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Editorial Letters – Week ending January 3, 2020

 

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Village parking

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, I am sure you are aware that the village has been showing up at commission meetings, in numbers, for years, resisting the commission’s seeming zeal to assist the restaurants to continually expand far beyond their intended sizes, when they were grandfathered into the rezoning of the island in the 80s. It’s not like the village did not tell the commission that aiding and abetting the restaurants to expand would end up where we are today – an unacceptable commercial takeover of our community.

I had a lively discussion with the owner of the Shore yesterday.  Two takeaways from our talk were that he stated that there were a hundred extra seats at the Shore, beyond their allowed seating,  and that he would never have built the Shore without on-street parking. Did the commission know this when they used a zoning technicality (that they were after all reducing density) to rezone Moors from residential (4 cars in two garages) to hundreds of cars littering our neighborhood every day, and hundreds of cars wandering around our streets looking for a parking space.

Remember, both the town and the Shore agreed that the Shore had adequate on-site parting for their allowed seating. I do not recall any town calculation that included hundreds of cars strewn all over our streets form noon to 10 p.m. every day.

There are perhaps forty restaurant employee cars parking on our streets, between the two restaurants. The town recognizes that Valet parking is an abuse of public streets for commercial use, yet has for years been unwilling to see the same commercial exploitation of taxpayer streets and zoning regulations, to save the restaurant owners the added expense of adequate employee parking, as they are required to do every else on the island.

Why is the village allowed to be the exception on Longboat, where everywhere else restaurant owners are not allowed to litter residential neighborhoods with commercial restaurant parking?

The town has gotten itself into a position where the only solution to the unacceptable mess it has created may be to prohibit any parking in the village or go to resident permit parking as is done in many other municipalities. Do something please.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Emoluments

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, a question for the town lawyer. Is a commissioner allowed to receive emoluments from local merchants, including restaurants, and also participate in quasi-judicial proceedings concerning that business?

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Emoluments

To: Gene Jaleski

Gene, sorry, but I am not a Florida attorney. Please direct your concern directly to our town attorney.

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Town of Longboat Key

 

Equal Right Amendment

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Commissioners,  FYI- as you may be aware, several municipalities in our region and Manatee County Government have recently passed a resolution supporting the ratification by the Florida Legislature of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution and urges the Florida Legislature to ratify the Amendment during the next legislative session.  Sarasota County elected to not pass a local resolution.

Adoption of the Amendment requires at least 38 states to ratify the proposed Amendment.  If the Florida Legislature passes the resolution it will become the 38th State to ratify.

A copy of the resolution adopted by Manatee County is attached for your information.  I have also attached an article that was in the Herald Tribune regarding the Amendment.

I plan to bring this up at your January 6th Regular Meeting under Town Manager Comments.  If the Commission would like to adopt a similar resolution we will place it on your next regularly scheduled Commission agenda.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager, Town of Longboat Key

 

Beach project

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Looking at the immense beach erosion going northward from Broadway, the current sand requirements for the upcoming beach referendum assessment may have to be adjusted considerably upward, along with increases in sand requirements. Once again buildings at Longbeach condominiums are perilously close to being inundated. The town spent millions to protect the 360 North condominiums with two failed groins. What are they going to do for the equally deserving Longbeach property owners?

The above sited scientific article suggests that the groins at the north end may be contributing to north end sand loss, as they alter the natural lateral current traveling southward from Anna Maria island, possibly starving the stretch of beach between the groins and Broadway.

I have been going to Longbeach since 1977. The two groins appear to have a negative affect on beach erosion, and have never done anything but require relatively frequent sand replenishment. Now they are stranded, serving no purpose.

The erosion is severe and threatening property, that property owners paid the town huge amounts of taxes to protect.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Speed sign

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

I have been told  by many village residents that they want two appropriate sized fulltime speed signs. Not a huge part time construction zone speed sign trailer, further cluttering Broadway.

The town commission (you) has spent millions on their/your town center, which is presently an empty lot. Can’t the commission spend a few thousand dollars to help the village deal with a traffic mess and safety hazard  that is the direct result of commission actions, allowing the tragic over-commercialization of our quiet residential neighborhood? Ed, you are our representative.  Please do something!

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Speed sign

To: Gene Jaleski

Gene, P.S. You should be aware that we are also awaiting the results of a comprehensive citizen survey being conducted by the Rowans, which deals with all aspects of the issues you raise, including how best to deal with the impact of all of the restaurants having made arrangements to avail themselves of off site parking areas exiting on to Palm Drive.  Although you have a habit of assuming otherwise, please be assured that we will continue to “do something”.   

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Speed sign

To: Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, we all know that the only real solution is to have either no parking or resident permit parking throughout the village. The outrage must be stopped as soon as possible. How did the commission every allow things to get this bad? It is horrendous! It cannot continue. Property values are being affected. People don’t want to move here. Would you buy a home where the traffic is unbelievable and cars are parked everywhere. Yes I know you built a house on Broadway some years ago. I wonder if you would do so now.

