Property and purchasing make up City Commission agenda for June 4

Photo by Norman Schimmel

One of the great joys of civic leadership is perusing and then approving civic improvements. As the years go by, leaders can point with pride to a building or highway they OK’d. Monday, June 4, the opportunity will come again, as Sarasota city commissioners ponder improvements to the Tamiami Trail between 10th and 14th streets.

A proposed design calls for two roundabouts and wider sidewalks to create another leg of the “multi-use recreational trail,” or MURT, that extends to Bird Key Park. Total project length is about 2,600 feet along U.S. 41.

Combining a 10-foot-wide MURT with a 4-foot bike lane plus the existing traffic lanes would provide a better walking and bicycling climate on this stretch of the North Trail, city staff says. Medians would be reconstructed. The staff’s preferred plan costs $9.5 million, with $4.5 million of that to buy right of way for the expanded sidewalks and two roundabouts.

A cheaper alternative will also be proposed, using existing 6-foot sidewalks. That project comes in at $8.1 million. Regardless of alternative, construction would begin in July 2016 and finish the following June. Yes, you read that right – construction extending through another tourist season.

This item is set for discussion, and possible selection of the preferred option, in the afternoon commission session, starting at 2:30 p.m.

The Benderson deal

The item following that is a proposed sale of 11 city-owned acres on the northeast corner of Beneva Road and Fruitville Road. Benderson Property Development wants to purchase the land to create commercial retail opportunities.

The land is is used by the Sarasota County Technical Institute for firefighter training. Benderson would pay to relocate the training facilities. There is also an active helipad landing zone on the property.

In March, Benderson representatives offered to buy the land for its appraised value of $1,446,600. Commissioners asked for a second appraisal. That came in at $3 million, with some qualifications about drainage. In either case, the city would pursue a change to the future land use map from “G” for government use to commercial use. Benderson would then pay for the rezoning to the specific zone it needs.

There is a large and deep ditch that bisects the acreage, splitting it into two separate parcels. Benderson has proposed a new agreement. It is willing to pay $3 million if it keeps the ditch intact. If the company can install a big drainage pipe in the ditch and then fill it in to create one large parcel, it will pay $1,446,600.

A city memo indicates “staff has been approached by other developers who are also interested in purchasing and developing the property.”

New purchasing rules

The evening session of the upcoming City Commission meeting could be uncharacteristically short — or quite long, depending on the reaction of the business community.

Only one item of substance is on the evening agenda – a public hearing on an ordinance creating “ a comprehensive procurement code that addresses all major issues related to the purchase of goods and services by the city.”

The document puts all major rules into the city code, making it easier for city employees and venders to find them. While a few of the rules would change, the new ordinance is primarily a codification of existing regulations in one place.

The staff memo says one impact “reduces the risk to the city that a bidder or responder will file a meritless bid protest by clarifying who has standing to file a bid protest, and by limiting the period of time for filing protests ….”

However, this is more than filing the old procurement system in a different place. The ordinance repeals the old “finance, purchasing and sales” sections and replaces them with “the City of Sarasota Procurement Code.”

This action would replace eight pages of old language with 17 pages of new language. Owners and managers of firms doing business with the city would be smart to read the backup for this agenda item, because they will have the opportunity to speak on the merits or demerits of the new purchasing rules Monday evening.

The new ordinance may be found here: