The wide-ranging interview covers a lot ground and provides a useful overview of the issues surrounding the petition, including the upcoming meeting before the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners on August 23rd.
Media / Public Inquiries David Johnson, Media Coordinator for the Palmer East Group
(941) 312-1409 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rally Opposing Celery Fields Development Planned for Thursday Evening
Organizers will inform members of the public on the dangers of a proposed construction & demolition debris processing facility which has been proposed by a local developer using public land at the Celery Fields.
A number of information-packed presentations will cover subjects ranging from the potential impact on property values, traffic conditions, and the environment to public health issues and more. Presenters include representatives from the Sarasota Audubon Society, the local business community, and an expert on air pollution.
Organizers of the event oppose a petition filed earlier this year by local developer James Gabbert, whose company, TST Ventures, LLC, has entered into a contract to purchase Celery Fields land from Sarasota County. The petition will be the subject of a public hearing on June 1, 2017 at 5pm before the Sarasota County Planning Commission.
Gabbert’s development plan calls for the processing of construction and demolition debris, yard waste, and other solid materials at the site, with dozens of trucks entering and leaving the facility beginning at 7am each day, six days per week.
Opponents of the plan believe that the noise from concrete crushers, wood chippers, and other machinery, as well as pollution from silica dust, diesel fumes, and toxic water runoff is incompatible with the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility, a project which cost Sarasota County more than $24 million.
Additionally, concerned citizens believe that Gabbert’s proposal threatens the wildlife habitat of the Celery Fields recreational area, operated by Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, which has become a significant eco-tourism site, drawing thousands of visitors each year from all parts of the globe as part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. The area is home to more than 240 species of birds, and is one of the County’s most popular recreation sites.
Public opposition to Mr. Gabbert’s proposal has been widespread. An online petition has more than 6,200 signatures on it, and public protests have drawn hundreds of people to the corner of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard, where Sarasota County has offered public lands for sale to developers.
The Palmer East Group is an informal collective made up of representatives from neighborhoods along Palmer Boulevard, east of I-75. The group includes nature lovers, birders, and Celery Fields enthusiasts who are concerned for the safety and well-being of their families and neighborhoods, as well as protecting the treasure that the Celery Fields area has become. More information can be found at http://CeleryFields.org.
On Thursday, June 1 at 5:00PM, the Sarasota County Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing to consider a proposal (Petition 17-01) to rezone Celery Fields lands and grant a special exception to the applicant which would allow a “construction and demolition” (“C & D”) debris processing facility to be constructed there.
What is Being Proposed?
The developer, James Gabbert, through his company, TST Ventures, LLC, is proposing a ~16-acre plant which will accept:
Construction & Demolition Debris (including large chunks of concrete, asphalt, wood, drywall, roofing materials, etc.)
Yard Waste (including trees, bushes, and other organic material which may have been treated with pesticides, insecticides, and other harmful chemicals)
The plan involves operating concrete crushers, wood chippers, and other similar machinery to reduce the size of the materials.
The plan calls for dozens of trucks to enter and exit the property each day, beginning at 7am, Monday through Saturday.
What Property Will Be Used?
There are a total of 3 parcels which, if approved, will be combined together in order to construct this facility.
Quick details on the parcels:
The western-most parcel of land (~4.5 acres), at the southeast corner of Porter Road & Palmer Boulevard, is owned by TST Ventures, LLC and was approved in 2015 for a “waste transfer station.”
The southern parcel of land (~1.8 acres), which stretches from Porter Road to Apex Road, is also owned by TST Ventures, LLC.
The eastern-most parcel of land (~10.3 acres), at the southwest corner of Apex Road & Palmer Boulevard, is owned by Sarasota County and appears on County maps as part of the Celery Fields park (see the Field Guide to Conservation Lands as an example). This property, one of the 4 parcels known as “the quads,” was purchased as part of the County’s land acquisition process during the early stages of constructing the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility.
Why Is this a Bad Idea?
