People ask how The Vue – at Gulfstream & US 41 – was approved.
They are stunned to learn the answer: City Staff makes these decisions. There is no public hearing, no review by the Planning Board, no vote by our elected Commissioners. This is called “Administrative Approval.” In 2003, the City adopted the Duany-inspired Downtown Master Plan. Ultimately, that plan included Administrative Approval and a new downtown zoning code – one that was supposed to be “new urbanist, walkable, and pedestrian-friendly” – or so it was hoped. As part of it, buildings would be built to the sidewalk in order to “engage” pedestrians. With Administrative Approval in place, a proposed project is guaranteed approval by City staff as long as it “meets the zoning code,” no matter how big the project may be. The assumption is that a well-designed code yields certainty for developers and public alike, and time-consuming public hearings can be eliminated.
How has this 13-year experiment worked out for Sarasota? You need only look at “The Vue” to know it is a disastrous failure. And now the City plans to expand Administrative Approval into other parts of the City. For a quality Sarasota, the reality is we need public hearings, both to discuss individual buildings and to debate the code itself: what kind of a City do we want for the future?
It’s time to STOP! the experiment!
The above image shows all new development in downtown Sarasota that is either under construction or in the approval stage.
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