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GWIZ Sarasota
Sarasota Monday, Jan. 28, 2019 3 months ago

Board to make decision on GWIZ demolition

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The Historic Preservation Board will hear an appeal challenging the city’s decision to demolish the former Selby Library.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Although a majority of the City Commission has repeatedly voted in favor of demolishing the former GWIZ building on the bayfront, a city advisory board will decide Tuesday whether the demolition can move forward.

The Historic Preservation Board is holding a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to consider an appeal challenging the city’s issuance of a demolition permit for the structure at 1001 Boulevard of the Arts. In October, the City Commission voted 3-2 to affirm its support for the demolition of the building as part of a master plan for redeveloping the bayfront.

Even after that vote, preservation advocates have campaigned to save the building. Those advocates argue the building, built in 1976 as the Selby Library, carries architectural and historic significance.

City staff members have rejected those arguments, pushing back against Historic Preservation Board members’ attempts to stop the demolition. The city has said the building is in disrepair and not old enough to qualify for historic designation. The city approved the demolition permit in December.

On Dec. 20, resident Edward J. Haas filed a formal appeal challenging the demolition permit. Haas, who lives across the street from the building, echoed the claims of other preservation advocates when explaining his decision to file the appeal.

“It’s a unique building, architecturally,” Haas said.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the city filed a request to disqualify one Historic Preservation Board member from the hearing. In a motion, the city stated it “fears that it will not obtain a fair and impartial hearing” from board Chairman Christopher Wilson, a vocal advocate for preserving the building.

The appeal of the demolition permit is a quasi-judicial public hearing, in which a board is expected to make a decision based on substantial evidence and relevant regulatory standards. The city, via Deputy City Attorney Michael Connolly, argued Wilson's past actions regarding this subject creates a reasonable concern he would not vote impartially. The city asked Wilson to recuse himself from the decision.

Whatever the Historic Preservation Board decides Tuesday, either side will have the opportunity to appeal the ruling to the City Commission, according to a city spokesperson.

The full agenda for the Historic Preservation Board meeting can be found on the city’s website.

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