Highlights of September 18, 2023 Sarasota City Commission Meeting
In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, which caused the worst flooding St. Armands has experienced in decades, the City of Sarasota announced that residents can receive up to a 25% discount on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance. The discount is available even if your property is not in a high risk flood zone. Renters can purchase flood insurance too for their belongings. More information is available at floodsmart.gov. Water treatment and monitoring for red tide were also among the state legislative priorities the city set for 2024. “Our environment is our economy,” said Commissioner Ahearn-Koch, as she implored the state to focus on the One Water program, accept the $350 million in federal funds earmarked for homeowner resilience preparation, and encouraged residents to check out the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Playbook for Healthy Waterways.
SELLING OUT NEIGHBORHOODS?
After Carrie Seidman’s poignant article explaining what happened to her home on Lido, national AirBnB PR forces have joined the fray with the Realtors lobby to try to dissuade the city commission from protecting what is left of Sarasota’s affordable residential areas. Expanding the vacation rental registry beyond the barrier islands, and enforcement of the citywide 7-day minimum stay for owner-unoccupied vacation rentals will be on the October 2 city commission agenda. Are the 700+ vacation rentals operating in the city adversely impacting your quality of life? CCNA is collecting resident feedback at sarasotapublic.com.
AIRY ARGUMENTS & COMMON GROUND
Does "adjacent" mean "next to"? Does "complete" mean "developed"? Can tunnels be “well-landscaped”? These musings on the limits of language, law, and light were explored at One Park / Quay air rights trial. At stake - what is “common” in a community? What makes for an inviting walkable street? Neighbors of the proposed 342-foot Obsidian skyscraper explained what they love about their block, and expressed their frustration with the city’s opaque administrative review process for a project that does not meet the parameters set forth in the zoning code. The deadline for the city to rule on the Obsidian proposal has been extended to October 14.
Downtown residents are gearing up for a charrette to envision possibilities for the county administration building property. Benderson has engaged an architectural firm praised by the leading guru of new urbanism, Andrés Duany, who wrote the pioneering downtown Sarasota City Plan. Laurel Park, the neighborhood adjoining the site, has been described as the “new urban ideal”. What has stood the test of time about the city plan, and what needs to be fixed or clarified to preserve paradise and sustain a healthy community? WSLR takes a close look at that question with urban planner Andrew Georgiadis.
WHEELS & WORRIES
The city held an informative Q&A session with residents and retailers on the proposed changes to public parking, which include reducing the free period to 2 hours downtown, installing gateless checkout in garages, and raising the fees for citation appeals. Although areas of serious concern clearly remain for downtown merchants, it is notable that the city is making every effort to solicit stakeholder input before finalizing staff’s recommendations to the city commission. Vice Mayor Alpert explained she was unable to attend the Q&A because of a previously scheduled root canal (true story), but that she had attended the merchants briefing, and will listen with a close ear when this item comes back.
Speaking of stakeholder input, unfortunately Commissioner Arroyo moved, in a vote that carried 3 to 2, to exclude from the Downtown Improvement District (DID), retailers who do not own property. The DID supports beautification and capital improvements of the lower Main mixed-use area and clearly is an important stakeholder on parking issues. But as a result of the vote, one valued current DID member who does not own the building but has paid the insurance and property taxes for 15 years (and is therefore highly invested in the welfare of the business district) will not be eligible for a seat when her term expires.
LOUDER THAN LONDON?
That is what one resident experienced when she taped the drummer in an adjacent house and reported noise exceeding the city’s required decibel limits to the police. When they arrived, the activity had ceased, and no ticket was issued. The neighbor has been through this same frustrating cycle almost half a dozen times this year. Is the city going to enforce its quality of life ordinances or not? And how will the 150 foot separation from residences impact outdoor rooftop bars and nightclubs? Should be a lively discussion when the Planning Board hears the proposed changes to the regulations for bars and nightclubs on Thursday, September 21 at 1:00 at City Hall.
Open houses on attainable housing on commercial corridors: East Sarasota: September 20 at 5:30 at the VFW Post on Tuttle. South Sarasota: September 27 at 5:30 in Arlington Park Gym.