The commission is supposed to make the community a better place to live. They have instead ruined our community. Now it is the job of the commission to undo the harm that they have caused.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Speed sign

To: Gene Jaleski

Gene, I had also assumed we would be putting in a permanent electronic speed device, but in order to act quickly the town availed itself of an opportunity to acquire an available mobile device until strong neighborhood consensus could be reached as to specific permanent equipment, and/or speed bumps. Additional means of dealing with traffic in the Broadway area are also under serious consideration.   

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Beach project

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

The $34 million really equals $54 million, the town is once again pulling the wool over taxpayer’s eyes. The beach project budget is $54 million. Yes part of the $54 million is from fed and state funding. But where did that money come from? It came out of your pocket since every other community also gets fed and state funding. And what other lasting worthwhile projects could that money have been allocated to, rather than $60 a yard sand that will be gone in a couple of years at best? We the taxpayers have shoveled millions into the north end of the island in the form of useless groins and expensive, long gone, sand over the past decade. Nothing remains except two stranded structures surrounded by water, not sand.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Groins

To: Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman

This from a far more authoritative source than people with possible clouded agendas and a failed record with groins on LBK. I believe you are throwing good money after bad.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Groins and Jetties

To: Editor

Groins and jetties are walls or barriers built perpendicular to the shoreline. A jetty, often very long (thousands of feet), is intended to keep sand from flowing into a ship channel within an inlet and to reduce the cost of channel maintenance by dredging. Groins are much shorter structures built on straight stretches of beach away from inlets.

Please note the last sentence – “away from inlets”.

The engineering firm I talked to on the East coast years ago predicted that the groins that are there now would fail, because they are too close to an inlet. You can look at Google Earth at every single inlet in Florida and you will find none with groins near the inlets. I can email you a link to images of every inlet on Florida coasts.

I feel the town’s announcement that taxpayers will only pay $34 million for the beach project to be somewhat disingenuous. I believe the total cost of the project is 50 plus a million dollars. Yes 34 million will be assessed directly against properties on Longboat Key. However, the remaining twenty million comes from other tax sources, of which we are just one of many recipients, so we end up paying for them and they end up paying for us. One way or another it comes out of our pockets, directly.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Thank you for meeting with members of the local Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) chapter on April 2, 2018. We hope our presentation on tobacco marketing at the point of sale and local tobacco retailer licensing strategies was not only informative, but also meaningful enough to facilitate change in our community. We are very grateful for the time you dedicate to improving our city and community.

Just as Sarasota has led the state by making our schools tobacco free, we believe, with your help, we could again lead the state of Florida in further protecting our children by placing some common-sense limits on tobacco advertising and product for sale, particularly near schools. In our spring survey, over 90% of the respondents agreed that local government should limit tobacco advertising that targets youths.

We believe a tobacco retailer license is an appropriate solution to address the issues associated with point of sale marketing. We recommend the follow areas of focus for a license in the City of Sarasota:

1. Limit advertising on the outside of retailer locations

2. Ban flavored tobacco products, including menthol

3. Raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21

These types of restrictions could specifically apply only to stores within 500 or 1000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, and other places where children gather, like the way current laws are written concerning alcoholic beverage consumption. This way, you will not have to restrict all retailers in the county, just those stores youth will be most likely to visit. San Francisco implemented a menthol ban and Minneapolis raised the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 to help curb tobacco use among teenagers and reduce the overall rate of smoking.

Raising the age of purchasing tobacco to 21 and creating a safe space around our schools will help protect our youth from a lifetime of addiction, poor health, and possibly death. Five states and more than 310 cities and counties across the nation have successfully raised the minimum age of purchase for tobacco products to 21, and the Sarasota County Tobacco Free Partnership would like Sarasota County to be next.

In summary, we can act locally for a healthier Sarasota, and a local license would help reduce youth access to tobacco, keep nonsmokers from starting, and help current smokers who are trying to quit. If you have any other questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Again, on behalf of Sarasota County SWAT and Tobacco Free Partnership, I thank you for your consideration.

Charles DeNault

Vice Chairman

Sarasota County Tobacco Free Partnership

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

To the best of my knowledge and recollection, the City Commission took no action regarding this report at the April 2, 2018 City Commission meeting or subsequently.  Consequently, my office has not undertaken any action on this item.

This request presents First Amendment issues (content based regulation of commercial speech) as well as state pre-emption issues.  The state of Florida has explicitly pre-empted the regulation of smoking (Sec. 386.209) which is different from, but arguably overlaps with the regulation of the sale of tobacco, which also requires a license from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (Chapter 569 Florida Statutes).

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Charles Denault

Thank you for following up with me about SWAT and your efforts.

As you know, I copied the City’s attorney on my response to your email so he could update me on the situation.

When this was presented to the Commission, there was no discussion or direction by the Commission and so there was no way for the attorney to look into this at a deeper level.

I plan on bringing this up at a future Commission meeting to let the Commissioners know that I would like to place this on the agenda for discussion at a later meeting.

However, in the interim, can you send me a list of other Florida municipalities who have enacted regulations you seek?

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I very much appreciate your interest in protecting our younger citizens from tobacco. It appears that the Alachua County Commission determined that the policy does not violate state preemption, and thus went ahead with writing a draft policy. Please see the enclosure.

This is the only example of a city or county in Florida moving forward with Tobacco 21 or retail licensing that we know of right now but expect others to follow suit.

http://www.wcjb.com/content/news/Alachua-County-considers-raising-tobacco-buying-age-478223123.html

Please let me know if I can provide any further information.

