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City staff and St. Armands stakeholders have both expressed a desire to establish new regulations for special events before the height of tourist season.
Sarasota Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 7 years ago

Circle events, Mote expansion top commission agenda

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by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The Sarasota City Commission will consider a plan to manage activity on St. Armands and a proposal for growth along the bayfront at a meeting today.

The city has been working on crafting a special events ordinance for more than a year now, with provisions for managing events at St. Armands Circle Park receiving the most scrutiny. Landowners, merchants and residents on St. Armands have complained about the added congestion and competition created by events during the height of tourist season.

The commission previously approved a moratorium on events at the park from February through April 20 for 2014. City Attorney Robert Fournier said city staff expressed a desire for a permanent solution for managing events that created more clearly defined regulations for what would and wouldn’t be approved at St. Armands Circle Park.

The proposed ordinance has become the topic of intense scrutiny. Stakeholders on St. Armands have expressed a desire to return to the informal system in place before 2009, where events were only approved by the city if the St. Armands Landowners, Merchants and Residents group signed off on them. Fournier has called that system unlawful for delegating control of a public entity to a private group.

At the last meeting at which the events ordinance was discussed, St. Armands stakeholders felt they were nearing an agreeable solution with the city. As presented at today’s meeting, the ordinance would:

+ Create a moratorium on events in the park from February through April,
+ Allow for a maximum of two events per month in the park, with a special exception for three events in January and October,
+ Allow organizers of events that had previously been held in the park additional time to apply for future iterations of that event.

Since that meeting, however, two parties have stepped forward to oppose the proposed ordinance. Citizens Organized to Protect St. Armands, a group comprised partially of former leaders of the St. Armands Residents Association, is arguing for more resident oversight of the activity at St. Armands Circle Park.

Bill Kinney, the organizer of this year’s St. Armands Fine Art Festival, claims stakeholder-approved events have been more disruptive than his late-April event, which would be moved if the peak-season moratorium were approved.

Amost all parties have expressed a desire to get an ordinance in place before the peak tourist season begins, and St. Armands stakeholders have remained optimistic that a mutually appealing agreement could be reached.

“I really think (the city) wants to work with us,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association. “I think they want to make it a win-win for everybody.”

Also at Monday’s meeting:

+ Michael Crosby, CEO and president of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, will discuss the organization’s plans for expansion with the commission. Mote’s plans include a bayfront aquarium near the current site of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall parking lot, and Crosby is hoping to secure a commitment to that vision from the city before seeking funding for the project.

+ The commission will receive a report from the city’s Independent Police Advisory Panel regarding the Sarasota Police Department’s loss of accreditation.

+ The commission will discuss a potential moratorium on the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. The moratorium would give the city additional time to develop land development regulations if Amendment 2, a referendum allowing for medical marijuana production and use, passes Nov. 4.

The full agenda for the meeting can be found at the city website.

IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Regular City Commission meeting
WHEN: 2:30 and 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20. The events ordinance, Mote expansion, police accreditation and medical marijuana agenda items are all scheduled for the evening session.
WHERE: Commission Chambers, City Hall, 1565 First St., Sarasota.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]

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