Highlights of August 21, 2023 Sarasota City Commission Meeting
WE HEART PUBLIC ART
“People don’t move here for the great parking” quipped Public Art Manager Mary Davis Wallace as she presented a comprehensive framework for a 7-year to implement an inclusive “art everywhere” approach to strengthen our city’s sense of place, celebrate our community’s character, and foster collaboration and civic and economic vibrancy. The City Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan and expand funding for public art to keep Sarasota Florida’s “city of the arts”.
As the purple ribbon panel met for the first time on August 15th, WSLR interviewed Lorrie Muldowney, AICP, president of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, and CPA Ron Kashden about the past and future of Sarasota’s landmark hall. Watch the show to find out who mentioned “kabuki theater” and why County Commissioner Mark Smith, AIA, said of the Van Wezel, “I believe it can be saved, it should be saved, and we should stop destroying our history”.
HOMES OR HOTELS?
70% of vacation rentals currently registered with the city are owned by out-of-state corporations, with no on-site property owner to manage the guests. 3 weeks ago, 30 shots were fired in a residential neighborhood at 1:00 a.m. at a party held at a vacation rental in violation of the 10 person maximum occupancy and 7 day minimum stay required by law citywide.
TALK TO THE HAND / NOISEMAKERS
Sound of silence? Direct neighbors of the proposed 342-foot Obsidian project on Palm continue to get the silent treatment as the clock struck midnight for the 3rd time on the deadline for the city to approve or deny the project. How many extensions does 1 developer get? Why do developers and their attorneys get red carpet treatment, while we, the people, get the cold shoulder?
For over two years residents have been asking when Sarasota will update the city’s noise ordinance to control disruption from bars and events directly abutting businesses, bedrooms, and backyards. The prolonged deaf ear approach to quiet enjoyment should reach a crescendo when zoning text changes granting NEW privileges to bars and nightclubs for outdoor amplified music are heard by the planning board meeting on September 21. Mark your calendars, and prepare your 3 minutes of noise from the neighbors about the noise inflicted on the neighbors.
GOING IN CIRCLES ON HOLIDAY CHEER?
At the Aug 9 meeting, the Business Improvement District (BID) for St. Armands was dissolved because the property owners were not seeing the streetscape / infrastructure improvements the BID was intended to support. At the budget workshop, Mayor Battie said that the Merchant’s Association (which hosted the holiday tree lighting in St. Armands Circle Park for 25 years), would not be allowed to proceed with their application to do so for 2023. Blaming the St. Armands residents and merchants for the disruption to contracts and damage to public property and comity caused by the commercial carnival held last winter is not civic stewardship or accountability. The city commission could help spread the holiday spirit by inviting the St. Armands merchants association to resume handling the holiday event, and devoting some of the carried-over BID funding to decking out the circle this year.
WHO PAYS FOR PARKING?
At a recent commission workshop, parking general manager Brotxon Harvey presented a new plan for free, time-restricted, and paid parking for the city’s 3,000+ parking spaces. If adopted, the plan will turn what has been a cost center for the city into a revenue-generator, which could produce up to $3.5 million in additional income to invest in alternative transportation. Over the coming months, the plan will be presented for discussion with merchants, residents, and property owners.
Vice Mayor Alpert continues to push city administration to extend the emergency ordinance for the confusingly-named “parklets” (which are parking spots converted for outdoor dining during the pandemic). Restaurants have complained about the cost of providing a safe streetside place to dine (as they will be required to under the new code parameters for sturdy removable barriers). Retailers have concerns about how this will impact turn-over and availability of parking for their customers. Residents aren’t clamoring for asphalt-side-dining. So why are we doing this?
Aug 24 at Selby Library from 5:30-7:00 p.m. - Attainable housing open house on zoning changes to promote housing by major roads and in commercial centers. Will neighborhoods along 41, 301 and Fruitville be protected from overwhelming adjacent structures by retaining the setbacks and building height limits in the current code for any mixed use redevelopment? Context-sensitive building design and placement can help promote compatible and responsible growth.