Charles Denault

Vice Chairman

Sarasota County Tobacco Free Partnership

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Charles Denault

Thanks. The City attorney is copied on this email and should be able to  get back to us.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Vice Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We checked with Alachua County and learned that the proposed ordinance to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco has not be set for public hearing or adopted, but is still under review.  I would like to follow up on this later to see what happens in Alachua County.  It is possible or even likely that the issue of state pre-emption will be raised, which probably explains why more local governments have not taken action.  It will be interesting to see if this moves forward.  In 2013, the City of Sarasota adopted a Resolution urging local vendors to stop selling candy flavored tobacco products.  (see attached) I haven’t investigated it further, but the fact that the City didn’t ban the sale outright suggests that state pre-emption may have also been an issue in 2012 when the Resolution was adopted.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Limiting Tobacco Ads that Target Youths

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Sarasota Attorney Robert Fournier

A few weeks ago, Alachua County raised the smoking age to 21 and also imposed a one-year license on retail establishments. Here is the Miami Herald’s coverage.

It is my understanding that Alachua County considers that the State’s preemption with regard to tobacco to apply only to smoking.  It certainly reads that way to me. I’ve copied the statute below in case you would like to review it.

I hope this progress in another Florida community is sufficient for us to move forward. I believe the need to act, which would be raising the smoking age and putting in place a licensing program and/or restrictions on sales of these deadly products, has become more urgent: in December, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported use of nicotine vaping has nearly doubled by high school seniors with 20.9 percent indicating they have vaped at least once in the last 30 days.  This is probably why the Miami Herald article lists so many states and municipalities that are raising the smoking age to 21.

Please let me know if you have any question or I can help in anyway.  Thank you for your consideration.

386.209Regulation of smoking preempted to state.—This part expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject; however, school districts may further restrict smoking by persons on school district property.

Statue 386 defines smoking as follows:

(10)“Smoking” means inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying, or possessing any lighted tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and any other lighted tobacco product.

Chapter 386 in its entirety can be found here:  http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0386/0386.html

Charles Denault

Vice chairman

Tobacco Free Partnership, Sarasota County

 

Moving forward in limiting Vaping

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I am following up on our earlier exchange of messages about limiting tobacco access to youths in Sarasota. A lot has happened in the months since I last wrote.

There has been a greater realization of the threat “vaping” poses to young and old alike.  The LA Times published an article yesterday, and while the CDC reports “only” 33 people have died in the last 6 months, nearly 1,500 have been stricken from the vaping related lung disease. The writers point out the long term consequences will be much more serious —  they estimate that well over 100,000 of the students who vape today will die from lung related illnesses in the years to come.

This also hits home in Sarasota. Ashlynn NesSmith, a Sarasota student, starting vaping at 14. She dropped out of sports and her grades plummeted. Even though she suffers seizures from vaping, she’s addicted and her family battles to keep away from her Juul.

The Tobacco Free Partnership has not been standing idly by – we participated in high school orientations across the country this past summer, and spoke with hundreds of parents and students about the dangers of vaping. But I don’t think awareness is all we should be doing. We need to make it harder for high school students to obtain Juuls and similar devices. A couple things could help – we  could raise the tobacco age to 21 and also create tobacco resale license in Sarasota.

Please let me know how we can proceed. Perhaps we could have a brief meeting? You could hear directly from several Sarasota High School and  Middle School students – they can share what’s really going on at school.

Or if we can restart the discussion with the city’s legal counsel, I can forward the letter from the attorney general regarding state pre-emption of limitation on where one can smoke or vape does not apply to  the sale of tobacco products. Or we could just have a quick conversation at your convenience.

I realize you are very busy, but  I am hoping can move forward in protecting our younger citizens from vaping. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Charles DeNault

Chairman, Tobacco Free Partnership

Sarasota County

 

Moving forward in limiting Vaping

To: Charles Denault

Hope you have been having a lovely holiday and weekend. I wanted to be sure you are aware of the agenda item on the City Commission Meeting Agenda for Monday, Jan 6, 2020, the discussion of vaping, licensing, etc.

https://sarasota.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=84&event_id=4177&meta_id=608807

Please share with the SWAT group and let me know if are able to attend and make a short presentation.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Moving forward in limiting Vaping

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

The President signed a Tobacco 21 law, effective immediately on 12/20/19. I have asked our attorney to compare that law to what we wanted to achieve.  If it matches well enough I will stop ours.  Let’s keep each other updated.  Thank you

Jill Luke

Commissioner

City of North Port

 

Moving forward in limiting Vaping

To: North Port Commissioner Jill Luke

Yes! Thanks. I would also like to see a comparison as I believe we were looking at also requiring a tobacco registration and banning the flavored tobaccos. I look forward to hearing from the attorney and City staff on this.  Also, I believe the President’s bill starts Summer 2020 but I could be wrong on the start date as well.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Five Points Park

To: Sarasota City Commission

You may or may not know that several years ago, at the request of the DID, I initiated an effort to create a special dependent district for Five Points Park funded by residents surrounding the park and nearby residences downtown. It didn’t work out. Unfortunately, a misguided and illogical vote by the City Commission, while I was on the Commission (I voted and argued against it), created a policy-making Five Points Park, a passive park. I say illogical and misguided because it makes no sense to make a space passive in the heart of the urban core. The consequence has been a haven for vagabonds and homeless campers that has pushed residents, shoppers and others who might try to use the park for it’s intended purposes, out and fearful of going into the park. It has become a costly maintenance problem for the city (DID) replacing grass and plantings periodically. And, recently it has become more than that.

