Sarasota News Leader

01/03/2014

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LOOKING BACK YEAR IN REVIEW: OCTOBER The City Commission decided not to allow businessman Chris Brown to transform the Kress Building at Five Points into a New Orleans-style structure. Image courtesy City of Sarasota The chairman of the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Agency Extension Study Committee, David Merrill, has resigned. He tells The Sarasota News Leader, "The county doesn't want to hear some of the things I'm raising." County Commissioner Joe Barbetta had called for the resignation, and at least two other county commissioners were critical of Merrill's leadership of the committee. Merrill had contacted mayors in the southern portion of the county, asking if they had any interest in a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). And he asked his committee to draft a "model CRA ordinance" that could be used not only for downtown Sarasota, but also in North Port, Venice and Nokomis. Every CRA represents a subtraction from the county commission's property tax revenue. The study committee was established to examine whether the Downtown Sarasota CRA should be extended beyond its 30-year life, which is up in 2016. More than 120,000 bicyclists, runners and walkers use the Legacy Trail every year, according to electronic counters on the route. An effort is under way to extend the popular multi-use trail from south of Clark Road, where it ends, into downtown Sarasota. The 8-mile extension would be a big effort that could take years. The Friends of the Legacy Trail has been making presentations to local groups and elected officials — including one on Oct. 7 to the City Commission and an update to County Commissioners on Oct. 8. The plan would expand the route, which has become the backbone of outdoor recreation in the county, into the more densely populated northern neighborhoods and ultimately downtown. For instance, 27 schools are located within one linear mile of the border of the proposed extension, according to a map created by the Friends of the Legacy Trail. Project costs are unknown, but if the original leg of the trail — slightly more than 10 miles — is any indication, the extension could cost millions.

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