Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Follow Up on Rescission

Yesterday we commented on an issue before the City Commission that concerned rescinding and reversing a decision made in a quasi-judicial hearing where competent and substantial evidence was given by many citizens. After the project was turned down by the Commission, the developer lobbied Commissioners two of whom rescinded their votes and then voted to approve the project. This reversed the original decision.

We, and many others, objected to the process involved, as well as the fact that the rescission was based on inaccurate information.

At the City Commission meeting yesterday, the Commissioners needed to vote on the "second reading" of the decision. When Commissioner Bilyeu made a motion to approve the project, no one seconded the motion. Commissioner Palmer made a motion to deny and Commissioner Atkins seconded.

A discussion followed. Comments included the thought that the entire process should start over since it was not straightforward, questions of whether this property might connect with the Yacht Center property, whether the "Right of Way" in question was owned by the city or the developer (it had been dedicated as a street to the City of Sarasota for municipal purposes by the subdivision plat in 1947), etc. Commissioner Bilyeu said he was "dumbfounded" that this would not be approved.

In the end, the Commissioners voted 4-1 to wait until December 12 to vote on the motion. They hope the developer will present a new proffer. Commissioner Palmer voted not to delay the decision.

We again ask the Commissioners to do the right thing: go back to the original quasi-judicial hearing and affirm the decision made when public testimony was taken. The developer has the opportunity to re-submit his plan with any changes he feels are appropriate.

This complicated and complex issue goes well beyond the ramifications to this small neighborhood - Tahiti Park. Every issue deserves attention to a process that will provide for maximum transparency and citizen input.

Negotiating with the developer after the public hearing, in public or behind closed doors, is not good practice. Citizens lose confidence in the process and in their leaders when this kind of decision making is practiced.

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