Friday, June 09, 2006

Active Citizens

The following was written by Bill Zoller and published in CONA Comments, the monthly Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Sarasota County is a community of active, involved, citizens. In the county and in each incorporated municipality, citizens serve voluntarily on various advisory boards, and they put in long hours at no pay.

One of the most time-consuming advisory boards is the Planning Commission … be it of the County or of one of the cities. One former long-serving member of the County Planning Commission, Bob Earley, is experiencing health problems, and CONA wishes him the very best in that situation. CONA has appreciated the years of diligent effort that Bob put into his service on the PC…he was always thoughtful and thorough as he addressed each issue that came before the PC. Bob is a perfect example of the reason that we need a planning commission made up of concerned citizens, instead of a "hearing master", as many developers are pressuring the BCC to institute. I surely prefer to take my chances with the likes of Bob Early than with some hearing master!

In addition to the many official advisory boards, there are many neighborhood activists who give endless hours in their quest to safeguard and to improve their neighborhoods. Recently, I attended a monthly meeting of a City of Sarasota neighborhood association whose members are fighting what they see as a major incompatible development scheme at the edge of their neighborhood. So far, their protests and objections seem to have received lip service from a majority the City Commissioners, but the developer has received the ok.

Nevertheless, all across the County, citizens such as these are realizing that they can go beyond a 3-2 vote of a commission if that vote will, in their opinion, lead to the destruction of their neighborhood. Citizens from the City of Sarasota, to Venice, to North Port are beginning to investigate their charters to consider undertaking amendments that would prevent some of the unfortunate decisions that seem to favor the ever-increasing spread of sprawl or the decline of the quality of a community. Perhaps if the BCC and the North Port City Commission will not act to control annexations, the citizens of North Port will find a way to do it themselves.

Poll after poll of the entire Tampa Bay area is indicating that residents are getting "fed up", and as I have reported in this column, are making plans to move to less-fraught areas of the country.

Our own Giovanna Deveny, and her husband, Jim, are now back in the quiet little town of Huntington, W VA. She tells me it is heavenly! Some of us still have a glimmer of hope that we can, working together across a network of citizens who are willing to put forth the effort, change the direction of the "growth un-management" that it seems to me that we have in our area.

One recently-elected Sarasota city commissioner has been complaining that he isn’t paid enough, and wants his salary doubled … he has to go to so many "events" after hours. Pay to go to parties? Perhaps he needs to check with planning commissioners and see how many hours they work … for no pay!

Working together we can make a difference…. Join our efforts!

Save Our Sarasota agrees fully with Bill's comments. We encourage residents to get involved with your community and neighborhood. Find ways to bring your interests and expertise to help build a better community for all. Getting involved will be a great experience - you will learn much about how communities "work" and you will meet a bunch of the best people in town!

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