After years of advocacy from the Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association, the City Commission decided not to explore the possibility of acquiring commercially zoned land at U.S. 41 and Hampton Road to incorporate into Whitaker Gateway Park.
The commission voted 3-2 Monday against continuing a conversation about buying the 0.55-acre site, listed for $950,000.
The majority of the commission felt the acquisition, not identified in the city’s parks master plan, was not a priority.
“We have this whole process that we are circumventing,” Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie said.
Tahiti Park residents had asked the city to buy the land, so it could not be developed for commercial use. Residents argued such a development could negatively affect the character and safety of the neighborhood, an argument Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch reiterated at Monday’s meeting.
“I think what’s of particular importance in this situation is that our neighborhood only has one ingress and egress, and that lot does not have a curb cut on U.S. 41, so the only ingress and egress would be on the substandard Hampton Road,” she said.
Ahearn-Koch is a resident of Tahiti Park and previously served as president of the neighborhood association. She recused herself from a previous vote on the topic. Because a representative for the Sarasota Bay Club said the retirement community might have an interest in participating in a special assessment district, the city attorney said Ahearn-Koch no longer had a conflict of interest and was free to vote Monday.
Although Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association President Melinda Delpech said residents almost unanimously supported the proposal, she also advocated for the city to pay for up to half of the purchase price of the property, which city administration recommended against.
Steve Roskamp, who is part of the management team of the Sarasota Bay Club, said he was interested in participating if it enabled him to create more parking for his property. A representative for the Whitaker’s Landing neighborhood said residents there were divided on the proposal.
Although Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Liz Alpert voted to continue researching the potential purchase, the rest of the board did not. Commissioner Hagen Brody said he was not comfortable using the city’s taxing authority to force residents in the area to pay for the acquisition of the property.