A large number of campers have been occupying Five Points Park during the holiday season and several things have happened.

1. Several campers were arrested recently after attacking police who responded to a call of a disturbance in the park. Residents of Plaza at Five Points were witnesses to this event.

2. Rats now infest the park because the campers are eating and leaving food residues in the park. Residents of Plaza at Five Points are aware of the rats.

3. My daughter and her family spent the holidays here and were walking from the Embassy Suites Hotel on Rte 41 to El Melvin Restaurant for lunch on December 21 and noticed the Christmas Tree in the park as they walked by. My daughter walked across the street to get a better look at the tree and photograph it. When she got across the street she became aware of a large number of campers in the park and became frightened because of their behavior and retreated back across the street.

4. I was in the park a few weeks ago taping a TV interview with an ABC 7 TV reporter when two campers became aware of my interview and jumped up and moved forward talking loudly in a mock interview interrupting our efforts.

5. Ron Soto of the Downtown Merchants Association was responsible for placement of the tree in Five Points Park which was an attractive addition to the park landscape this year. I meet a number of downtown residents on Friday evenings at Clasico Restaurant for a drink and discussion of downtown activities every Friday evening. Ron and Ian Black, the realtor and new downtown resident often join us, and last Friday night Ron told us he plans to put next years Christmas Tree in J.D. Hamel Park because of the problems with the campers. He wants to increase the height of the tree and wants to avoid the problems he had this year with the people using the park for a home.

6. I know you’re all aware of previous problems with lighting in the park with campers cutting tree light electric lines and disconnecting lines to charge their cell phones.

These problems are not unique to Sarasota. It happens whenever you create or allow an intensely urban space to become passive. Every major city has had the problem. Notably, Bryant Park in New York City was known as “Needle Park” for a time because of these issues. It is now managed by a non-profit organization and has become a major asset, heavily used by the public year round, just behind New York City’s public library off 5th Ave. You have done the correct thing with the area currently being redeveloped by the Bay Conservancy. New York City’s Central Park has been very successfully managed by the Central Park Conservancy for many years.

I’m writing to you asking that you deal with these problems because they will eventually destroy the park’s beauty and ambiance. There will be a domino effect on the surrounding residential and commercial areas adjacent to the park.  My suggestion is that to activate the park and discourage campers, that you obtain an agreement with the Bay Conservancy to take over programming, management and maintenance of Five Points Park so that the public can enjoy the park. The park should be a public asset downtown instead of a liability.

Ken Shelin

Sarasota

 

Five Points Park

To: Ken Shelin

Thanks for you input regarding this. It would seem the first step would be to reverse the decision to make Five Points a passive park and then determine who should be responsible for activating it. It may be something our Parks Department can handle.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Sister City Idea

To: Sarasota City Manager Jen Ahearn-Koch

Zdravo Jen! Hope you’ve been well. This is Alex Benishek on my Peace Corps email account.

I had a random idea today, about making the town I serve in, Kriva Palanka, a Sister City with the City of Sarasota.

Given that I was born in Sarasota, the idea just kind of happened today while discussing other sister cities Kriva Palanka has abroad.

I work as a Community Development volunteer in their version of City Hall (it’s called an Opshtina, but I most people in English call it a Municipality).

I went ahead and looked at https://sarasotasistercities.org , and saw that much of their mission and activities directly connects with the main mission and goals of Peace Corps.

Here are some direct quotes from both of their Mission Statements and Goals:

Sarasota Sister Cities:

“To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time.”

Peace Corps:

“The Peace Corps Mission [is] to promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:

1) To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

2) To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served.

3) To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.”

If you asked me, I’d say that these organizational goals couldn’t be more similar!

As far as immediate ideas I have for cultural collaboration, I have three (but I’m certainly getting ahead of myself here):

• The municipality of Kriva Palanka is currently developing its local artist scene, in conjunction with the City Museum here. Maybe we could arrange some sort of cultural exchange of art work for a certain period of time; case and point, my host-fathers sister is an amazing artist who works with wood and paint; a photo is attached of some peppers that have been carved and painted. She has much larger pieces of artwork that are more impressive however.

• I also saw a Youth Development section on the sister city association website, and anything dealing with Youth certainly is what I’m supposed to be focusing on (I also work with a local Scouts group in Kriva Palanka).

• We have a Non-professional Youth Theater Group that works with our Center for Culture and have a pretty impressive theater space. Perhaps there is room for cultural exchanges there as well.

I’ve only been in this town (my permanent site) for a whole month, so I am absolutely certain there are many other cultural things that I am not aware of that are equally as exciting! (We also have an amazing monastery that is one of the coolest pieces of architecture I’ve seen in a while).

Anyways, please let me know if this idea is even remotely possible or if I should stop dreaming about it right now (haha).

