Herald-Tribune: Planning Commission sides with protesters against recycling facility

In a coup that surprised even leaders of the opposition against the project, the Sarasota County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the denial of the planned construction and demolition debris recycling center at the corner of Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road near the popular wildlife and recreation area.

Planning Commission sides with protesters against recycling facility
by Zach Murdock, Staff Writer

Published online Thursday, June 1, 2017 during the Planning Commission hearing that day in which Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend denial of Petition 17-01 TST Ventures, LLC, and in print the following day.

Sarasota County Planning Commission Hears Petition 17-01

The Sarasota County Planning Commission Public Hearing for June 1, 2017 is in session.

On the agenda:

Rezone Petition 17-01
TST Ventures, LLC proposes to construct a construction & demolition debris processing facility, including yard waste and stockpiling.

Download the Planning Department Packet here (371 pages)

We’ll be live tweeting the proceedings. Follow @CeleryFieldsSRQ for updates.


SNN: “Save Our Celery Fields” Information Rally (5/25/2017)

The Suncoast News Network’s newscast for Thursday, May 25th covered the “Issues & Briefing Rally” put together by the Palmer East Group and Citizens for Sarasota County to educate Sarasota residents and other concerned citizens about the June 1st Public Hearing before the Sarasota County Planning Commission regarding an applicant’s plan to build a construction & demolition debris processing facility at the Celery Fields.

Reporter Samantha Sonner, who also published a story on SNN’s website, spoke with The Enclaves HOA President, Carlos Correa, as well as Rob Wright from Sarasota Audubon Society, and David Johnson from CeleryFields.org.

Rally Opposing Celery Fields Development Planned for Thursday Evening

Media / Public Inquiries
David Johnson, Media Coordinator for the Palmer East Group
(941) 312-1409

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 rally will be held on Thursday, May 25th at 7pm to educate concerned citizens on the dangers of allowing the rezoning and sale of public land to build a construction and demolition debris processing facility at the Celery Fields.  The event, which is being organized by the Palmer East Group, will be held at St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal Church, located at 8700 State Road 72 (Clark Road) in Sarasota.

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.

The Palmer East Group has been working throughout 2017 to build public support for efforts to stop Sarasota County from selling off portions of the Celery Fields to industrial developers. An earlier petition to build a 60,000 square-foot wholesale restaurant supply facility was withdrawn by the developer after public protests drew widespread criticism of the plan.

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.


Say NO to Construction & Demolition Debris Processing at the Celery Fields!

Say NO to Construction & Demolition Debris Processing at the Celery Fields!

On Thursday, June 1 at 5:00PM, the Sarasota County Planning Commission  UPDATE: On Wednedsay, August 23rd at 9am, the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners 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.

Rezone Petition 17-01: Subject Parcels
Outlined in orange: approximate boundaries of the subject parcels for Rezone Petition 17-01

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.

We’ve written in the past about why the County’s process for selling so-called “surplus lands” needs to be revisited, and this project is a perfect example of the sort of terrible idea that could be avoided if that process were as transparent as it could be.

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.

How Did We Get Here?

The Citizens for Sarasota County have prepared a complete timeline that lays out the history of this idea.

What Can You Do?

Let your voice be heard!

Call or write your County Commissioner and let them know how you feel about this petition!

Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners: (941) 861-5344

Write to the members of the Sarasota County Planning Commission :

Additionally, you can email the Sarasota County Staff contact person assigned to the Planning Commission:

Paula Clintsman – pclintsm@scgov.net

What Should You Say?

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 Honorable Members of the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners:

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.


<Your Name>
<Your Address>

What Else Can You Do?

Here are a few additional practical steps you can take:

Do you have questions? Feel free to ask them by leaving a comment below!

Herald-Tribune: Celery Fields friends get way (3/22/2017)

Herald Tribune: Celery Fields friends get way

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.

Restaurant Depot project slated near Celery Fields withdrawn
by Zach Murdock, Staff Writer

Published online March 21, 2017, the story ran next to the lead story on the front page of the March 22, 2017 issue of the print edition under the headline, “Celery Fields friends get way.”