Highlights of May 1 Sarasota City Commission Meeting
ADMINISTRATIVE APPROVAL - The lack of citizen or elected official input into development approvals downtown was not on the agenda, but it was the hot topic of the meeting following CityPAC's Facebook post depicting the height disparity, and the implications of the 342 foot tall structure on the street feel, walkability, safety, and livability of Sarasota's historic arts district. On April 28, Herald Tribune columnist Carrie Seidman wrote a highly informative article on the issues, and at today's meeting over half a dozen neighbors (representing hundreds of other residents of North Palm Avenue) spoke during public comment. At the close of the meeting, the City Manager noted the input from residents, and said staff would consider their concerns when reviewing this project for appropriateness of fit with the zoning guidelines and city plan.
VAN WEZEL PURPLE RIBBON COMMITTEE - Speaking on behalf of the 2,500 Sarasotans who signed the petition at keepthevanwezel.com, website creator Kelly Franklin decried the misperceptions spread by the recent marketing campaign to replace the Van Wezel, and flagged that legendary Sarasota School architect Carl Abbott, FAIA and Herald Tribune architectural critic Harold Bubil both called the purple landmark "Sarasota's icon," and that a recent engineer's report found the building to be sound and updatable. The website also includes market research illustrating that it is proximity to Tampa, not seat capacity, that limits Sarasota's Broadway bookings, and an informative video from the the Historic Preservation Alliance and Sarasota Historic Society panel on the Past, Present, and Future of the Van Wezel. The Commissioners agreed to seat an expert purple ribbon panel to evaluate use and re-use options for the storied theater, and the costs and feasibility of retaining it for the purpose it has won best in class for 7 times - serving as the City of Sarasota's Performing Arts presenting hall.
NO KILL SHELTERS - Commissioner Arroyo asked that the city add to its zoning guidelines a prohibition against animal shelters that do not commit to try to avoid killing animals. All commissioners supported the request following clarification that euthanasia for animals in pain or with uncontrollable behavioral issues would be permitted.
PARK IMPACT FEES - Commissioner Trice asked the commission to consider terminating an out-dated arrangement (dating from when the county handled city park maintenance) whereby impact fees collected for new parks went to the county, creating a cumbersome process the city and county have to go through to get the funds back. After discussion, all agreed this is a practice that serves no one, and the city will ask the county if they have any objection to changing this dated interlocal arrangement.
BEING AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY - Commissioner Ahearn-Koch asked that an agenda item be added to allow the flying of the PRIDE flag to coincide with the PRIDE celebration. All commissioners supported this motion. Vice Mayor Alpert noted that she had delivered a proclamation at the Jewish Federation's celebration of the State of Israel's 75th Anniversary noting David Cohen, Sarasota's first Jewish mayor, was also a musical prodigy who was the first music director of the West Coast Symphony, and instrumental in catalyzing the creation of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.