While I was on the sister city website, I saw a photo of you and Kelly Kirschner; perhaps he would be interested in this too since it would be connected to Peace Corps?

It is in a small way at least, since I would be facilitating the beginning of this potential relationship.

I am also aware of another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Sarasota, that previously served in Macedonia of all places! And she came back with a Macedonian husband! I am certain they would be interested in participating in any events related to this if we are able to make something happen.

Also, please take your time on getting back to me about this, and I can get you any info you may need when you need it.

I literally have 2 years to make this happen, and I know you are very busy. Thanks for your time (and for being you).

Alex Benishek

Kriva Palanka

 

Sister City Idea

To: Alex Benishek

I should be saying “Happy New Year” to you in a couple of hours! I did want to get back to you quickly and let you know I received your email. And, you timing is interesting.

Mr. Brown and I have been pretty involved with the Sister Cities Organization (copied) as well as Kelly Kirschner (copied), as you know, who was also a Peace Corps Volunteer. In fact, I very recently met (through Kelly) a former UN Director who lived in Macedonia for a number of years, 15 I think. He now works for the State Department in DC but has family ties here in Sarasota as well. That being said, I have also copied Toni Duval from the Sister Cities Organization, who is key to the whole process.

I eagerly await a response from Toni on the process issue as well as ideas from the others on getting something like this started. Kelly should be of particular help since he was instrumental in the Sister City relationship with Merida, Mexico.

Enjoy your Peace Corps experience and your time in Kriva Palanka, Macedonia! This is an exciting time for you, and I am so proud of you! Happy New Year Alex.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Cell Towers and Permitting Zones

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I hope all is well. Can we please work on permitting so that 5G cell towers are not installed in residential neighborhoods, in school zones and in hospital zones within Sarasota and Manatee counties? This poses a grave health risks and economic danger to home values but more so is the implication of the close range of radiation and the increased intensity of the radiation to the physical body.

It is greatly concerning and I would like to see what can be done with permitting to make a compromise if there is no way out of the towers which would be the ideal.

Preventing an instillation will prove to be much easier than removing existing structures.

I strongly feel this issue needs to be pressed and for the well being of our community a solution needs to be found so that our health is protected. I don’t want to imagine neighborhoods with towers facing homes where going for a walk one would be met with an onslaught of radiation as well as that being directed into our homes day after day at close range and with much more increased intensity from what our current towers emit. We’re functioning without 5G and there is not a price on one’s health.

Attached is the current petition to stop 5G in Sarasota County in which hundreds of people have signed so far:

https://www.change.org/p/dept-of-health-sarasota-environmental-health-services-stop-5g-in-sarasota-county

Joelah Ariel

Realtor

Charles Rutenberg Realty

 

Notice regarding wireless “small cell” deployments and surveillance facilities

To: Joelah Ariel

Happy New Year. Thanks for reaching out to me again about this. As I wrote earlier, the City Attorney has issued a statement about our local authority concerning this. The most important effort now is at the State level. I can help you if you don’t know how to get in touch with them. I will also be traveling to Tallahassee in 2020 to meet with them in person and this is always a topic of discussion.

I have pasted in Mr. Fournier’s statement below again and feel free to reach out to either him or myself should you have any questions.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Notice regarding wireless “small cell” deployments and surveillance facilities

To: Sarasota City Commission

The deployment of telecommunications facilities by communications services providers is a subject which is not presently within the scope of the City’s legal authority to regulate.

The Florida Legislature has enacted legislation containing a statement of intent as follows: It is the intent of the Legislature that the placement, operation, maintenance, upgrading and extension of communications facilities not be unreasonably interrupted or delayed through the permitting or other local (i.e. city or county) regulatory process.

The state legislation provides in relevant part that a municipality or county may not adopt or enforce any ordinance, regulation or requirement as to the placement or operation of communications facilities in a right of way by a communications services provider authorized by law to operate in a right of way. The law further provides that a municipality or county may not regulate any communications services or impose or collect any tax, fee, cost, charge or exaction for the provision of communications services over the communications services provider’s communications facilities in a public right of way.

Accordingly, any concerns you may have about the deployment of 5G technology within the public rights of way should be communicated to your State Senator and/or State Representative.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Brandy Wiesner

Thanks for the responses and explanations to the Mayor’s questions on  Agenda Item III. I – Approval Re: St. Armand’s Circle Public Restrooms including revised facility design and including revised maintenance cost, estimated in the amount of $66,670. I have shared with the Commission so that they too have this information. Thanks again Brandy.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

New commercial venture, blue-washed by Mote, will multiply red tide

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

As you know, we recently had a prolonged red tide episode which greatly impacted Sarasota’s residents, tourism industry, and marine life. Research has shown that the multi-year bloom was caused by an increase in nutrients for the algae – specifically, the combination of phosphorus and nitrogen.  Larry Brand, a professor in the department of marine biology and ecology in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, has demonstrated that Florida’s west coast contains an abundance of phosphorus (see attached image):

Brand explains that when this phosphorous (from mining and fertilizer) meets nitrogen (from unprocessed waste and run-off), red tied flourishes and the quality of life on Sarasota’s gulf coast dies.  Shockingly, for its financial benefit, Mote Marine appears to be exploring entering the commercial fishery business and lending its moniker to an initiative to ADD nitrogen to the waters 45 miles off the coast of the City of Sarasota as part of a “toe in the door” plan by the EPA and NOAA to promote commercial fish farming in our country’s coastal waters.  As clearly and convincingly explained in the attached statement from the Suncoast Waterkeepers (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iRgw_h-2-3AlOpwstlAU4X9e4IblaeEu/view ), open-water fish farming is not a novel idea that merits research.  Rather, it is a proven recipe for ecological destruction. Indeed, similar efforts off the coast of Norway and in Southeast Asia have been such environmental disasters that they have now been banned.

