After hearing three hours of testimony from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. representatives and a group of residents opposing a proposed supercenter, Sarasota City Commissioners decided to continue an appeal hearing.
The continued hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26.
A Wal-Mart architect presented new plans for the supercenter, which showed the additional pedestrian pathway behind the store and defended the project as a jobs creator and an improvement over the mostly-vacant Ringling Shopping Center formerly anchored by a closed Publix.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing six residents appealing the 98,000-square foot store said the “megastore” is not allowed in the zoning classification for the Ringling Shopping Center.
Commissioners Tuesday night heard a total of more than four hours of testimony from both sides, and still need to hear from 34 residents who are “affected parties,” in addition to the six residents appealing the supercenter.
In other items, commissioners:
• Approved in a 3-2 vote a contract with design/engineering firm A.D. Morgan to build a $7.29-million State Street parking garage.
Over the past few weeks, several downtown advocates and Gilbane Building Co., the engineering firm that came in second, questioned the city’s selection of the Tampa-based firm A.D. Morgan.
Downtown advocates Ernie Ritz and Paul Thorpe said the city is giving away an important downtown construction project and jobs to an out-of-town company.
Tony Souza, chairman of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and questioned why a downtown business owner or resident was not included in the selection committee, as was done with previous projects such as the Palm Avenue parking garage.
Commissioners Shannon Snyder and Paul Caragiulo voted against the contract with A.D. Morgan.
• Suspended enforcement of a section of the city code that prohibits outdoor amplified sound.
Before the decision to suspend the specific section of city code, Michael Barfield, representing the Sarasota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Florida, cautioned commissioners that the ACLU believed that the code in its current form was unconstitutional.
“We believe those provisions are unconstitutional on their face,” Barfield told commissioners.
Commissioners decided to ask city staff to send out an email prohibiting staff members from enforcing the part of the zoning code that prohibits outdoor amplified sound.
City staff will discuss the amplified-sound section of the code and how to move forward Wednesday, Feb. 20 at a staff meeting.
Later during the meeting, a group of musicians who came to protest the noise ordinance as being too strict ended up speaking in praise of the City Commission’s decision to suspend it.