In November 2019, county commissioners unanimously voted to grant conservation easements over three parcels near Celery Fields known as “the Quads,” which will protect them from future development.
After forging a partnership with the Sarasota Audubon and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, the county will now take the final steps to cement the easements.
The three quads chosen — northeast, southeast and southwest — will need to be rezoned from Open Rural Use to Government Use, which allows the conservation easement along with government, civic, educational and recreational uses of the land.
Properties zoned Government Use allow schools, offices, emergency medical offices, outdoor recreation facilities and warehouses, to name a few.
The application to change the zoning specifies the area of government use on the properties will be limited to 40,000 square feet on the Southwest Quad. However, no developments are proposed.
The Northwest Quad, which contains the Apex Road fire station, could be developed and rezoned into industrial use, high density use or public and government use in the future.
The other three quads, which comprise 33 acres, will be protected from development following the rezone, which residents have been requesting for three years.
In addition to the rezoning, staff is requesting the addition of nine conditions to the Critical Area Plan for the area including:
- Protections to the viewshed, including limitations on structures and dense vegetation on the Quads;
- Setbacks from the road to preserve the open nature of Palmer Boulevard;
- Building height limitations set to 45 feet in some areas with a daylight plane restriction close to Palmer Boulevard; and
- Limitations to landscaping buffers, allowing them only when needed to avoid conflict with conservation efforts.
Staff also requested that future buildings be designed with elements of Florida Vernacular architecture, similar to the design of Fire Station No. 8 building and the Audubon Nature Center.
The conditions are designed to preserve and enhance the character of the Palmer Boulevard corridor and the quads parcels, county documents note.
Christin Johnson, the president of the Conservation Foundation, said she was proud to protect the quads indefinitely.
“With this, you are protectionist nationally recognized, environmentally sensitive Celery Fields forever,” Johnson said.
Two public hearings for amendments for the rezone application and amendments to the Critical Area Plan related to the Celery Fields area will be heard before official action is taken.
The first hearing will be held at a Planning Commission meeting May 6 and the second at a County Commission meeting June 9.