People ask how The Vue – at Gulfstream & US 41 – was approved. They are stunned to learn the answer: the City of Sarasota staff makes these decisions. There is no public hearing, no review by the Planning Board, and no vote by our elected City 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 14-year experiment worked out for Sarasota? You need only visit The Vue to know it is a disastrous failure as far as pedestrians are concerned. And now the city plans to expand Administrative Approval into other parts of the city.
For a quality Sarasota, we need public hearings, both to discuss individual buildings and to debate the code itself.
What kind of a city do we want Sarasota to be for the future?