Sarasota County Commission will hold its public hearing on certain parts of its so-called Comprehensive Plan “Update” Wednesday, June 8, at 1:30 pm at the County Administration Building at 1660 Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota

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Comprehensive Plan “Update” Harms Environment, Public Interests

Again, the Sarasota County Commission will hold its public hearing on certain parts of its so-called Comprehensive Plan “Update” Wednesday, June 8, at 1:30 pm at the County Administration Building at 1660 Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota.

On Monday, I described very bad changes to the Environment Chapter which will be considered at the hearing.  Other changes may be made by the County Commission after public comment is closed.

As presently planned, public comment will then be opened twice again on several other chapters, organized under Quality of Life and Implementation.  Below are destructive changes being proposed in those chapters (again, largely seeking to reduce environmental protections and other controls on developers), concerning Parks, Public Buildings and Utilities, Coastal Disaster Planning and Watershed Management, as well as a note regarding the neglect of long range planning for Capital Improvements.

During the re-opened public comment Wednesday, members of the public may talk about these changes and may also seek to comment further on the Commission’s decisions on the Environment Chapter.  Each comment period has a five minute limit.

Another hearing will be held Friday, June 10 at 9 am in the same place on Land Use, Economic Development, Mobility and Public Utilities.  I will later be emailing comments on the proposed changes to those chapters as well.

At least one more public hearing will be held on this Comprehensive Plan “Update” in October, after any comments from the state, before final adoption.

Concerned citizens are urged to attend the hearings and take a stand.

Thank you for your considerations.

QUALITY OF LIFE

PARKS

In Goal 1, the present requirement that the County’s park system and program be “high quality, environmentally sensitive, accessible and economically efficient” should not be replaced with a mere requirement that it be “high quality, efficient and comprehensive.”

Also in Goal 1, the current requirement that the County “enhance” its parks system and programs should not be deleted.

In Policy 1.1.9, the requirement that the County retain native habitat areas which it has acquired should not be deleted.  This is very important and raises suspicion that the County may have plans to sell off public native habitat areas.  At the very least, the proposal creates the inescapable conclusion that the County wants to have the ability to do so.  It should not.

Policy 1.1.15 should not be created, as recommended by the Planning commission but opposed by County staff, to add to the Comprehensive Plan that “organized, regulated, and periodic legal hunting may be allowed on County lands at specific locations, and under specific conditions, as approved by the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners.”

Policy 1.2.2 (formerly in Policy 1.2.1) should be amended to extend the requirement that park facilities and improvements “minimize the human impacts of sensitive natural systems” to include new park facilities, not only improvements to existing ones, as at present.

Policy 1.2.1 should not be amended to delete the listed requirements for sustainability practices in park renovations, such as bicycle racks, green building, alternate water sources for irrigation, solar power, pervious paving and use of bio swales.

Policy 1.2.2 should not be amended to delete the listed protections for beaches, dunes and coastal vegetation from vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Policy 1.4.4, which states, “Mowing of County parks shall be limited to necessary corridors and playing fields to protect native forbs, trees, shrubs and grasses”, should not be deleted.

COASTAL DISASTER PLANNING

Policy 5.1.1 (now 1.3.4) should not be weakened by providing that “development orders that adversely impact evacuation routes” and shelter proximity shall be merely assessed, rather than “discouraged”, as at present.

Policy 5.1.7 (now 1.3.2) should not be weakened by replacing the current level of service of 12 hours of evacuation time to a shelter to a mere reference to a statutory provision. Similarly, the same change should not be made to the level of service of 16 hours for evacuation to the County line, in Policy 5.1.8 (now 1.3.3).  The County evacuation LOS should stand independent of anything the state may call for.

The requirement that all developments with community facilities shall have them built to hurricane shelter design standards, in Policy 5.2.2, should not be deleted.  Similarly, the current requirement for an adequate on-site shelter for all residents in a manufactured home development, in Policy 5.2.1, at least as to new developments, should not be deleted. These are giveaways to developers at the expense of basic public safety.

New Policy 1.2.2 should “prohibit” or at least “discourage” land use plan amendments which increase density in Category I and 2 hurricane vulnerability zones (storm surge areas) rather than merely providing that such plan amendments shall “provide appropriate mitigation to reduce the impacts of hurricane evacuation times.”   That is a standard which is so weak as to be almost meaningless.

WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Policy 1.1.1 should not be amended to delete the requirement that the inventory of wastewater treatment plants include “all future committed capacity (number and type of hookups)”, as that is necessary for good planning.

IMPLEMENTATION

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

As I advocated in the workshop on this Chapter, add provisions for facility planning by the County for ten and twenty year periods rather than only for five years as at present.  The County plans its land use beyond five years.  It certainly should do so for capital improvements which will be needed to serve that land use and how they will be funded.   It would appear that the County chooses not to do this in order to obscure the obvious need for higher impact fees for growth to pay its own way and to hide the fact that more development is being allowed than the County has plans to serve.  The County took a major step backwards in this respect in recent years by eliminating its ten-year road plans and by including in its five-year road plan only those improvements that are fully funded with current revenues.  Basic good planning requires that the County not lift limits on growth, as it has been doing, while turning a blind eye to the consequences of that growth on public facilities.

— Dan Lobeck
Join Control Growth Now

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