Sarasota City Commission debates & defends Bayfront planning process

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Longtime Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw is “bothered” and has some “serious concerns” about what he calls the “self-appointed committee” that is now steering the process to redevelop 42 city-owned acres along the Downtown Bayfront.

Shaw spoke out at Monday’s City Commission meeting and said that he is not happy the impression has been created that the City is on board or working in tandem with the process that is being spearheaded by the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO).

“It bothers me that these people will be making the decisions; not the City or residents,” said Shaw.

The SBPO was formed in 2016 and evolved out of the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 organization with a mission to advance the development of city-owned land along the Bayfront. The SBPO is headed by a 9-person board.

At the commission meeting last week, Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie made it clear that the City is in no way “beholden” to the SBPO board, and she added that the City had not been consulted nor was the commission’s approval sought in naming or electing members to its board.

“The fact is that this committee was self-appointed and we are not beholden to this committee. I haven’t seen that the SBPO has asked us to endorse this committee,” said Freeland Eddie.

Shaw went further in his criticism in saying that the SBPO was creating an impression of implied consent between the City of Sarasota and the creation and appointment of the board members.

“The community is given the impression that we endorse this,” said Shaw.

City Manager Tom Barwin attempted to put the issue in perspective.

“In the end, the SBPO will give us a direction for that 42 acres. The SBPO has some very aggressive ways to engage the public, and they’ll be interviewing several consultants soon and the public is invited to attend,” said Barwin.

Commissioner Hagen Brody told his fellow board members that, “The reality is, we have no authority over this. I am concerned that we’re even taking this tone. All these people are working hard to push the effort forward, I don’t think we should be knocking this.”

Shaw reiterated his position that he adamantly wants the process steered by the Sarasota community.

Brody replied, “These are accomplished individuals who I will listen to. Honestly, there is no decision to make.”

Shaw spoke back, “I’m not in your courtroom. You can’t intimidate me…I represent the community.”

Freeland Eddie said her desire is to have communication between the commission and the steering committee “so nothing is lost in the translation.”

Sarasota Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Cooper told the commission that there are currently 56 stakeholders informing the steering committee. The steering committee is part of the original Bayfront 20:20 group. They are a representation of various groups of residents who have a vested interest in the Sarasota community.

Cooper then said he thinks there isn’t anything organized or decided that the committee has pre-planned.

“Sometimes the outcome isn’t what you expected or what you wanted – but whatever,” said Cooper.

Vice Mayor Liz Alpert in a final effort to end the discussion said, “Let’s just trust the process.”

According to the SBPO website, the SBPO board is a 9-person entity that was developed to establish a master plan for the city-owned 42-acre site along the Bayfront. The SBPO says it has been created to oversee the Request for Qualification process to solicit a master plan for the site.

This past week, four national firms who are each hoping to lead the redevelopment of the site made presentations and faced questions from the SBPO and the public. On Oct. 11, the SBPO plans to pick and announce a winning firm which will be engaged to create the master plan. The four firms are: Perkins+Will of Atlanta; Sasaki of Watertown, Mass.; Cooper Robinson of New York; and Rogers Partners of New York.

The SBPO Board was formed a year ago to further the work and succeed the three-year effort made by Sarasota Bayfront 20:20, which was a private coalition of residents and stakeholders who initiated the most recent process to redevelop the property.

The Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 developed the guiding principles that shaped the Request for Qualifications that the firms utilized.

According to SBPO Board Member and Treasurer Cathy Layton, the overall budget for the process to bring the master plan to fruition is $2.1 million. Layton said it is a two-year budget that started in Nov. 2016 and the money covers the administration, staffing, overhead and all expenses including $850,000 which will be paid to the firm that is chosen to produce the master plan. The plan will be delivered to the City Commission in the Fall of 2018.

The money to pay for this effort was raised entirely through community foundations in the Sarasota area which originated at first with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and has now broadened.

The mission is to present a master plan for the 42 acres as well as a plan for implementation and a viable financial plan.

On Friday, City of Sarasota Manager Tom Barwin told the News, that pedestrian connectivity is one of the greatest concerns from the public and one of the major goals for that site.

Barwin added that, “A diverse and talented segment of the community is formulating the plan and they are putting something in place with their love for Sarasota and their love for the beauty and culture and residents of the area. Importantly, they are interested in coming up with something that can actually work and is implementable.”

SBPO Board members consist of: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin; Allen Carlson, retired president and CEO of Sun Hydraulics and regional director for the University of Florida’s Innovation Station Sarasota County; Jennifer Compton, attorney and partner for the Sarasota office of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP; E. Keith Dubose, an attorney and shareholder with the Matthews Eastmoore law firm; Klauber, president and founder of Michael’s on East; A.G. Lafley, former CEO and chairman of Procter & Gamble; Robert J. Lane, a certified public accountant and managing shareholder of Kerkering Barberio; Cathy Layton, a retired Sarasota commercial real estate broker who is an owner of assisted-living facilities with her husband; Cynthia P. McCague, a director for Pier 1 Imports, board member of Monster Worldwide and former senior executive with Coca-Cola.


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