Recycling is a fantastic idea. The problem isn’t recycling construction and demolition debris or yard waste. The problem is doing so on conservation lands.
Sarasota County has spent at least $24 Million in the construction of the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility. They’ve spent an unknown additional sum construction the Celery Fields park.
Why jeopardize that investment by allowing noise pollution, air pollution, and water pollution of the sort produced by operating concrete crushers, wood chippers, and other machinery involved in the processing of construction and demolition debris and yard waste on this land?
The larger portion of the land involved in this proposal is public land, owned by the people of Sarasota County. There are far better uses for this land than selling it to a developer for a project of this sort.
Furthermore, there are much better locations in Sarasota County for facilities like this. In fact, Mr. Gabbert previously built a similar facility, which he subsequently sold, and which is still in operation today.
Here are some recent photos from that facility:
As you can clearly see, this type of activity is not compatible with the green spaces along Palmer Boulevard, the stormwater facility, nor the natural habitat for birds and other wildlife at the Celery Fields.
Update: 5/22/2017: Here’s a much more detailed letter if you’d prefer. It does an excellent job of covering the issues. Thank you to a resident of The Hammocks for putting this together!
Your note can simply voice your opposition to this plan. Here’s a sample email you can use if you are a resident of Sarasota County:
Dear Members of the Sarasota County Planning Commission:
Thank you for your service to the Citizens of Sarasota County. I’m writing to let you know that as a resident of Sarasota County, I am opposed to Petition 17-01. The construction of this type of facility at this location is not compatible with its surroundings. Please vote to deny this Petition.
What Else Can You Do?
Here are a few additional practical steps you can take:
The company, JMDH Real Estate of Florida LLC, had been under contract to buy 6.9 county-owned acres at Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard just east of Interstate 75 and near the 300-acre recreation and wildlife site. But the plan was met with intense opposition from several hundred nearby residents and activists over the past six weeks.
Sarasota County Commissioners announced at today’s meeting that JMDH Real Estate of Sarasota, LLC has terminated their contract to purchase land adjacent to the Celery Fields.
On March 1st, Comissioners delayed their vote on Rezone Petition 16-33 to change the zoning of a 6.9-acre parcel of land on the northwest corner of Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard. The proposed zoning change, from “Open Use Rural” to “Industrial, Light Manufacturing, & Warehousing,” would have allowed the developer to proceed with its plan to construct a 60,000 square-foot wholesale restaurant supply business, Restaurant Depot, on the site.
The delayed vote came after hundreds of citizens turned out to protest, wrote letters and emails, and called the Comissioners’ offices to voice concerns over the needless sale of these beautiful Public lands to industry.
The Fight Continues
Sadly, the parcel of land that was under contract to JMDH remains on Sarasota County’s “surplus lands” list, along with parcels on the southwest and southeast corners of the Apex Road & Palmer Boulevard intersection.
One of those parcels is under contract for sale to a developer who has requested a similar rezone in order to build a construction and demolition debris processing plant, where concrete crushers and wood chippers will create significant noise, and where trucks carrying the waste will line up to enter the facility on a daily basis.
As citizens of Sarasota County, we are voters, property owners, and nature enthusiasts who believe that the sale of these conservation lands for such industrial purposes would be an unspeakable travesty that has the potential to irreparably harm the wildlife habitat and pollute the waters of the Celery Fields and the Phillippi Creek basin.
Local citizens gathered again today to protest the sale of Sarasota County lands adjacent to the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility and the Celery Fields Park.
On March 1, 2017, Sarasota County Commissioners postponed discussion and public comment on Rezone Petition 16-33, which involves a parcel of land on the northwest corner of Palmer Boulevard and Apex road. The applicant, who ran afoul of County rules regarding disclosure of ownership interests, plans to construct a 60,000 square-foot Restaurant Depot location on the site.
Huge thanks to Stand Up Fight Back SRQ, Adrien Lucas, Tom Matrullo, and others for organizing another great event!