We asked city officials to respond to the comments made on the recent 100 Central Ave posting. Specifically the questions posed were:
Would you take a look at today's [Nov 2] posting on the Save Our Sarasota Blogsite, and particularly the comments that were also posted.
Does this section of Central meet EDCM requirements? Is there a solution to the Whole Foods truck unloading issue?
City Manager Mike McNees promptly responded:
Mr. Clapp - I read what's on the blog, and the accompanying comments. I would offer the following, feel free to reprint anything you want to on the blog.
The Engineering Design Criteria Manual (EDCM) provides for a process whereby exceptions to its requirements, called technical deviations, can be granted. There are criteria established for such, and when exceptions are granted through that formal process the resulting improvements are legal. I am most familiar with the exceptions granted in this case for the Whole Foods loading dock, because I sat in on what turned into many hours of discussion as that particular engineering problem was addressed.
To say that locating something like the Whole Foods Market on a site like our Lemon Ave. site, or any other downtown site for that matter, is problematic is an understatement of the highest order. The standards of companies like Whole Foods or Publics for store orientation, configuration of back-of-the-house space, loading facilities, and any number of other items are extremely exacting. The same can be said for our EDCM standards; in a way it's a classic case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, and is way of the major reasons other cities have struggled to achieve the same goal. In this case it was clearly in the public interest, as defined in the Downtown Master Plan 2020, to make the market happen, and it is precisely for this type of issue that the exception process exists within the EDCM.
As for the loading dock, clearly compromises were made as reflected in the technical deviations that were granted . Everyone at the table understood that the solutions to which all parties eventually agreed were not perfect, and reality has proven that to be true. Everyone also understood that we would have to watch closely and make further adjustments as necessary -something one of your posters has pointed out has happened with redesignation of some parking spaces on Second Street, for example. Rather than an admission of failure of some sort, I see that as appropriate follow-up and adjustment based on everyone's observation of real-life conditions, which can only be estimated by even the most brilliant engineers. I am certain that all parties will continue to work to improve the situation, which again we all know is not optimal from an engineering stand point. The City could have, of course, demanded an optimally correct engineering solution that me all EDCM requirements. The downside to that course of action would have been no market, so clearly there were trade-offs, which are simply the name of the game with urban redevelopment. I would argue that the Whole Foods Market makes its own arguments for whether or not the compromise was justified.
As for Central Ave., deviations were also granted there I believe. In that case, certain right-of-way agreements were also required, all of which demanded approval of the full CRA, and which also were compromises agreed upon to make the project, in which the City is a partner, work. In their defense, I must say that the City Engineering Department fought very hard to preserve adequate function of the facilities that would eventually be built. Of course whether or not we accomplished that is a subjective question, which we will all have to judge for ourselves.
Regards, Mike McNees