The Sarasota County Commission did something today that it has never done before — agreed to a request from Chinese scholar and historian Elling Eide. But the decision to allow the rezone of 58 acres of his bayfront property comes more than two years after his death.
"He was very bitter about the county, which was part of the difficulty of realizing his dream," said Commissioner Nora Patterson. "I'm happy to be part of it becoming a reality just by casting a vote."
Commissioners approved the new land-use distinction allowing the Elling O. Eide Charitable Foundation to house scholars studying at the 14,000-square-foot library that's currently under construction. The development plan for the property includes an observation tower, a cafe and seven residential units.
Attorney Dan Bailey compared the vision of the property to the Hermitage Artist Retreat in south Sarasota County.
In the ’80s, Eide battled the county in court for nearly a decade to get 14 acres of his roughly 100-acre property zoned for commercial development. The former University of Illinois professor wanted to sign a long-term land-lease agreement with a developer to build and maintain a library for his collection of Chinese literature.
Though he only published one book, “On Li Po,” in 1971, Eide owned at least 60,000, and as many as 100,000, volumes of Chinese literature.
Eide sued the county in 1986 and won $850,000, but he didn’t collect the award before the county won an appeal in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, which required Eide to pay $21,000.
"He was a phenomenal man and left a great legacy here," said Commissioner Joe Barbetta.