We do not need to re-invent this failed trial in the United States, near our beautiful City, and our world-renowned beaches.

We do not want or need to add the nitrogen equivalent of untreated sewage from nearly 20,000 people to the waters off our shores (see page 10, Dangers of Industrial Ocean Fish Farming https://foe.org/resources/dangers-industrial-ocean-fish-farming/ ).

There is a public hearing on this EPA permit:

                • Date: January 28, 2020

                • Time: 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

                • Location: Wave Center

                • Mote Marine Laboratory

                • 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236

While they are federal waters and this is a federal permit hearing, the outcome will directly impact the health and well-being of the citizens and economy of the City of Sarasota.  So, for the sake of the City, I urge you to speak out against this irresponsibly dangerous permit; I know there is no need to enumerate the harm that a new massive red tide bloom would cause.

Ron Kashden

Sarasota

 

New commercial venture, blue-washed by Mote, will multiply red tide

To: Ron Kashden

Thank you for sending this email with the information on the public hearing and resources regarding your concerns. I will plan to attend the public hearing as I am also interested in the impacts of the project and I will spend the next couple weeks trying to get up to speed on the issue.

Stevie Freeman-Montes

Sustainability Manager

City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

As to question 2, it is our intent, if there is excess revenue, that it can be used for the restroom maintenance. Since the restrooms will not be operational until next fiscal year, we will and could, with City Commission budget discussion and approval consideration, include maintenance funding in the Parks and Rec. budget or the BID’s budget.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

Hope this email finds you all well. I wish you a Happy New Year.

Thanks for the backup info and Master Plan. I appreciate it and read through the Master Plan.

For question 1 : Thanks, this makes perfect sense.

Question 2: Can someone from the City please respond?

Question 3: I don’t think my Master Plan section 5-5 has a color palette or any specific design guidelines. So far as I read, it made mention of having design guidelines, but I don’t really see any specific design guidelines per building design … it mentioned generalities but nothing specific, or did I misunderstand? I saw suggestions for garden designs in the medians, landscaping, mentions of sculptures and the Ca d’Zan, different materials for sidewalks, etc, but no real “guidelines” per se. Just let me know.

Question 4: I hope you are right, but I think you need to be prepared for some beach-user activity. I walked it today and it is 320 steps from the beach, approx 1/3 of a mile. I would just be prepared for this possibility, even if it will be a light use, I still think you might get some beach-goers, so I think be prepared for it to be used as a changing room too and to deal with sand on the floor. Just my two cents.

Also, it might be useful to see the design in relationship to the architecture around it, on either side of the street to better get a sense of how it will look once in place, in the backdrop of the existing varied architecture. Just a thought.         

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor, City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Brandy Wiesner

Thanks for the responses and explanations to the Mayor’s questions on  Agenda Item III. I – Approval Re: St. Armand’s Circle Public Restrooms including revised facility design and including revised maintenance cost, estimated in the amount of $66,670. I have shared with the Commission so that they too have this information. Thanks again Brandy.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager, City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown

Below are my responses to the Mayor’s questions. Please forward to the Commission if you feel this is acceptable. I hope these responses are helpful, let me know if I can provide any additional information. (Please note my answer to Question 2: I understand that the District Fund has not yet completed a full fiscal year, that the use of the Fund is strictly governed by Bond covenants, that it is unlikely to produce net revenues in the near future, etc., but I did not feel it was my place to remark on the future potential as a restroom funding source).

1) Please provide the minutes to the St Armands BID meetings where discussions on changing direction and designers was discussed along with the conversations on details of the South median vs West median were discussed.

The BID’s adopted minutes provide a record of Board motions and votes, but do not include a detailed record of agenda’d discussions. The Board’s published Agendas included eighteen individually scheduled ‘Public Restroom Discussion’(s) over the course of 2019. Please note, as relates to the change of professional services, the Board did not execute a Task Order for Phase II services with Jonathan Parks Architects, so there is no vote record to reflect a formal dismissal of services. They instead chose to move forward with a different service provider, as recorded in Board Actions in the adopted Minutes of June 12th, July 10th, and August 14th, 2019 (attached). Please see same for Board’s decision of Median location. As indicated in the Jan 6, 2020 Agenda memo, of the two non-FDOT medians evaluated, the west median provided less utility conflicts, and is located further from the Filmore parking lot – both conditions which make the south median less desirable.

2) Additional information from staff concerning the question/statement on page 3 “Any excess revenues after satisfaction of all monthly debt repayments may be used for any lawful purpose within the St Armand’s pains parking area,” … is this a viable potential source of funding?

