South Gate residents will vote on whether to sell the community center to the county.
On Tuesday, residents of South Gate are scheduled to vote not on a new leader but on whether to keep control of the neighborhood’s community center or sell it to the county.
The South Gate Community Association has used the center at 3145 South Gate Circle, designed by architect Victor Lundy in 1956 as an example of the post-war modern Sarasota School of Architecture style, as a rental venue for community events. It also rents out the pool to residents.
However, the center costs the homeowner's group anywhere between $4,000 to $5,000 monthly to keep running, and after record losses in 2020 because of COVID-19, the association found itself strapped for cash.
During an association meeting Tuesday, June 22, leaders expressed concerns that should a disaster happen, there would be no budget to fix the historical building.
Now, residents must decide whether to find a way to raise enough money to keep the building functioning under the association’s budget or sell the building and its property to Sarasota County.
The county entered a bid for the property as part of its Neighborhood Parkland Acquisition Program. The program, approved by voters in 2005, allows the county with taxes to purchase land and turn it into recreational environments to preserve the county’s natural environment and cultural heritage.
Since 2018, the county has worked with South Gate to identify opportunities for the property, which sits on the banks of Phillippi Creek. The County Commission this year approved a work plan for the area and on May 10, the county sent a letter to the association, offering $170,000 for the property. It also agreed to preserve the community center alongside and make improvements to the park estimated at a value of $500,000, including a playground, kayak launch and picnic shelters.
However, the property in 2018 was assessed at a market value of $1,055,000. Many residents on Tuesday expressed concerns that the community wasn’t getting the true value for the property.
Another cause for concern was the fate of the pool. Should the property be sold to the county, the pool would be demolished. In the offer letter, the county notes the pool is in poor condition and would bring too much liability and operating expenses.
Although some of the estimated 120 members at the meeting were in support of selling, a vast majority favored keeping the property in South Gate’s possession.
However, SGCA board members said they would find a way to keep the building afloat should residents vote against the sale.
Community residents will cast their ballots Tuesday evening. The community has until July 20 to respond to the offer.
Should they accept the offer, the county would then begin a process seeking community feedback for future upgrades.
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