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Audience at a public hearing on the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens campus master plan
Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 4 weeks ago

City Commission preps for Selby Gardens hearing

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Sarasota officials are making arrangements in case a special hearing on the contentious master plan proposal runs long.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

After it took three meetings for the Planning Board to complete its public hearing on Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ master plan, the City Commission is preparing for a lengthy debate heading into a Monday, Oct. 28 special meeting on the development proposal.

On Monday, the City Commission agreed to schedule a second special meeting for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 in case the first meeting runs long.

Selby Gardens is pursuing a $92 million master plan project that includes the construction of a five-story parking garage with rooftop restaurant, along with other facilities designed to support the botanical gardens. The plans have drawn outspoken public comment from both opponents and supporters, with residents filling the commission chambers beyond capacity for the first Planning Board meeting on the proposal.

The City Commission’s meeting — or meetings — will focus specifically on two legislative aspects of the proposal: a comprehensive plan amendment and a zoning text amendment. The applications seek to change the future land use classification of the 14.7-acre Selby property and create a special zoning district designed to facilitate the implementation of the master plan. The comprehensive plan amendment requires a supermajority of four commissioners to pass.

The Planning Board voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the changes that will be considered at the Oct. 28 meeting.

The commission also outlined the amount of time speakers would have to present their comments at the hearing: 45 minutes for Selby representatives, 30 minutes for city staff, 25 minutes for attorneys representing nearby neighborhood associations, 10 minutes for Hudson Bayou resident Susan Chapman and five minutes for members of the general public.

On Monday, the commission rejected a request from the Bay Point Park Neighborhood Association to delay the hearing for at least 30 days. City attorney Robert Fournier said he believed the city had no legal obligation to postpone the meeting based on the arguments the neighborhood group submitted.

If the commission approves the comprehensive plan amendment and zoning text amendment, the board will hold another meeting to consider the specific site plan application and a proposal to rezone the Selby property.

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