As you are aware, the big fight in 2017 was successful. We fended off two development projects that could have had a devastating effect (especially in combination with one another) on the beautiful Celery Fields.
However, the fight is not over.
Sarasota County Commissioners still have budget needs to meet, and 3 of the 4 “Quad” parcels are viewed as potential sources of income for the County.
Some of our most ardent co-laborers have begun a “Fresh Start” initiative in order to help provide input to the County about how these three properties might be used. These dedicated individuals have devoted hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to help preserve the Celery Fields, and they continue to work diligently to help shape the future of this beautiful area of Sarasota County.
Here’s How You Can Help
We invite you to bring forward your best ideas for how these pieces of land could and should be used. We invite you to bring yourself up to speed on the Fresh Start initiative and begin to contribute your ideas.
First, here are a couple of pieces of reading material:
Local developer James Gabbert plans to combine 3 adjoining properties in order to build a facility to process construction and demolition debris and yard waste with concrete crushers, wood chippers, and dozens of inbound and outbound truckloads per day of waste. The combined properties will be bigger than 16 football fields and will operate 6 days per week, starting at 7AM.
This property threatens the Celery Fields with:
NOISE – Concrete crushers produce substantial amounts of noise, as do wood chippers. If this project is approved, both will be in use on this property—just a few feet away from Sarasota’s beloved bird habitat. Additionally, trucks containing loads of yard waste, construction and demolition debris, will be entering and exiting the property 6 days per week, adding significantly to the noise levels
POLLUTION – Crushing concrete releases silica particulates into the air, which are damaging to the lungs and respiratory system. Imagine what this will do to the birds! The developer plans to control this by spraying it with water, which will produce runoff into the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility which was built at a cost of over $24 Million to protect the Phillippi Creek Stormwater Basin. Water in this system feeds directly into the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, pesticides, insecticides and other harmful chemicals from yard waste, as well as other substances from demolition debris (remember Chinese drywall?) will also end up in this critical water supply
TRAFFIC – Roads like Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road, already suffering from overuse, will be clogged with trucks entering and exiting this property. Remember, 600 new homes are being built at the east end of Palmer Boulevard in the new development. We already experience long wait times trying to leave our neighborhoods or the Celery Fields on Palmer Boulevard. We can’t handle more industrial traffic as well!
PROPERTY VALUES – Already Realtors® are expressing hesitancy on the part of buyers due to the potential for this project to be constructed. This means homes will stay on the market longer and sell for less than they would without this project.
In short: there are better places in Sarasota County to handle the recycling of construction and demolition debris and yard waste. Next door to this beautiful eco-tourism attraction and bird habitat is not a good place for this activity!
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
On Thursday, June 1 at 5:00PM, the Sarasota County Planning CommissionUPDATE: 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.
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 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.
What Else Can You Do?
Here are a few additional practical steps you can take:
It was the tenor of the fierce opposition that squashed the project, not the ownership disclosures, Bailey said.
“None of the almost 120 Restaurant Depots it’s constructed in the United States (including 11 it is currently operating in other Florida communities) have ever been the subject of a development approval request receiving such negative public attention, especially without a legal, or even reasonable, basis.”
With no disrespect toward Mr. Bailey, he is mistaken.
Let me be clear: it is my position—and that of others who have worked tirelessly to oppose this project—that any development on publicly held conservation lands is unreasonable, without vigorous public debate.
Mr. Bailey, it is not your client, per se, that we oppose. In fact, I believe that Restaurant Depot would make a fine addition to the Sarasota area. I would love for them to succeed here, and would gladly see them added to Sarasota’s tax base.
At issue is not the business itself, but the location.
There are plenty of areas within Sarasota County where industry is a good fit. But the parcels of land that make up the four corners of the Apex Road/Palmer Boulevard intersection (the “quads,” as they are known) are most decidedly not among them.
