Sarasota News Leader

07/12/2013

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Sarasota News Leader July 12, 2013 OPINION Page 84 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR CITY NEEDS TO ADDRESS REBUTTALS AFTER CLOSING OF PUBLIC HEARINGS To the editor: Thanks for your detailed coverage of the denied request to open up a new channel through the flourishing seagrass beds of our shallow bay (Definitions skewer dredge dream, July 4). I would add only one salient fact to the article. The site plan chart showing the proposed dredge follows the straight path of a 1920s dredge that was perpendicular to the basin along the shore. After several of us participated in the public input at the hearing, the attorney for the applicant presented several photographs to "confirm" a continued presence of "the channel" over many years. On these photographs, she repeatedly pointed out completely different "paths" that zigzagged obliquely from the basin in southwesterly directions through the seagrass below the 1920s channel, in an attempt to convince the staff and the commissioners that an open channel had persisted since the last aerial evidence of it disappeared in the 1950s. Dredged channels do not move about. Seagrass often appears in patches that change over time, however, and light conditions may make it appear as if there were paths through it, but the shifting "paths" being pointed out were never part of a channel dredged in the 1920s. Few would be familiar enough with the issue to notice the discrepancy. Public input was denied after the hearing was closed. When the attorney's new information was presented in rebuttal, we were unable to point out this blatant misinformation to the Sarasota city commissioners. We were very concerned that they would be persuaded by the misinformation. Luckily, a decision against the dredge pivoted on the "maintenance" aspect of the application that was just as far-fetched. This application could have been approved, however, because of persuasive misinformation that could not be rebutted. This needs to be noted in case of appeal and to demonstrate that the City Commission needs to suppress new information after it has closed a public hearing; otherwise, the commission needs to allow the public to address that new information. Kafi Benz, president Friends of Seagate Inc., Sarasota LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Sarasota News Leader welcomes letters to the editor from its readers. Letters should be no more than 300 words in length, and include the name, street address and telephone number of the writer. Letters should be emailed to Letters@SarasotaNewsLeader.com, with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Letters actually printed will be selected based on space available, subject matter and other factors. We reserve the right to edit any letters submitted for length, grammar, spelling, etc. All letters submitted become the property of The Sarasota News Leader.

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