The BID Board does not have governance over the St. Armand’s Parking District, and we defer to the City administration with regard to the viability of this Fund.

3) Page 2 states “The Board also reconsidered the prior direction of the St Armands Master Plan, which recommends that future design elements should more closely reflect and promote the historic Character of the circle.” So, may I see a copy of the St Armands Master Plan and please point out the historic elements that reflect and promote historic character of the Circle in the new design.

A link to download the St. Armands Master Plan has been emailed to you through Cloudbox. The preferred concept design included in the Jan 6, 2020 Agenda item reflects historic details as depicted and recommended in the Master Plan, including the color palette, use of archways and columns, and decorative pergola element (see Master Plan 5-5).

4) The proximity of the bathroom to the beach is noted and appreciated. How are these restrooms designed to handle beach traffic i.e., sand, sunscreen, wash-off areas, changing areas, etc?

Beach showers and wash-off areas should be utilized by visitors at existing facilities at access points along the beach before walking the approximately ½ mile distance to the Circle. Most amenities of the existing beach facilities will be provided at St. Armands, but in a more appealing facility to serve the patrons of the Circle’s dining and retail stores. A baby changing station, shade structure, and water fountain will be part of the facility’s amenities.

Brandy Wiesner

Operations Manager

St. Armands Business Improvement District

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin, Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather and some time off. In reviewing the St Armands BID meetings, especially the most recent one, I recognized concerns about this bathroom project and timing. Mainly, if the new design is approved, they would like to start construction in the summer of 2020 so as to be finished before season 2020 especially in light of the fact that (as stated at the most recent meeting) the traffic disruptions this season (with tree removal) was not a pleasant one, and had a negative affect on the business-owners.

This will be the fourth City Commission meeting in less than two years about the bathrooms on St Armands. The Commission approved going forward (4-1) at the last meeting. The St Armands BID decided to re-examine and have a new design and proposal, although the basic idea of bathrooms in the median of St Armands is the same.

That being said, while I enjoy a good City Commission discussion, I was hoping, in light of the St Armands BID construction concerns per timing, that any questions the Commissioner’s may have that would require additional backup material, info, data, maps, minutes, designs, etc be requested well in advance of this meeting so as to provide the St Armands BID team ample time to respond and be prepared at the table on Monday, January 6, 2020. We are so fortunate to have this agenda so early, I thought this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that.

This is not to be construed that I am asking or suggesting approval or denial of the project’s two requested motions, I am just trying to avoid another delayed decision due to lack of information, as was the case for the April 16, 2019 and the July 16, 2019 meetings.

As I am not comfortable emailing the Commissioner’s with this request, and so, I ask your advice on how best to communicate this request.

In any event, I have included my questions and requests below. Also, I want to make it clear to the St Armands BID board that I fully appreciate their time volunteering for this board, respect their discussions and recommendations, and look forward to their presentation on Jan 6, 2020. I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a very happy New Year!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor, City of Sarasota

 

St Armands Bathrooms

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

My Questions/Requests:

1) Please provide the minutes to the St Armands BID meetings where discussions on changing direction and designers was discussed along with the conversations on details of the South median vs. West median were discussed.

2) Additional information from staff concerning the question/statement on page 3 “Any excess revenues after satisfaction of all monthly debt repayments may be used for any lawful purpose within the St Armand’s pains parking area,” … is this a viable potential source of funding?

3) Page 2 states “The Board also reconsidered the prior direction of the St Armands Master Plan, which recommends that future design elements should more closely reflect and promote the historic Character of the circle.” So, may I see a copy of the St Armands Master Plan and please point out the historic elements that reflect and promote historic character of the Circle in the new design.

4) The proximity of the bathroom to the beach is noted and appreciated. How are these restrooms designed to handle beach traffic i.e., sand, sunscreen, wash-off areas, changing areas, etc?

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor, City of Sarasota

Auteur Alley Vacation – Agenda Item VI.I.

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

This item is the second reading of the proposed ordinance to vacate the alley between the proposed Auteur project and the Sarasota Hyatt.  It is not a pubic hearing.   This ordinance was approved on first reading by a 4-1 vote.  You voted to deny.   The item would have been on the Consent Agenda, but is under Unfinished Business to enable you to vote no again on second reading.  It is my recollection that the Commission approved the ordinance after hearing (1) that this is the last segment of former public right of way on the site of the Quay Sarasota project to be vacated and that (2) the proposed MURT will not run through the vacated alleyway.

The inconsistencies in the way the term “right-of-way” can be corrected to make the term uniform throughout before you execute the ordinance, assuming that it was passed.  We will take care of this.  I agree that the term should be uniform throughout.

You have inquired as to the meaning of the italicized sentence recited below which is found in the alley vacation ordinance.  This language has been included for many years in every ordinance to vacate right of way when it is known at the time of first reading that there are public and/or private utilities located within the right of way proposed to be vacated.  Since the right of way would be converted to private property upon vacation, the purpose of the language is to ensure that the right to maintain, repair and replace the utilities under or through the private property is preserved after the vacation ordinance becomes effective.  (i.e. prior to second reading)  In this particular ordinance there are also additional requirements pertaining to an easement for public access through the area that is not related to the maintenance of public or private utilities.

