top of page

Highlights of April 15, 2024 Sarasota City Commission Meeting

Highlights of April 15, 2024 Sarasota City Commission Meeting


Last week’s commission workshop on special events revealed the cost of providing public safety protection and other city services for co-sponsored events in public parks and streets grew to $387,000 last fiscal year. Is this the best way of deploying public resources? Are the draft rules for events, locations, frequency, and controls the right ones to promote a livable and vibrant city? Director of Government Relations Jennifer Jorgensen pledged to give residents a chance to weigh in during community outreach.

The April 2 Main Street Visioning public workshop held at Selby Library was a stellar example of how workshops should be done. City staff led by transportation planner Alvimarie Corales creatively engaged with residents early on to obtain input for how best to improve our Main Street, a much needed initiative.

Speaking of government outreach, U.S. 41 is managed by FDOT, so fixing the issues is complicated by responsibility shared across city, county, and state lines, but the human toll of divided accountability is visible in police reports which show that the Gulfstream roundabout’s unusual design continues to invite an alarming number of crashes - now averaging 1 every 2.25 days.

In other space-sharing dilemmas, scooters, bicyclists, and pedestrians battle it out for pavement. To ensure accessibility for everyone, cities like Tampa are tightening e-scooter rules and imposing fines for scooters left on sidewalks.


“How do these things get approved?” Commissioner Debbie Trice asked in a recent Commissioner’s Corner broadcast on the development review process used downtown.

“Is purgatory somewhere in that workflow?” neighbors of the proposed pencil skyscraper on 1260 Palm Avenue might have wondered. At a recent development review, staff flagged the now slightly-shorter skyscraper as incompatible with its surroundings, but a clear rejection of the proposal remains elusive.

On a positive note from the tax side of the equation, city finance director Kelly Strickland briefed the commission on financial results from FY 22-23. Revenues exceed budget by 19%. But almost half of the $15.8 million came from non-recurring federal grants.


Commissioner Trice shared some census data on rental vs. owned housing in the city, and income distribution. Sarasota’s need for more affordable housing is real. The best ways to solve the gap between the housing we have and the housing we need are far less clear.

WSLR’s Cathy Antunes summed up the economic issues with the recently adopted housing incentives, as well as the urban design problems looming for the neighborhoods along main roads (41, 301 and Fruitville).

To address one portion of the missing housing stock - 1 & 2 bedroom rental apartments priced at rents pegged toward households earning somewhere between 80-120% of Area Median Income ($51,200 - $109,680 per year), the city manager unveiled a proposed city project for 192 new rental units across from city hall.

Most speakers supported the need for more housing aimed at the workforce, but raised concerns about the city becoming a developer and landlord, as well as about the financial and operational risk, and whether that income level was the one that government assistance should be directed toward. After discussion, the commission unanimously authorized the city manager to proceed with purchasing the property, with project details to be brought back for further consideration after due diligence.

They also voted unanimously to engage an expert to update the downtown plan.

At the April 1 city commission meeting, former planning board chair Kathy Kelley-Ohlrich (whom CtiyPAC has endorsed for the District 3 city commission seat) outlined the specifications and benchmarks that should be used to maximize affordability and design of new housing construction.

Yet Commissioner Arroyo, Mayor Alpert, and Commissioner Battie deflected Vice Mayor Ahearn-Koch’s request that they reconsider the building formula for the transportation corridors in order to better-tailor the solution to yield the most affordable housing mix possible. The overlay formulas can be adjusted with 3 votes by a future commission willing to delve into the details.


Noise ordinance?

bottom of page