Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rushing to Judgment

The Sarasota city commissioners signaled Tuesday that they want Pineapple Square so badly that they're willing to accept the risks -- and ignore some of their own staff's advice.

The SHT editorial quoted above is a good summary of what happened. The rush to judgment blew right past the staff misgivings about the lopsided tilt toward the developer as well as completely ignoring the expert advice of the consultants.

The simple math says that the city is giving the Isaac Group $18,500,000 in land (State St lot) and cash for net increase of 200 public parking spaces.

The other incentives given to the Isaac Group are an entire block of State Street to build on and over and added height from a "boutique" text amendment designed to give this developer extra height without having to meet the requirement of providing 200 parking spaces to get the added height.

The Isaac Group claims that it is giving back to the city the 175 spaces they are required to build (apparently they would have sat empty under the original Isaac plan - since they claimed they were for their own use and the use was not disclosed - but a change of heart resulted in giving them to the city). Nice gift.

Oh yes, the Isaac's also sweetened the deal by giving back $1,000,000 in cash and promised to maintain the parking spaces until the city decided to charge for parking.

The Isaac project will also bring to the city a project the will increase the unmet parking demand by 213 spaces. This is means that more cars will be driving around and around trying to find a parking space. Of course there will also be many more cars coming into downtown each day.

Is this the long term vision that our commissioners have for the city: "I believe the long-term strategic vision of the city is more important than the decisions we'll be making today," said Mayor Mary Anne Servian.

The pitch was made and the commission wanted it so badly they didn't want to ask the tough questions or listen to reality. They just wanted to say yes.


Anonymous said...

I read on the City Managers blog that the notes Maryanne Servian gave to Ken Shelin updating him on the public comments he missed at the second day meeting of Pineapple Square were on the sheets each speaker passes in. Is that not public reacord? I think it would be really interesting to see what those notes said about each speaker, especially if he missed SOS speak and see what she wrote about that. And also the person pointed out that this may be some violation of the Sunshine Law, passing notes from one commissioner to the next without all of them agreeing on the context.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Servian be rebuked by her beahvior and actions. I doubt you'll see much on those comments card unless she knows shorthand and Ken can read it. Can we get copies of this? Ms. High and Mighty just may have put herself in a corner.......

Anonymous said...

I think it is a must for SOS to immediately get copies of those notes before the destroy them or say they cannot find them. Servian's behavior around this whole deal stinks and it is just a shame that it is our money she is playing with.

Mary Anne Servian said...

I will respond to your comments about the notes I took. First of all it is NOT a Sunshine Violation to pass to Commissioner Shelin comments from speakers. The clerk office should them in their office if you would like to see them. I have NOTHING to hide.
Second, I gave him the speaker cards so he knew who had spoken and I handed him my notes on each speakers comments...I am far from High and Mighty and I would ask for a bit of civility. Mr. Robinson our City Auditor and Clerk guided me throughout the process as to the scheduling of the Tuesday meeting and I had no idea it would not be televised live. It will be rerun throughtout the month for everyone to see and it was video streamed on the City Website.
You may disagree with my decision but I would ask that perhaps you talk to me in person, by phone or email if you care at all about why I voted, the 4th vote I might add, the way I did.
I am not the least bit defensive because I believe the decision I made was right and will be be in the best interest of the City in the long run.
We are getting a much better project than we would have gotten had we gone to RFP which asked for 350 public parking spaces, we would have had to pay for, a small amount of retail and some residential. Instead we are getting more public parking, critical mass of retail, and a much needed face lift for the buildings on Lemon with quality retailers going in there, and new residential. Way more than we could have ever hopes for in the RFP scenario.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Servian,

Your motives for supporting the project were known by many way before this presentation. You did not request that the advisory board that works with these projects comment on the deal- in fact you and Commissioner Shelin made it known you didn't want them looking at it for comment. A blogger on the City's website said the this committe was only given a cursory introduction to it only afterwards, and even then did not have any specifics as to the negotiations. If you know better than your staff, your paid INDEPENDENT consultants that you brow beat from across the table, and do not want input from your own advisory committee, then that shows how you had your mind made up. You have listened to these developers and others as if their word is the gosphel over others that know better. In fact- can you name a development proposed here in town since you've been in office that you have voted down? I bet if their are any, you could count them on two fingers if that many. The behavior of the Commissioners that voted for this project was deplorable in the face of all the recommendatioons and words of caution being expressed by EXPERTS! If you don't want to heed their advice then stop wasting our money paying them! Funny how you've chosen in the past to make decisions based on expert consultants- but then again you do "know". Amateur is all it looks like to me.

Anonymous said...

WOW!! Mayor Servian's words sounded just like they were coming out of John Simon's mouth> Funny......

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 6:15 pm,

Mayor Servian can certainly answer for herself, but recently I believe she voted against the proposed building at Main and Gulfstream and she also voted against allowing 10 story buildings in Burns Square.

Anonymous said...

Her votes on those were political only, not her belief. She has the advantage of being the last one to vote.

She even was quoted in SRQ magazine saying she wished she could revisit the amount of money the city gave to the Whole Foods project and would request more analysis if she could do it all over.

She never learns, does she?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with readers' attempts to vilify Commissioner Servian. She has been a good supporter of my neighborhood. That said, I think she has taken a big political risk in her strong support of Pineapple Square. In the future, when someone has a problem with parking downtown (which, of course, they will), it is the commissioners who supported the project without ensuring more parking who are going to be blamed. I think that they are setting themselves up for some political consequences down the line--assuming SOS and other advocates actually vote.