LAKEWOOD RANCH — After months of trying to find a Lakewood Ranch location for his proposed 9/11 and Fallen Heroes Memorial, Lakewood Ranch resident Gene Sweeney likely will be taking his project to Sarasota County.
Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 2 Supervisors voted unanimously May 20 against placing the memorial on Town Hall property. Board members noted they had received a negative response from all the other CDDs as well as some military veterans in the area.
“I’m from New York City; I was in New York City when Sept. 11 hit,” CDD 2 Supervisor Kathleen Grant said. “I lost neighbors and coworkers. I just felt (Town Hall is) not an appropriate place.”
CDD 1 Supervisor Jean Stewart agreed.
“I’m very sympathetic to the veterans and any memorial to them,” she said. “I just don’t think it was an appropriate location.”
Supervisor Don O’Leary, who had supported the project publicly, said he did not vote for the memorial because the other CDDs opposed it.
Sweeney said he was disappointed with the decision, but is ready to move on.
“There’s no ill feelings at all to anyone,” Sweeney said. “Their decisions were their decisions. It is what it is. It’s time to move on. We did the best we can.”
Sweeney said he will begin pursuing some alternative locations he’s had on his radar now that a decision has been made, and he will follow up with several individuals who have come forward with ideas.
Sweeney declined to specify what potential spots he has in mind, saying he’d like to have more confirmed before releasing details. However, he did note someone has suggested placing the memorial outside Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, where former President George W. Bush was reading to children when he learned a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and where the president made his first public comments about the terrorist attacks.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of it at this point because there are other possibilities as well within Sarasota County Parks and Recreation,” he said.
Several groups, including the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, are following the project and may begin to assist Sweeney in finding an appropriate location.
Sweeney said he would not consider placing his project within the Veterans Memorial Park being built in San Marco Plaza because the projects are too different.
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