenced off to let the new grass grow; Landscapers will try a new species – Empire Zoyza. “It looks and feels like carpet,” he said.