Stultz, Adam Maio and LaCivita named to county Planning Commission seats

Former County Commissioner Thaxton loses out for eighth time in 10 years in seeking position on advisory board

Planning Commissioner Andrew Stultz asks a question during a hearing. File image

Sarasota County Planning Commissioner Andrew Stultz won a third, four-year term on the county’s Planning Commission this week, thanks to a unanimous County Commission vote.

Additionally, two new members will join that advisory board, which is considered the county’s most influential, as its members handle land-use applications and proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments.

The new members are John LaCivita, president of Willis A. Smith Construction, which is located on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard in Sarasota; and Adam Maio, a licensed contractor who is the principal of Maio Building and Land Development LLC in Myakka City. Maio is the son of former County Commissioner Alan Maio; he served for eight years as a deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

Once again, former County Commissioner Jon Thaxton failed to win a seat on the Planning Commission. He did not even get a nomination during the County Commission’s regular meeting on Sept. 12.

Based on tracking by The Sarasota News Leader, Thaxton has applied eight times in approximately 10 years for a seat on the Planning Commission. He is senior vice president for community leadership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which is based in Venice. In that capacity, he especially has been an advocate for environmental protections and for affordable housing construction in the county. In fact, on his application for the Planning Commission, responding to the question about the most pressing planning and land issues in the county, Thaxton wrote, “Affordable housing, and water quality.”

The last time Thaxton applied for a Planning Commission appointment was when seats were open in August 2021.

Altogether, nine applicants applied for the seats this time, including Stultz.

County Commission Chair Ron Cutsinger announced that he would “take a moment of personal privilege” during the Sept. 12 meeting to nominate Stultz for reappointment. Cutsinger noted that he served with Stultz on the Planning Commission before running for County Commission in 2020. “He’s an excellent commissioner,” Cutsinger added of Stultz.

Stultz’s new term will run through August 2027, Cutsinger said.

Stultz had a 65% attendance rate for 2022 meetings, a county document shows, with a 67% rate so far this year. The Planning Commission typically conducts its sessions twice a month.

Then-Deputy Adam Maio (left) accepts a Life Saving Award from then-Sheriff Tom Knight in October 2016. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Commissioner Michael Moran nominated Maio after making an inquiry of County Attorney Joshua Moye. Since the term for that seat expires on Jan. 31, 2024, Moran asked whether he could specify that Maio could serve a full term after filling that seat through the January.

“I think that makes sense,” Moye told Moran.

The seat was held by County Commissioner Neil Rainford before Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him in July to serve out the rest of the term of the late Commissioner Nancy Detert of Venice, who died in April.

Then Moran nominated LaCivita for the seat that Planning Commissioner Kevin Cooper had held, with the term ending on Jan. 31, 2025. A county staff memo noted that Cooper, who is the vice president for communications and strategic initiatives at Mote Marine Laboratory, had resigned effective as of Aug. 18.

No other county commissioners nominated persons for the three seats.

Priorities of Maio and LaCivita

In response to the application question about what the person seeking membership on the Planning Commission believes to be the most pressing planning and land issues in the county, Maio wrote, “Affordable Housing — Accomplished through [accessory dwelling unit construction] and more utilization of the [half] dwelling unit program of under 750 square feet.”

Maio’s father was the principal advocate for the county regulation that allows for developers of dwellings up to 750 square feet to count each of those as half a unit, so the developer could double the residential density of a project. The goal was to spur more creation of affordable homes.

In response to the application question about the person’s vision for the county in 10 years, Adam Maio wrote, “A completed road network” and “Water/sewer system to handle the growing population.”

John LaCivita. Image from the Willis A. Smith Construction website

In response to the same two questions, LaCivita wrote the following:

  • “Roads and Infrastructure in my opinion are the most pressing issues and looking toward the future with all proposed plans on what is best for Sarasota County. The best way to resolve these issues is to make sure all newly proposed land use changes address these items.”
  • “My vision is to see smart developments and make sure the roads and infrastructure for our future generations are secure and well thought out.”

The other applicants

Along with Stultz, Maio, LaCivita and Thaxton, the following individuals applied for the open seats:

  • William Dobrow of Venice, a retiree who noted that he served as an “IT/Cybersecurity Contractor for Federal Government Clients for the past 25 years.”

In regard to the question about the most pressing planning and land issues, he wrote, “Responsible Development of land for Commercial and Residential Use.

“Establishment of good relationships with all involved in following regulations for Development and continuing communications would be key elements for success in resolving any issues that might arise.”

As for the question about his vision of the county in 10 years, Dobrow responded, “Population will likely double.

“To meet the demands of substantial growth, well planned Commercial and Residential land use will be necessary for optimal success.”

  • Julian “Scott” Eller, CEO of the affordable housing corporation Community Assisted and Supported Living (CASL).

His answers about the pressing planning and land-use issues and his vision for the county in 10 years follow:

“The newest most pressing challenge is the Live Local Act [a law that the Florida Legislature approved this year and that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed]. With my 28 years of affordable housing developments, I understand the need and also what is reasonable on development while being a good neighbor. There are going to be numerous proposals for Affordable Housing Developments and [I] feel with proper insight and planning, they can be developed addressing the needs of our workforce. Over the past 6 years alone, I have worked with planning boards, zoning board, City and County Commissions in 11 counties around the state. …

“In 10 years, my vision is to have successfully worked with the community and developers addressing the needs of Sarasota County as it pertains to residential and commercial development. I am hopeful that we will … address some of our greatest challenges with affordable housing being at the forefront.”

  • Cullen Morgan of Venice, a site acquisition consultant with Centerline Communications.

He responded to the first question above as follows:

“The Biggest issues facing our area is the lack of workforce, or as I call it ‘attainable’ housing (i.e. Homes in the range of [$250,000 to $350,000] in addition to the lack of infrastructure that exists to handle the unprecedented growth our county has seen. I believe it is time for a complete overhaul of the Sarasota 2050 vision plan, as this document failed to anticipate the adverse effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic, which caused explosive population increases and development increases. We need to explore this again and be sure we can accommodate more residents without losing our county’s charm and quality of life. …

These are the principal tenets of the Sarasota 2050 Plan. Image courtesy Sarasota County

This is Morgan’s answer to the second question, above: “I believe in 10 years Sarasota County is still one of the best places to live in the entire state. Should I be appointed to the Planning Commission, I will advocate for Sarasota County to continue it’s [sic] small-town charm, while at the same time advocating for smart land-use planning practices that will lead to a higher quality of life for our residents and a more orderly dispersion of development that will not result in unchecked urban sprawl.”

  • Les Nichols of Sarasota, a property manager who is running for the District 1 County Commission seat in 2024.

His answers to the above questions follow:

“The land expansion east of I-75. The need for growth exists; homes are still selling, and businesses are opening. We need to keep it at a sustained rate. Infrastructure needs to be improved to allow for the proper growth. …

“My vision for Sarasota County is that it will be the world-class community it is today. And a desired location for travel and a desired lifestyle for future residents.”

  • James S. Piatchuk, an architect who leads his own firm in Sarasota. He also serves on the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Historic Preservation Board.

His responses to the two above application questions are as follows:

“Growth, and how to best accommodate it, is probably the most pressing issue, along with the Comprehensive Plan, 2050 policy, rezoning special exceptions, and mobility/transportation issues. Continuing to be mindful of our natural and environmental assets and their robust health are also issues. …

“The idea is to build on and improve what we have, and to make additions and changes in the highest quality manner possible. In 10 years I hope we will have done our best to deal with the growth in the most prudent, responsible, respectful, capable, and professional manner possible.”