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Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 1 month ago

City, county butt heads over Lido renourishment staging agreement

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The county is reluctant to consider a deal without a provision focused on addressing potential issues, a clause the city deemed unnecessary.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The city of Sarasota on Monday unanimously approved the terms of an agreement with Sarasota County allowing a portion of Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key to be used as a staging area for a Lido Key shoreline renourishment project next year.

Staff told the commission one major hurdle remained before the agreement could be finalized: Sarasota County had no plans to consider authorizing it.

At Monday’s City Commission meeting, officials expressed displeasure with county staff for declining to place the proposal on the County Commission agenda.

“Commissioners, I have to say that in my 26 years of public administration, I’ve never heard staff make a decision not to place an item from a sister government on another government’s agenda,” Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said. “I was just totally floored by that decision.”

The city is seeking permission to use a 660-foot-long segment of the northern end of the county-owned property at Lido’s southern tip. The affected area would include some space used for parking. The city is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a project to renourish Lido with sand dredged from Big Pass. City officials have said the use of the staging area could result in approximately $1 million in project cost savings.

Although the county now says the county administrator intends to discuss the topic at Tuesday’s commission meeting, there remain differing perspectives between city and county officials regarding the project.

The dispute over the staging area is tied to a specific clause county commissioners asked to be included in the agreement but that city officials declined to incorporate. In November, the County Commission directed staff to negotiate an agreement with the city but asked for some form of protection if the project negatively affected south Lido or Siesta Key. Commissioner Charles Hines suggested a provision that would give the county the authority to force the city to make adjustments to the project if an issue arose.

Later that month, however, city attorney Robert Fournier distributed a memo to city officials explaining his belief that such a provision was undesirable for the city and unnecessary for the county. Fournier said the county’s concerns were understandable, but he said a state law and the terms of the permit issued for the dredging project already provided a way to ensure any issues were addressed.

The city has noted the permit requires the city to monitor the state of the shoreline and to take action to mitigate any problems associated with the dredging project. Even if an issue occurred, and the city did not comply with that requirement, Fournier said there is a statutory process that allows the county or adversely affected property owners to enforce the terms of the permit.

“I think that’s the process that ought to be utilized,” Fournier said.

Fournier also said the city would be taking on financial risk if it approved a provision giving the county authority to force the city to take action outside of the terms of the state permit. Although Fournier shared his explanation with the county attorney’s office, Brown said the county did not intend to place the topic on a meeting agenda unless the specific provision the commission requested was included.

On Tuesday, Hines said he believed the topic would be added to a future County Commission agenda. Bue he remained concerned about the absence of the requested provision and said the county attorney’s office disagreed with Fournier’s belief the statutory provision was sufficient. Hines said further discussion might be warranted regarding other portions of Fournier’s memo.

Although Hines said he believed the county’s request for protective measures was reasonable, he also said the county wanted to find a way to make sure the city didn’t incur unnecessary costs.

“We don’t want them to spend any more money than they have to, and it makes absolute total sense for them to use Ted Sperling Park as a staging area,” Hines said.

The city hopes to be able to use the staging area between March 4 and April 30.

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