In response to your question, yes, this does mean that all of the easements have been executed.  The original executed easements in recordable form were delivered to my office by the applicant’s attorney in late November.  They are currently in the possession of the City Attorney’s Office.  The sole exception is the easement to FPL.  FPL originally represented that it had utilities in this alley, but upon subsequent verification it turns out that this was not accurate.  So instead of an easement, I have a letter from FPL representing that they have no utilities in the alley proposed for vacation.

Typically, we go ahead and record these easements in the public records prior to second reading of the vacation ordinance in accordance with the language in the ordinance.  The recording is usually done in anticipation that the ordinance will be adopted on second reading to be consistent with approval on first reading as the second reading is not a public hearing and there is usually no additional relevant information that might cause the ordinance not to be adopted.  The easements are still legally valid even if recorded prior to the time the alley or street is vacated because under Florida law, the adjoining property owners still own fee simple title to the center line of the right of way.  However, their ownership is subject to the City’s control and maintenance of the right of way for the public benefit, meaning for vehicular and pedestrian access and for utilities.  This is why the City cannot sell the right of way upon vacation as full, unencumbered ownership automatically becomes vested in the adjoining property owners.

In this particular case though, the original executed easements have not been recorded as a result of a conversation I had with the applicant’s attorney, Mr. Brockway, in which we decided in an abundance of caution, in case the ordinance was not adopted on second reading for some reason, that I would hold off on recording until immediately after second reading.  I would have no problem revising the standard language in vacation ordinances to require that required easements be delivered to the City Attorney’s Office in recordable form prior to second reading of the vacation ordinance as opposed to requiring that they actually be recorded.  I have already spoken with Mr. Connolly about this.

The executed easements are not included with the agenda item on second reading because it is the appropriate function and role of the City Attorney’s Office to review them for legal sufficiency rather than the role of the City Commission.  In addition, the City is not even the grantee in the easements given to the private utilities.  The easements given to the City are reviewed by both the City Attorney’s office and by City staff for any issues of concern to them before the ordinance is placed on the agenda for second reading.  We have never included the required easements as back up on second reading of vacation ordinances because quite honestly we could not imagine why the Commissioners would have any interest in reviewing them.  However, they are public records and I would be happy to have copies made and delivered to you if you would like to read them. I hope that this answers your questions with regard to this item.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Auteur Alley Vacation – Agenda Item VI.I.

To: General Manager Gretchen Schneider

Per the Mayor, the ordinance contains inconsistencies in the use of the word/s “right of way vs. Right of Way vs. right-of-way (pages 3 and 4 for examples). In the scheme of things, I don’t know how important this is. Also, the Mayor is asking for the interpretation of the following:

The execution and recording of the Utility Easement required by this Subsection shall be accomplished as a condition precedent to second reading of this Alley Vacation Ordinance No. 19-5298.

Does this mean that the execution and recording of the Utility Easement has been done and if so where is it and why is it not included as part of the agenda item, and, how can execution and recording be made if the second reading has not yet occurred and approved for the vacation? Then there are other minor items she brought up. Thanks.

Marlon Brown

Deputy City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Auteur Alley Vacation – Agenda Item VI.I.

Perfect! Thanks for the information and clearing this up. Not necessary to supply the easements, I was just curious how this worked.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

Sidewalk sales update

To: Sarasota City Commission

I had occasion to be at the Five Points roundabout this afternoon and noticed the sidewalk sale in front of the running store once again looking like a garage sale for runners. I ventured into the store walking past the sneakers sitting on tables, clothing hanging on racks and boxes positioned on metal shelving. There was quite a bit of inventory being offered for sale outside of the store.

Inside I asked a salesman if he could tell me when the next outside sale would take place. His answer was surprising: “Well, tomorrow, Sunday, and then throughout the holiday season next week and then one weekend a month.” I thanked him. Once outside, I wrote down his quote so I would be accurate in relating it to you. Sure hope he’s just misinformed as that much clutter on the sidewalk day after day at this intersection would be disgraceful not to mention what I understand to be in noncompliance with the city code regarding these type sales.

I appreciate your consideration regarding this situation. All we want is to have good neighbors who understand that important city attributes must be honored and not ignored or dismissed as being without significance. It’s fair to say that having these tchotchke sidewalk sales take place in a location that overlooks a patriotic roundabout dishonors this important city attribute.

Barbara Campo

Sarasota

 

Sidewalk sales update

To: Barbara Campo

Thanks for the updated on the situation.

I am too curious what the next step would be in this kind of a violation and await the City Staff’s response.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Sidewalk sales update

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I appreciate your sharing my concern. It will be good to see this situation resolved fairly and in a timely way. Thank you once again.

Barbara Campo

Sarasota

 

Sidewalk sales update

To: Barbara Campo and Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Code Inspector Dian Kennedy has been out to the property.  There was nothing outside Tuesday; however, they were advised that they needed a Temporary Activity Permit to have a sale.  They were given a copy of the paperwork necessary for a temporary activity permit. If they have a sale without the temporary activity permit they will be given until the end of day to remove the items or a code case will be started. An inspector followed up today and as of 10:00 this morning there was nothing outside.

Gretchen Schneider

General Manager of Planning and Development

City of Sarasota

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