Sarasota's future is at a turning point. The huge changes that have been approved by the current city commission will change our city forever.
Even though the citizens showed overwhelming support for a downtown master plan that limited building height and moved toward a pedestrian friendly, human scale people place, the last 4-5 years have given us an unstoppable frenzy as developers rushed to get high rise buildings approved under the old code. In doing this the commissioners stood idly by while encouraging and possibly participating in the "gold rush".
Then came the speculators, driven by the same frenzy, feeding at the same trough, while all the time saying isn't this free market great.
Now we are beginning to see the reality of the changes we have watched unfold. Affordable housing has disappeared. The commissioners latest solution - let's increase the downtown density; after all, they say, density is the answer to all our housing problems. Yet they really struggled with the decision to include affordable housing in the RFP for the Palm Ave lot. The real estate/developer heavy CRA Advisory Board recommended no affordable housing be included - saying it wouldn't work. Even considering that the land cost was not a factor - free land yet we can't make affordable housing work.
There is a segment of Sarasotans that believe we need to change our city as fast as we can - make it bigger, more metropolitan, pack downtown with as many residents as possible.
Others see Sarasota's rapid downtown development as a bane - infracture is not keeping up with the growth, traffic and parking problems increase each year, the seasonality of our local economy has not lessened, people wonder what will be the effect of the speculator purchases in downtown as interest rates rise.
Rapid growth is not a pleasant aspect of the quality of life that drew us to Sarasota.