Sarasota News Leader

03/22/2013

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Sarasota News Leader March 22, 2013 OPINION No better example exists of this unfortunate result than the recent departure from the Sarasota County Commission of Jon Thaxton. While no one ��� and most certainly not we ��� would characterize Thaxton as a liberal, he deserved his reputation as an advocate for limiting growth in the county, particularly controlling development in the more pristine areas of the county east of Interstate 75. His forced exit from the County Commission as a result of term limits was a loss compounded by his replacement, Charles Hines. Hines, an attorney, has many ties to the development community. Indeed, disgraced Republican official Bob Waechter, the head of a real estate management company, strongly supported Hines during the campaign, referring to him in a letter at the time as someone with a ���strong property rights and business philosophy,��� and calling Hines��� replacement of Thaxton ���an opportunity for a seminal shift on the Board of County Commissioners.��� Page 68 called for the creation of residential/commercial ���villages��� that would offer greater walkability for residents, cutting down further on the waste of fossil fuels and resultant pollution. Developers would like to count existing lakes and such developed areas as golf courses as ���open space.��� They would like to be allowed more density than currently provided for, fewer buffers and more freedom in the location and amount of commercial development. But, most of all, they would like something called ���fiscal neutrality��� to simply disappear from the plan. Fiscal neutrality requires developers ���to pay the full costs of all public facilities and services that are required to support the development,��� according to language in the plan. That prevents other taxpayers in the county from having to subsidize infrastructure needs that benefit only the newly developed area. It is a great smart-growth strategy, but developers Now that ���seminal shift��� is being put to the hate it because it costs them money. test, as developers in Sarasota County ��� many of whom supported Hines in his bid ��� When one considers what the development pressure the commission to make 38 revisions community is asking for in its proposed reviin the Sarasota County 2050 Plan. The devel- sions ��� loss of wildlife habitat, increased polopment community is arguing that the 2050 lution, greater density ��� in short, everything Plan has stifled growth in the eastern part of that makes ���urban sprawl��� a pejorative ��� it is easy to see how environmentalists, neighthe county. borhood advocates and others are uniting in Of course, that is like saying that the FAA cuts their opposition to any changes. down on mid-air collisions between planes. The plan was supposed to limit growth in that The question, however, is will the opposition area, requiring generous allowances for open be able to prevent a developer-friendly County space and the preservation of environmental- Commission from eviscerating an 11-year-old ly sensitive lands. At the same time, the plan plan that was supposed to preserve the unique

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