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Highlights of May 6, 2024 Sarasota City Commission Meeting

Highlights of May 6, 2024 Sarasota City Commission Meeting


Commissioner Arroyo, joined by Commissioner Alpert and Commissioner Battie, moved to approve allowing George McAlpin’s hand-built concrete block home in Burns Court to be demolished if it cannot be moved off site - creating a moral hazard which could encourage other property purchases that ignore land use and preservation ordinances. The decision to allow demolition of the historically-listed house was made despite strong pushback from City planners, the city’s Historic Preservation Board, and citizens.

Speaking of concrete blocks, “if it doesn’t fit, you must not permit,” quipped a neighbor of the proposed Obsidian skyscraper, using the fable of Goldilocks & the 3 bears as a gauge for “just right” mix of structure, use, and context. Red-shirted residents asked the city staff to reject the out-of-scale project with finality when it comes back for development review on May 15.


Due to active outreach by the neighborhood, the super-dense rezone by the Bertha Mitchell site in Newtown was rescinded. But it shouldn’t take this much work from residents to prevent poorly planned or ill-fitting projects from advancing.

Public trust includes the fundamental question of whether we can trust our lawmakers to make good decisions. The odds of success are heightened when outcomes, benchmark data, and scenario analysis occur before policies and projects are pushed through.

Yet, Commissioners Alpert, Arroyo, and Battie refused the motion by Commissioner Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Trice to closely look at the formulas for commercial areas to ensure that redevelopment maximizes the number of affordable units without overwhelming the landscape, infrastructure, and surroundings.


A resident shared a pro forma illustrating that financing proposed city-owned housing across from city hall might mean a tax-payer backed cost of as much as $120,000,000 for 192 attainably-priced housing units.

Could we get more impact faster by enforcing vacation rental rules to return some of the 700 formerly-affordable existing rental units to the market? Or by building more single family homes on smaller lots or waiving ADU construction fees?

What civic values are reflected in the choices the city is making? What are the trade-offs, costs, and rewards? What isn’t being funded that the service departments or public asked for? These are the questions that District 2 commission candidate, Ron Kashden, a CPA, posed during public comment, asking for a list of unfunded projects and department requests.

In terms of budget priorities, parks ranked high for District 3 commission candidate Kathy Kelley Ohlrich, who co-founded Conserve Bobby Jones Now. She urged the commission to look at restoring the dedicated parks district to preserve all of the city’s parks and protect them from development.


Special events (volume, frequency, location) are on the Downtown Improvement District agenda. Based on emails downtown residents have sent to the city, they like the merchants and building owners, would prefer far fewer events that involve street closings, and much lower volumes and durations.

The sound of chain saws is also something best avoided. A sustainability workshop scheduled for May 13 should focus on how to use the $880,000 amassed in the city’s tree mitigation fund to get more roots in the ground faster.


No vote matters more to the livability and sustainability of Sarasota than local elections. The primary in August is very important. Request your Vote by Mail ballot at before August 8th and ensure your voice is heard.

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