Creating a sustainable Sarasota means focusing more on promoting economic, capital, social and spiritual growth than on population growth. Many communities with stable populations develop these other areas and provide a high-quality, attractive living environment for their citizens.
A community that deliberately plans to preserve its unique character will prosper economically and distinguish itself from other areas that accepted the defeatist slogan of "inevitable growth" at any cost and overdeveloped themselves into oblivion.
These are great words of advice from Jon Thaxton, Sarasota County Commissioner, in his recent SHT guest editorial.
This applies to the city of Sarasota as well as the county.
The city has concentrated on growth of luxury condos in the center of downtown. The stated desire of the political leadership is to create a lively, walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown.
The problem is that diversity is lacking and other than the unsustainable building projects there is no economic growth.
Meanwhile we are rapidly losing our unique character. We are looking more and more like the Ft Lauderdales of the east coast with the towering luxury condos that cut off water views and create canyon effect in our streets. Growth that magnifies the seasonal traffic issues and strains our infrastructure. 4X density policies raise serious concern about Coastal High Hazard safety and evacuation.
We need to refocus on deliberate growth with a very high priority on retaining the unique character of Sarasota. We need to make sure we have a sustainable growth model - growth that all of us can live with.
As Jon Thaxton puts it, the model followed in too much in Florida seems to be:
Sarasota is too unique and too good to sell off to the developers so they can achieve maximum return. A sustainable Sarasota will yield a comfortable return for all of us.
For most counties, build-out isn't deliberately planned, but results from a series of incremental, isolated decisions. Development approvals overstress infrastructure such as roads, parks, schools and jails. When more infrastructure is built, more development is approved that again crowds the infrastructure.
This mindless cycle repeats itself until all available land is developed.