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Stephen Suau, who said the Fruitville Initiative was his brainchild in 2002, and Wade Matthews, the conservation chair for Sarasota Audubon Society, discuss Sarasota County commissioners denying an amendment to the Fruitville Initiative on Oct. 28.
East County Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015 6 years ago

Side of Ranch column: Jay Heater

Political menu offers two sides, ends with bad taste
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

While living for years in the San Francisco Bay Area, I listened to sports radio personality Ralph Barbieri, who offered one very valuable piece of wisdom.

Barbieri, known as "The Razor" for his cutting-edge personality, used to say that two differing and opposing takes on a situation could be equally true.

This bucks the trend of the universally accepted "You're wrong and I'm right," or "I'm smart and your stupid."

As I watched the Sarasota County commissioners on Oct. 28 as they tried to figure out whether to grant Benderson Development's request to alter plans for the 42-acre parcel south of Fruitville and east of Coburn roads, I thought back to Barbieri's statement.

To be frank, I wouldn't have wanted to be a politician on that day. Bad behavior ran amok.

The commissioners were in a tough spot, a situation that really defines why we select people to represent us in the first place,

To simplify, Benderson Development wanted the county to approve its plan for a few bigger lots so it could build two large light industrial buildings, which deviated from the area master plan that specified that development should include smaller lots and buildings,.That would thereby insure a diversity of businesses while keeping the area friendly to those who wanted to stroll its borders without dodging huge trucks.

Benderson representatives were very honest in the public hearing, telling the commissioners that the plan did, indeed, alter from the master plan, but it was their feeling that the new plan would effectively keep all the intended uses of the area intact.

Todd Mathes, a Benderson executive, talked about how his company's plans went above-and-beyond in designing a people-friendly environment that also would attract the kind of businesses that would be major employers. Sarasota County would benefit economically as the population grows and people need jobs.

A steady stream of citizens opposed to allowing Benderson's request talked about the larger buildings attracting the type of businesses that would utilize tractor-trailer traffic. Concerns involved pollution caused by the trucks (The Celery Fields would be next door with its abundance of wildlife), noise, sharing the roadway with pedestrians and loss of diversity among businesses that would use the area.

The citizens, many of whom worked for years on committees to develop the Fruitville Initiative, were angry that the commissioners might approve a plan that would jeopardize their vision for the area.

The commissioners turned down the request 5-0.

But Benderson is not the enemy and didn't deserve the verbal beating it received. The company, which has done some terrific and amazing work in the area, was called "a cancer" among other nasty comments.

People have to understand that two opposing points of view can be equally true. Benderson wants to build thriving communities. What increases its business and builds it reputation more than a successful project?

Look at The Mall at University Town Center and the park which borders it. Wonderful stuff.

Now does Benderson want to make money? Who doesn't? So it takes a monetary risk as it plans new construction. It then has to go through the process of getting what it wants with the chance that its requests get turned down.

Those who opposed Benderson's project also have every right to feel the way they do. The commissioners agreed unanimously with them that it was a deviation in the plan. That's why we have this system.

But the process could have been handled better. I would hope that, in the future, the commissioners would force those arguing their points to be more civil and respectful. 






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