20160101-1 Jan 2016

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City-county board collaboration on homelessness collapses

Jon Thaxton Christine Robinson BCC SCC Nov. 6 2015A storm of confusion swirled Monday as the county commissioners pulled apart a city-county agreement brokered just three days earlier

The Sarasota City and County commissioners seemed to have found considerable common ground on the most vexing and controversial issue in Sarasota. But a closer alignment exhibited late last week proved short-lived. The two boards voted separately on Friday, Nov. 6, to direct their staffs to work together on a strategy incorporating both a homeless shelter and long-term housing and bring back recommendations within 45 days at the latest. Yet, three days later, on Nov. 9, the County Commission unanimously rescinded its Nov. 6 vote. (Read more »)

School Board’s impact fee decision might face a legal challenge

Morgan Bentley School Board Oct. 20 2015 RBHAn attorney representing area builders says a decision will be made after the County Commission’s Dec. 8 vote on the fees

The Sarasota County Commission is scheduled to vote Dec. 8 on a request by the Sarasota County School Board to impose impact fees the School Board approved this week on a 3-2 vote, Scott Ferguson, communications specialist for the Sarasota County Schools, told The Sarasota News Leader this week. (Read more »)

Benches slated to make reappearance in Sarasota’s Five Points Park

No benches next to Five Points Park Dec. 8 2015 RogerCity Commission authorizes staff to come up with a plan for ‘activating’ the park

Several passersby walked through or by Selby Five Points Park on the cooler but sunny morning of Dec. 8. Among them were a vacationing couple, a mom with a stroller and another child in tow, a doctor who has a downtown Sarasota office, and a woman on a break from work. However, in the span of more than an hour, no one lingered or stopped to rest in the downtown Sarasota park. No one paused to read a book or drink coffee. City leaders and downtown advocates hope that will change — that more of the public will utilize the facility — as the city explores a plan to reintroduce benches, or some other combination of seating accommodations, and “activate” Five Points Park. (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 »)

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 »)

Proposed ordinance banning certain retail animal sales to be lone county agenda item on Jan. 27

On a 4-1 vote, the County Commission this week agreed to advertise a public hearing but asked staff to amend language of the proposed law beforehand to exempt certain types of breeders

Dogs without adequate shelter Ankerstar BCC Sept 21 2015After about two hours and 40 minutes of public comments on Sept. 21, the Sarasota County Commission voted 4-1 to advertise that a public hearing will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, on a proposed ordinance that would ban sales of commercially bred animals in certain retail establishments. As requested by the board, it will be the only item on the agenda that day. (Read more »)

In spite of pleas to wait, the County Commission approves funding for new voting machines

Paul Caragiulo Oct. 28 2015 RBHSupervisor of Elections Dent says even state officials were worried about her equipment breaking down and imperiling 2016 vote counts

Although five members of the public urged more deliberation, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously on Nov. 17 to appropriate $1,650,000 for the purchase of new voting equipment from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), so the machines can be installed and staff and poll workers trained prior to Florida’s March 15, 2016 Presidential Primary. (Read more »)

County program taking the place of new CRAs had its genesis in the Feb. 20 budget workshop this year

Robinson mugshot Aug. 20 2013 RBHCommissioner Christine Robinson won board consensus to research a revival of the Community Reinvestment Program, and a staff presentation followed in May

Sarasota County Commission discussions about reviving a 2006 program to support community redevelopment projects began in public on Feb. 20 of this year, almost exactly seven months before the board formally adopted a resolution signaling the end of the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). (Read more »)

County Commission denies Benderson petition for Fruitville Initiative parcel

Fruitville Initiative Multi-Use rendering March 2014Board members cite conflicts between the proposed modifications and the vision for mixed-use development

It all came down to the vision for the Fruitville Initiative, a years-long community process to create a signature look for the area considered the gateway to Sarasota County from Interstate-75. Benderson Development’s director of development, Todd Mathes, was appearing before the County Commission on Oct. 28 to seek rezoning approval so the firm could deviate from regulations crafted for the Fruitville Initiative. (Read more »)

City Commission to file suit against county over fire-rescue assessments

John Herin Jr. GrayRobinson oct. 2015Deputy city attorney explains concerns about precedents that could be set without the action

Faced with filing a lawsuit against Sarasota County by Nov. 3 or the prospect of paying more than $48,000 in fire-rescue assessments its attorneys say the city does not owe, the Sarasota City Commission this week voted unanimously to proceed with legal action. The vote followed a presentation Deputy City Attorney Mike Connolly made during the board’s Oct. 19 regular meeting. (Read more »)

Two high-rise city projects — a hotel and 10-story luxury apartment complex — to commence construction

Second Street condo complex former Jesse Biter property Oct. 2015Downtown Sarasota will be home to an Embassy Suites & Spa on U.S. 41 and new housing on Second Street

The City of Sarasota’s Building Division issued permits last week for two significant projects in the heart of downtown Sarasota. The first was a building permit for the $40 million Embassy Suites & Spa at 202 N. Tamiami Trail. The 18-story hotel will be constructed across U.S. 41 from The Vue Sarasota Bay and Westin hotel project, which is rising just to the south. (Read more »)

For the third time in three years, the County Commission denies a variance for construction of a Siesta Key house

Sania and Ronald Allen BCC Oct. 14 2015 RBHAn Osprey couple’s attorney says he would prefer not to litigate, but the county’s not allowing his clients to build the house would be ‘a categorical taking’

Facing the threat of a lawsuit, the Sarasota County Commission nonetheless voted unanimously this week to deny the request of Siesta Key property owners seeking a variance, for the third time in almost three years, to build a home completely seaward of the county’s Gulf Beach Setback Line (GBSL). “To deny this variance would place an unreasonable hardship on the land because, without the variance, there’s no reasonable or economically viable use available for the property,” William Merrill III, an environmental attorney and partner with the Icard Merrill firm in Sarasota, told the board on Oct. 14. (Read more »)

County Commission makes it clear: 2016 public safety referendum does not include a new jail

Public Safety Campus for BCC Nov. 9 2015 renderingStaff wins approval of tentative list of facilities for November 2016 bond referendum, with a ‘highly conceptual’ estimate of almost $191 million

Sarasota County Commissioners Christine Robinson and Charles Hines asked county staff this week to make it “crystal clear,” as Hines put it, that a bond referendum planned for November 2016 will cover a new Public Safety Campus on Cattlemen Road, expansion of the South County court facilities and property where the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office could place all its fleet maintenance facilities, but not a new jail. (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 »)

As the city looks to put more art in its roundabouts, a discussion arises on scale and public input

Orange Ave. roundabout open Oct. 16 2015 SCC photoThe City Commission considers means of providing more public response in the future before settling on designs

One week after the City of Sarasota announced the roundabout at Orange Avenue and Main Street was fully open to traffic, the city commissioners revisited the topic of the height of the sculpture chosen for display in the roundabout’s center. In what might be called typical Sarasota fashion — where public art often equates to public debate — disagreement among commissioners and residents arose over whether the Embracing Our Differences sculpture, by Arizona artist S. Blessing Hancock, was too tall. (Read more »)