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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 8 years ago

Businesses see red over greenspace

by: Robin Roy City Editor

After receiving many e-mails concerning the battle over 110 square feet of greenspace in front of the new restaurant, Braza, the city organized a meeting between all interested parties to try to better clarify the city’s greenspace policy.

The city has twice turned down proposals from Braza, which is next door to Mattison’s City Grille on Main Street, to cover the 110 square feet with brick pavers, so it can host outdoor dining. The proposals were denied, because they did not adhere to the greespace policy, which requires an increase in the quality of greenspace if there’s a decrease in its quantity.

However, there is confusion over about what “quality” means. Many people think it means increasing the quality of the actual plants, replacing old plants with new ones. Braza plans to replace seven sparse plants with about 300 new ones.

But, Clifford Smith, city senior planner who interprets the greenspace policy, believes quality refers to the design of the hardscape in which the foliage is planted — an urban design, with raised brick walls that also serve as seating, and natural pathways to walk through instead of having people walk through a plant bed.

About 30 people gathered Oct. 12, at City Hall to reach a compromise on Braza’s request and to review the greenspace policy.

Save Our Sarasota member Carol Reynolds suggested the restaurant create 110 square feet of greenspace somewhere else to mitigate the loss.

Pineapple Square developer John Simon asked if the city has taken inventory on its greenspace, so it has a baseline of how much currently exists.

“The Palm (Avenue) and Main (Street) improvements will increase the greenspace where there wasn’t any before,” said Simon, who believes that the loss of Braza’s greenspace might already be mitigated.

Ernie Ritz, Braza’s contractor, said the roundabout at Five Points Park is also going to generate new greenspace, and he asked why that can’t count as the mitigation area, either.

Downtown Improvement District (DID) member Andrew Foley suggested the city mark the active and passive spaces downtown, allowing more active areas to remove greenspace for uses such as outdoor dining and create new greenspace in the passive areas that aren’t heavily used.

Tim Litchet, city neighborhood and development services director, said he will create a committee comprised of one member each from the DID, Save Our Sarasota and the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, as well as one downtown resident and one person from the original committee that helped create the greenspace policy.

The committee will walk throughout downtown, identifying passive and active spaces. It will further clarify the greenspace policy and will inventory all of the existing greenspace.
Litchet said the city will choose a place to create 110 square feet of new greenspace to mitigate the loss at
Braza, and it will also pick up the cost.

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