In that location, having as many as 100 vehicles per hour coming in and out of the facility, seeing piles of pallets stacked up outside, and finding rotting food waste in dumpsters is not as uncommon for the industrial areas, which can be more tolerant of such conditions.
Had Mr. Bailey’s client selected a similar area within Sarasota County to propose construction of its facility here, I’m sure that negative public attention of the sort that they have experienced in the last month would not have been reasonable.
What is unreasonable, however, is not so much the actions of Mr. Bailey’s client, but the actions that led to the “quads” being re-categorized as “surplus,” when they have clearly been considered “conservation” lands for the last two decades.
This is not a case of a privately held parcel of land that happens to neighbor a park being rezoned for industrial purposes. This is a case of public lands that are part of the Celery Fields being sold off by our elected officials.
Are the lands indeed “surplus?” If so, then perhaps Sarasota County would be good enough to produce the study whose findings support such a conclusion. If such a study exists, then why not bring it out into the open?
Instead, efforts on the part of a broad coalition of interests, including local businesses and homeowners’ associations, to obtain information from county government about the internal process that led to the “surplus lands” designation for the “quads” have been completely unfruitful.
It is entirely conceivable that Sarasota County acquired more land than was necessary to accomplish the flood-prevention objectives that led to the acquisition of the Celery Fields lands in the first place. Since the opening of the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility in 1999, it seems to have been doing its job rather well, although we have not had another 100-year flood like the one that occurred in 1992 in order to fully test its mettle.
But assuming that it is doing its job well, do our elected officials have a responsibility to turn lands that have indeed turned out to be “surplus” back over to the private sector so that they can produce tax revenues?
But I contend, alongside others who have been actively opposing the developments that have been proposed for the “quads,” that this is a conversation that we need to have as a community, and not one that should occur behind closed doors, as seems to have been the case.
There is thus a thoroughly reasonable basis for opposing Restaurant Depot and other developers who have proposed what many believe are unreasonable uses for the lands in question. And there may be more than one legal basis to oppose them as well.
There are reasonable uses for Celery Fields lands. The “green space” function they have been serving for some years comes readily to mind.
Are there others? Even some that might produce tax revenues for Sarasota County?
Let’s talk about them. Openly.
David G. Johnson and his wife and daughter live in a community neighboring the Celery Fields, where they regularly enjoy the birds, wildlife, and even some exercise.
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!
Spread the word! (Share this post, the flyer, and the Facebook event!)
Next Wednesday, the Sarasota County Commission will hold a Public Hearing to consider this Rezone Petition, which has already been approved by the Planning Commission.
If approved, this petition would allow developers to proceed with the construction of a 60,000 square-foot wholesale restaurant supply store which will clog the already-overburdened roads near the Celery Fields with hundreds of vehicles per day¹.
The Sarasota Audubon Society says the rezoning is, “…not compatible with recreation and eco-tourism and will add hundreds of daily auto/truck trips through strained and inadequate neighborhood roads. This increase will have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of wildlife and humans in the area.”
A Dangerous Precedent
Since the proposed Restaurant Depot is on County-owned land that was originally part of the Celery Fields, it is all the more egregious that Sarasota County would sell this land to developers with plans like these.
But even more alarming, other plans being proposed on nearby parcels threaten the Celery Fields with 35-foot high piles of debris from construction & demolition as well as yard waste, 25-80 loads per day coming via large trucks, the noise of concrete crushers and wood chippers, and water runoff containing unknown quantities of harmful chemicals from washing down demolition debris to control dust.
If Sarasota’s County Commissioners approve the “Restaurant Depot” project, then threats like the dump being proposed across the street seem even more likely.
¹In their rezoning petition, the developers of the “Restaurant Depot” project estimate the number of hourly “trips” generated by their business to be nearly 100 at peak times (between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays). You can view their original rezone petition and additional information about it on our wiki: Restaurant Depot Rezone Petition 16-33.