Saying how pleased they were with the 14 applications they had received, the Sarasota County Commission Tuesday appointed three new members to the Sarasota Planning Commission.
Joseph Gessner, Robert A. Morris III and Terry J. Richardson, all of Sarasota, are expected to begin their four-year terms when the commission meets Feb. 2.
County commissioners have said the Planning Commission is one of their most important advisory boards, because it reviews amendments or additions to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Gessner is a senior vice president and a Florida commercial real-estate manager with M&I Bank in downtown Sarasota. Morris is president of Certified Fleet Services/Robert Morris Properties, which is located in Northgate Court. Richardson is a retired licensed general contractor.
They will replace Taylor Meals and John Fellin, both of Englewood, and Sam Jones, of North Port. Fellin was ineligible to run again until 2013, while Meals had decided to step down from the board.
Jones had been expected to apply for another term on the Planning Commission. However, his application was not among the 14 forwarded to the County Commission.
One of the applicants, Kenneth Maturo, of North Port, decided to withdraw before the Tuesday vote.
“This was a most remarkable field,” Commissioner Jon Thaxton said following the vote Tuesday, “and I’m not just saying it to say it.”
“I had highlighted every single (name),” Commissioner Nora Patterson said, “so (the voting) was rough.”
Thaxton added, “It’s really great to see that sort of interest from the community.” He encouraged those not appointed this week to keep their applications active for open seats in the future.
“Jon said it well,” Commissioner Joe Barbetta told the audience. “I urge all those applicants (not chosen) to keep their names in there.”
Barbetta and Commission Chairwoman Christine Robinson both are veterans of the Planning Commission, with Barbetta having served more than 14 years before his election to the County Commission.
During the discussion Tuesday, Robinson asked each commissioner to name three finalists for the open seats. Then she asked all of her fellow board members to raise their hands to vote as she called out the names.
Along with Gessner, Morris and Richardson, commissioners nominated Samuel P. Cohen, of North Port, Michael A. Moran, of Sarasota, and Elaine A. Miller and Dawn Moore, both of Englewood.
Gessner won four commissioners’ votes, while Morris and Richardson won three votes each.
Among the other applicants was David Merrill, a general contractor in Osprey, who has criticized the commission for not being cautious on growth issues.
• Joseph Gessner, of Sarasota, senior vice president of M&I Bank
Gessner wrote in his application that he moved in 2001 to Sarasota and “greatly (appreciates) the quality of life we enjoy from living and working here.” In response to a question on the application about what he believes are the most pressing planning and land-use issues in the county, Gessner wrote, “Providing appropriately master-planned economic development centers that attract business and contribute to the tax base and employment of the region. Encouraging redevelopment of under-utilized or vacant infill properties. Continued commitment to improving infrastructure.”
• Robert A. Morris III, of Sarasota, president of Certified Fleet Services/Robert Morris Properties
In his application, Morris wrote, that, as a Sarasota native, he has “a vested interest (in making) sure that my hometown is at least as beautiful as I found it.” In response to the question about the most pressing planning and land-use issues, Morris responded that those were “urban sprawl and planning for smart future growth. Sarasota should expect that growth will occur. Through proper planning and making sure that new developments are aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient, Sarasota will remain the attractive place it is to live today.”
• Terry J. Richardson, of Sarasota, retired
Richardson wrote in his application that he moved in 1977 to Sarasota, where he worked as a Florida licensed general contractor until 2007. In response to the question about the most pressing planning and land-use issues, Richardson wrote, “Maintaining a high level of economic development with sustainable growth while assuring utilities, government services and roads are not overburdened.”