Agritourism goal questioned
I read with some alarm the letter from Jeremy Croteau (Oct. 21 East County Observer) in which he makes statements that in my opinion, and backed by evidence provided to various Manatee County authorities, FDOT, and SWFWMD, are misleading at best and patently false at worst.
I met Jeremy Croteau when he first began clearing his 47 acres directly adjacent to Saddlebag Creek Ranches, which is located off a very narrow stretch of State Road 70, 5 miles west of Myakka City. Extensive land clearing and multiple loads of fill were being spread across what quickly became a “sand desert” with no “meadows of lush grass,” no livestock, and a bare number of perimeter plantings and a small section of potted palms.
He stated he was restarting a former nursery and would graze cattle. I liked that idea as a nursery/cattle grazing operation would be vastly preferred to a housing development, particularly off that narrow stretch of S.R. 70 fronting his property.
Later in the conversation, he said he planned to host an annual medieval fair along with weddings and other events throughout the year. I won’t go into details surrounding the Manatee County building department turnover, the Manatee County inspector general investigation, or recent attempts to bypass what should be a required special event permit associated with an entertainment venue — by claiming an agritourism exemption which it clearly is not nor ultimately what it is intended to be, a viable agricultural operation.
Never mind the fact that only 7 acres of the 47 acres currently are zoned agriculture. Note that a claimed agritourism exemption from a special event permit could avoid what would surely be major concerns regarding “off-site impacts,” which are specifically reviewed during special permit hearings.
There are very high odds the permit would then be denied which would effectively halt the fair. My and my neighbors’ concerns are simple — traffic and security (off-site impacts).
S.R. 70 is not C.R. 675 where Hunsader Farms hosts its annual pumpkin fest on a lightly traveled county road, which still saw massive traffic jams last weekend extending all the way to and along S.R. 64 and S.R. 70. The section of S.R. 70 fronting Jeremy’s property is one of the narrowest stretches of state road in Florida with deep swales and guardrails only a few feet from the edges of the two-lane highway.
There are no turning lanes and no room for emergency vehicles to pass vehicles stuck in traffic. The guard rails prevent that. Fair attendance estimates, based on prior years when held in Sarasota County, are 6,000 people a day.
Traffic on S.R. 70 will be stalled for miles with who knows how many accidents, hindered cross-state commercial traffic, upset county residents, and road rage.
The Medieval Fair is a wonderful family-oriented event but a worse location could not have been chosen. From a security perspective, our adjacent homeowners are worried about possible threats to their families and properties as there is no appreciable fencing between our properties and Croteau's. The parking area directly abuts numerous Saddlebag Creek homeowners.
In my opinion, and others with whom I have spoken, Croteau's attempts to paint a picture of a “farm,” are nothing more than a ruse to bypass the rules governing commercial entertainment venues, no matter how family-friendly they might be.
Saddlebag Creek Ranches
School district needs to handle its spending
Although I supported this (referendum) in 2018, I'm now a no vote.
Supporting education is one thing but supporting questionable financial management is quite another. The $400,000 spent on the upcoming special election seems totally unnecessary. Delaying the vote until the 2022 scheduled election would have been far more prudent.
The $400,000 could have funded the $5,410 supplement for 74 teachers for one year. The district claims the June 2022 expiration of the existing tax authorization forced the need for the special election. This rationale seems suspect. Why not find opportunities for some short term cost cutting in the district's $1 billion annual budget?
With a $500 million capital budget there surely would be some projects that could be delayed for a short time? Was this type of analysis done before rushing to a costly special election? We don't know.
The estimated $45.7 million tax proceeds in 2022 works out to about $13,000 for each of the District's 3,500 teachers, which is more than double their annual "supplement." It seems the tax funds are being used for a lot more than just teacher retention. More clarity is needed to justify the continuing need for this "temporary" tax.
Vote yes on referendum
We often hear people say they support our students and teachers, which is very heart warming.
Well, I can tell you that the best way to support our students and teachers in Manatee County is by voting yes to renew the 1-mill referendum on Tuesday.
What critics fail to point out is that if the referendum fails, we teachers receive a $5,000 pay cut and lose the extra 30 minutes of instruction time. While you may not be happy with the school board, it’s the teachers and students who will suffer the most.
As school board member Mary Foreman learned and wrote about, the budget is complicated, and this money can’t be found within existing resources. The extra 30 minutes has made a dramatic difference in my classroom. The data shows students are performing better. We need that time to re-teach yesterday’s lesson, spend more time to work individually, and make up for learning losses during COVID.
During that extra time, I’ve actually heard my kids say, “Mrs. Lyons, I’m getting this.” Please let us continue on this path and keep up with neighboring districts that already have the extra funding. That is a real and tangible way to support our students and teachers.
Louise R. Johnson Middle School third grade teacher
Let's take care of our environment
Vern Buchanan wants us to think he cares about the climate.
His opportunity is right in front of him. The $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill isn’t the total answer that we need
to fight climate change, but it has to pass with no cuts.
This bill fights for Americans to have clean energy through a provision of the bill called the Clean Electricity Payment Program. It would create nearly 8 million jobs in the next 10 years and produce close to $1 trillion for the economy in that time. The initiative would invest in electric utilities that create an increasing share of clean electricity per year, eyeing a goal of 80% clean electricity by 2030. If Vern wants to create jobs for working class Americans, 8 million jobs from one provision sounds like a
Another piece up for grabs is the funding of a new Civilian Climate Corps, or CCC. This measure is a revamp of the old CCC program from the New Deal-Era. The old corps employed about 300,000 Americans per year. They built state parks, hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and dams, as well as ten of thousands of bridges. This new corps could employ up to 90,000 folks if fully funded. These jobs would pay $15 an hour with healthcare and other benefits.
A new-look CCC would focus on strengthening communities against wildfires and hurricanes, restoring wetlands, and removing
invasive species. All things that we need to help mitigate the effects of our changing climate.
If Vern Buchanan wants to put his vote where his mouth is on climate and jobs, he’d do well to support a fully funded Build Back Better Plan.