On Oct. 10, County Commission scheduled to consider consultant’s report recommending rezoning of county’s ‘Northwest Quad’ parcel near the Celery Fields
With the Sarasota County Commission preparing to consider next week the rezoning of one of the four parcels the county owns next to the Celery Fields, county staff is reviewing the latest documents filed for the construction of a waste transfer station on property next to those “Quads,” The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
On Aug. 24, Weber Engineering & Surveying Inc. of Sarasota submitted revised site plan documents showing details about the waste transfer station, which would be located on property owned by TST Ventures at 6150 Palmer Blvd.
Lawrence R. Weber, president of his eponymous firm and a professional engineer, also provided responses on Aug. 24 to comments county staff issued in mid-June, deeming the project plans Weber submitted on April 25 to be insufficient.
During its regular meeting on Oct. 10, the County Commission is scheduled to discuss a report completed by a Miami firm hired to analyze the potential rezoning of what is called the “Northwest Quad.” That parcel is south of the site planned for the waste transfer station.
The October 10 session will be held at the County Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. The agenda was not available prior to the News Leader’s publication this week.
As part of a Nov. 28, 2017 discussion, the commissioners agreed to have an outside consultant analyze the Northwest Quad in preparation for their plans to sell it. At the time, the commissioners were working with county administrative staff on a number of options to plug a multi-million-dollar budget gap for the 2019 fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1 — as well as deficits expected in future fiscal years.
Using a technical term, the report prepared by Lambert Advisory LLC of Miami said the “highest and best use” of the land would be industrial development.
The fifth edition of the Appraisal Institute’s Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal defines “highest and best use” as “The reasonably probable and legal use of vacant land or an improved property that is physically possible, appropriately supported, financially feasible and that results in the highest value.”
As for the waste transfer station proposed in the same area: In an Oct. 1 email response to News Leader questions, Ashley Lusby, the county’s Emergency Services media relations officer, wrote, “[T]he project is not authorized at this time.” She added that staff review of Weber’s comments was still underway.
In a June 15 letter deeming the April TST Ventures site plan materials insufficient, Kristen Hellman of the county Zoning Division pointed to several concerns. Among them, she wrote, “The proposed slab for the waste transfer area has been re-oriented. Please demonstrate how this is consistent with the Binding Development Concept Plan associated with Special Exception 1739.”
On Oct. 14, 2015, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve that special exception petition to enable the owner of TST Ventures — James Gabbert — to build the waste transfer facility on about 4.28 acres located at the intersection of Porter Road and Palmer Boulevard, east of Interstate 75. With that decision, the board also affirmed the proposed site plan.
“After reconsideration of the operation of the facility,” Weber wrote in his Aug. 24 responses, “the slab for the waste transfer area was revised to the original orientation as shown on the Binding Development [Concept] Plan.”
The waste transfer station would be built next to a 10.3-acre county parcel known as the “Southwest Quad.” In August 2017, Gabbert failed to win County Commission approval for a construction and yard waste recycling facility on that property, on which he had placed an option for purchase. Following the 3-2 denial vote, he decided not to buy the land.
He had planned to combine the Southwest Quad with the property already slated for the waste transfer station, for a more expansive operation.
Commissioners Nancy Detert, Paul Caragiulo and Charles Hines cited a number of issues in denying Gabbert’s rezoning petition for the Southwest Quad, including the inability of the adjacent road network to support traffic the recycling facility would generate, as well as the growing national and international popularity of the county’s Celery Fields stormwater site among bird-watchers and other aficionados of ecotourism. Commissioners Alan Maio and Michael Moran voted in favor of Gabbert’s project.
Other staff concerns addressed
Along with addressing the county staff concern about the orientation of the slab, Weber provided comments on 17 other issues in his Aug. 24 letter. Among them, he acknowledged notice from the Planning Services staff about a potential insufficiency in regard to the zoning comments on the materials submitted in April. “If deemed more than a minor modification from the Special Exception Development Concept Plan, an amended special exception will be required,” the staff comment said.
Both the April 25 site plan materials and the revised set submitted in August note that the zoning of the property is Industrial Light and Warehousing (ILW) with Special Exception.
The April 25 materials also said that the total area of the project would be 252,743 square feet and that the proposed impervious area after construction would encompass 145,878 square feet.
At that time, the project was scheduled for two phases. An initial building would cover 30,840 square feet, the document said; a second — to be built in Phase 2 — would entail 9,600 square feet of coverage. One of the April documents listed a covered equipment parking area, next to the proposed office/shop, as “Phase 2.”
The revised materials submitted in August pointed out that the total project area would take up 186,605 square feet, with 148,409 of that to be impervious. One proposed building would cover 7,200 square feet, the document said.
Weber further noted in the Aug. 24 responses that the second building had been removed from the plan. “All improvement will be constructed in a single phase,” he added.
Yet another staff comment in the June document called for demonstration of “how line-of-site compliance for vehicular traffic will be achieved at the northeast corner of the site.”
Weber noted in the Aug. 24 letter that a diagram had been included in the revised materials. Additionally — responding to a related staff comment — Weber wrote that a “revised turning template” had been included in the updated materials to show how vehicles entering the site from the east — “especially larger vehicles” — would not encroach into turn lanes or any other lanes.
In response to another comment, Weber explained in the Aug. 24 letter that the materials brought to the site for transfer would be loaded into truck beds “on a continuous basis in order to provide sufficient room for the operation of the facility. It is necessary to [move the material offsite],” he added, “to provide for in-coming material and maneuverability on the site. All material must be handled on a first in/first out basis consistent [with a state statute] and removed accordingly.”
Additionally, he pointed out that signs would be posted at the entrance of the station to alert customers about the materials that would be accepted. Such signage had been added to the plans, Weber wrote, referencing one of the updated documents.
Further, he continued, the “gate to the facility will close at 5 pm’; a sign at the entrance also would list the hours of operation.
One staff comment in June pointed out that the plans submitted in April showed that the stormwater area for the site had been relocated into an Open Use Rural zoning district, “which is not shown on the Special Exception plan. The Zoning Code prohibits a stormwater facility in a different zone district than the principal use,” the staff comment continued. “The stormwater retention area is required to be on the ILW portion of the site consistent with the approved plan.”
Weber responded in August that the plan had been changed to reflect that.