Highlights of July 17, 2023 Sarasota City Commission Meeting
LOTS OF LANGUAGE GAMES AFOOT
There is much debate in the City of Sarasota over the meaning of words like “commons” and “adjacent” at the Quay, and “interstitial” and “retail” for the 342-foot Obsidian. Resident Ron Shapiro lamented the opaque administrative review process used to vet downtown projects. Commissioner Arroyo later cautioned that administrative approval is part of the new state preempt on density and height in the Live Local Act, which is something to keep in mind as we live through the cone of uncertainty of how this loss of local control will impact Sarasota.
Community outreach on the zoning text amendments to promote attainable housing on commercial corridors will begin in August. Commissioner Trice noted that Live Local makes it even more critical to ensure setbacks, parking requirements, building mass and lot placement are carefully delineated with respect to form and scale to comport as much as possible with adjoining single family residential neighborhoods.
STOPS AND STARTS ON SAFE & PEACEFUL NEIGHBORHOODS
Public safety officials met recently with residents of Payne Park Village about signage and other measures that could help reduce speeding on School Avenue. CCNA mentioned in a recent letter to the city that hotel houses operating in residential areas are exacerbating safety issues by bringing visitors and vacationers into the neighborhoods.
The commission recently discussed rolling the short term rental registry out to the inland neighborhoods, starting in 2024. Hotel houses and tourism traffic are a particular problem for the barrier islands. Based on costs, timing, and a recent survey of affected residents, merchants, and property owners, the St. Armands Business Improvement District recommended that the city move ahead with an enhanced streetscape. Public Works will present the city’s Engineering Design Criteria Manual for roads and sidewalks at a public workshop July 19.
PARKS & PLAY
During public comment, Payne Park was described as a “perfect fit” for the community Players, who are in talks to lease the Payne Park Auditorium, but the resident said the idea of giving over greenspace for parking or athletic fields was a misfit with the needs of the city and wishes of the Payne family. The city is planning to organize a conversation with area residents about the central park in the fall.
The city commissioners named the 7 members of the purple ribbon committee which will examine the future of The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall: Robert Bunting, Lee-an Chung, Charles Cosler, Melissa Gessinger, Morris Hylton, David Rovine, and Selma Goker Wilson. The panelists have an impressive breadth of professional experience, and will be exploring continued use as a presenting theater, as well as adaptive reuse scenarios as part of the overall bayfront recreational and cultural campus.
WATER WORKS - INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK!
At last week’s special meeting, retiring director Bill Riebe gave a detailed update on the city’s utilities master plan, and good progress (under budget!) on replacing its aging pipes and water infrastructure. Stormwater management in city limits is handled by the county under an interlocal agreement, which gave an update on initiatives to control flooding after storm events – a particular issue for the lowest lying neighborhoods along the shores.
Budget meetings in late July and workshop on parking in August.