The Issue: Land Use

In this post, I discuss my overall stance on land use & development and shed light on specifics behind the Benderson Development issue and the North Trail Overlay.

I’ve lived in Sarasota for a long time, so I have a deep commitment to the success of this city. A lot of the decisions I have to make as a commissioner revolve around land use and development. These are sometimes the hardest decisions I have to make, but only because they are the most important.

I have a good local knowledge of both people and places. That helps me when it comes time to make those decisions. I am always receptive to hear from people, whether they drop into City Hall to speak with me directly, or if they send me an email or phone call. All input from affected stakeholders is useful and gets incorporated into my ultimate decision.

Benderson Development

First of all, I need to be very clear when I say there is no deal with Benderson. The commission has not voted to sell anything. Although a piece of the Beneva/Fruitville land is considered parkland, there are multiple other uses there. In the event of a sale, to anyone, we would have to address those uses and ensure that they are appropriately relocated. For example, the fire department uses a large portion for training purposes. Another portion acts as a helicopter-landing pad. A wide and rather deep drainage ditch that would need to be retained traverses the main park area, which complicates the request for proposal. Perhaps that is why no one at the City suggested putting it out for sale under an RFP for all of these years. Benderson came to us with an offer, and they are using their own money to conduct a feasibility study to determine the type of project that would go there. Given the desire expressed to preserve the parkland and the difficulty factors as I mentioned, the whole deal might be thrown out. We have not come to a conclusion, and this is nowhere near over.


North Trail Overlay

In the last 30 or so years, the North Trail has become the subject and victim of much debate. The North Trail Overlay is a precise and minutely calculated solution to the stand off between commercial land owners, who in order to prosper, require relief from an outdated code. The neighborhoods on either side fear any changes in height, density or uses might endanger their quality of life. The North Trail Overlay encourages a more human scale, pedestrian-oriented urban development pattern along the Trail. Because it is an Overlay, no change in land use is necessary. 

I know administrative approval for projects is one of the main sticking points, but with a plan that has been so studiously calibrated to suit all concerned parties, I don’t think it’s necessary for new projects to go through our outdated, cumbersome and more costly DRC process.

The unattractive swatch of roadway itself is a multitude of various uneven lot widths and depths, which has made it difficult to apply any land use strategy that might result in a more consistent form-based code. The Overlay itself would not preclude or hinder any future efforts toward the application of a form-based code.

We can’t allow fear of what might happen hold the North Trail hostage any longer. It’s time to move forward and allow the North Trail to reconnect with the City proper. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

curioso February 22, 2013 at 02:08 PM
This is the third column by Atwell during this month (February 13, 20, 21). There are no such columns previously. Are these political campaign efforts?
Donald February 22, 2013 at 04:53 PM
Mayor Atwell, you must have forgotten that you actually signed a "Purchase and Sale Agreement" with Benderson on August 23, 2012. The link to the signed document is available at http://goo.gl/NNmus
Donald February 22, 2013 at 04:54 PM
So the Mayor's statement "First of all, I need to be very clear when I say there is no deal with Benderson" is flat out a lie. She signed the agreement herself. Another example of politicians saying anything to get votes.
RB February 22, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Worse than lying, Atwell has no understanding of what she is doing while sitting as our elected official. She may believe that she is “very clear” but reveals just how the exact opposite is her constant condition. If she had “good local knowledge of people and places”, she certainly would never have approved the sale of parkland in the face of overwhelming community opposition. If she believes “there is no deal with Benderson”, she has absolutely no understanding of the August 2012 purchase and sale agreement she not only voted for, but personally signed, which – obliges – the city to sell the property unless Benderson makes the unlikely choice to decline the contract by not satisfying certain contingencies. They have a way out, the city does not. She points to several reasons “perhaps” “why no one at the city suggested putting it out for sale under an RFP for all of these years” when a commissioner ought to know why a parcel should be sold or kept. The city itself has multiple uses for the land and land for parks is almost impossible to find in most neighborhoods. No rational staff member would propose putting it up for sale. Not only does Atwell not understand the issues on which she votes, she does not even understand the documents she signs.
Donald February 22, 2013 at 08:11 PM
It's a pathetic attempt to manipulate voters on the eve of an election. Patch, isn't this worthy of an article by itself so voters are not fooled?
Charles Schelle (Editor) February 23, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Hi curioso, All candidates were invited to blog during the election, and all elected officials-city, county, state, Congress, are invited to blog on Patch as well.
Deborah Lee February 26, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Ms. Atwell - please do not insult my intelligence!


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