Planning Board Recommendations
Two new members of the City of Sarasota's planning board will be selected at the July 3 City Commission meeting. The volunteer planning board is responsible for evaluating development proposals for compliance with the principles of the comprehensive plan and requirements of the zoning code.
Given the desirability of the area, there have been aggressive pushes by development interests to skirt the spirit and letter of Sarasota’s city plan for responsible, compatible growth. The city commission and the residents need to be able to have full confidence that the recommendations provided by the planning board aren’t influenced by conflicting loyalties or financial considerations.
Planning board members must recuse themselves from hearing projects that they directly benefit from financially, and should recuse themselves if there are ties that could create the appearance of a conflict of interest or erode trust in their objectivity.
Because of the importance of planning board decisions to Sarasota’s livability and quality of life, CityPAC evaluated the applications, and found that 5 of the 8 individuals who have applied have professional or personal ties which could create the public perception or reality of conflicts.
James Ehrmann is currently employed as a professional planner by Sarasota County, creating a prima facie conflict with the principle of home rule.
Jordan Allison is currently a project manager employed by The Bay Park, which has been offered a $1 million donation from the developers of One Park contingent upon the city’s issuing a certificate of occupancy.
Michael Tatro works for the Sarasota School Board, which already has a chance to weigh in via its 6th non-voting position on the Planning Board.
Douglas Christy, the current planning board alternate, recused himself from hearing the One Park matter because his spouse represents some of the parties involved. With so many other big projects in the pipeline, will this personal tie create other conflicts?
To avoid eroding public faith in the city’s planning and development process (or hobbling the board with too many recusals), CityPAC recommends that the city commission focus on the highly-qualified candidates who do not raise these concerns: David Lewis, Ph.D., Shane Lamay, AIA, and Dan DeLeo, J.D.