Developer? Sport Hunter? Or, simply an individual property owner that hates leaf-dropping, old oak trees? Sarasota-Bradenton will welcome you with open arms! Pesky development and environmental/wildlife laws preventing you from cutting down old-growth trees, building on wetlands/protected natural areas, or hunting on wildlife like black bears? Not to worry–Sarasota County Commissioners will change local laws and regulations to suit your heart’s desire!
(Except where I’ve included links and quotes from newspaper and online articles, this is an opinion piece, and all opinions are mine, and mine alone. –A.C.F.)
On the wake of seeing homes like the one that was built in 1925 in my very neighbourhood demolished, and even this one (http://realestate.heraldtribune.com/2015/06/30/historic-119-year-old-reasoner-home-becomes-rubble/) meeting the wrecking ball, as well as beautiful old oak trees being cut down with no effort to preserve them (despite purported codes/laws in place protecting said trees), I was greeted by this article in the paper this morning that Randy Benderson, who infamously got permission to build a huge, wildlands-destroying and traffic-congesting mall, the University Town Center, “somehow” convinced Sarasota County Commissioners to “unanimously” grant his proposal to expand development to a whopping 600K feet of retail space and 100K of office space, according to the article (Read full article here). Not to mention that he’s going to be able to put in “nearly1,800 homes and 500 hotel rooms” on the site. But, no worries, the commissioners have learned to hide their bias towards/ties to developers behind convenient green-washing doublespeak. Supposedly, the “281-acre property…bolster(s) wetland protection.”
Here’s a novel idea, County Commissioners, why don’t you just simply PROTECT the wetlands and Florida’s natural ecosystem?
Oh, that’s right, because you are apparently carrying on with a trend in local Commissioner behavior–behavior which seems to point out that you pass measures that not only support a small influential percentage of the local population, but your own interests as well, as this article states “It wasn’t a tough sell for commissioners, most of whom shoot guns and frequent the range themselves.”
The article about the expansion of the shooting range in Nokomis goes on to inform us that the County commissioners allowed about 43 acres of protected natural land to be used for the expansion of the shooting range in Nokomis, despite environmental outcry, and the article suggests, by my interpretation, that you probably (illegally?) tried to keep it under the radar by not informing the public that it was coming under vote until the last minute.
(A small local paper presents another viewpoint into some of the issues facing Sarasota, often including reactionary articles on Benderson and County Commissioners that are interesting to read, simply because of the perspective offered on issues that would be hot-button among the voting demographic anywhere else: https://www.facebook.com/SarasotaPhoenixNews. )
Is it any wonder I (and other environmentally concerned Sarasota-Bradenton residents) feel so helpless? After all, we can’t compete with wealthy developers, out-of-state snowbirds (whose needs and wants are placed above those of long-term/year-round residents), or the special-interest groups that have the advantage simply because they reflect the needs and wants of our County Commissioners, as it suggests in many of the articles in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, and the events taking place “on the ground”.
Also, keep in mind that all this is happening while schools are underfunded, funding for the arts is being slashed, libraries don’t have enough funding and have had to slash staff and programs, social support programs are being neglected, and many people here are “lucky” to make minimum wage, and, even then, that is routinely exploited, with many businesses/individuals paying their employees under the minimum wage (I know about this tactic, firsthand, from personal experience in years of job hunting/working in Florida.)
I am saddened and angry beyond belief. And I have admitted defeat. I feel so powerless and alone to stop any of this from continuing to happen. Since I am poor and have no social status, I don’t matter. I can be sidelined like all of the other residents with heart, who care about what happens to not only Florida’s dwindling ecosystem, but to the local community and to preserving a sense-of-place connection with the area as well. I cried a lot this morning over the fate that Florida’s natural areas and wildlife faces in the face of political-based greed and favoritism. Not that the County Commissioners would notice, or even care, how members (like me) of their grassroots community would feel.