Commissioners and Staff,
Thank you again for your actions and efforts toward making downtown more environmentally friendly and attractive and inviting to residents and visitors alike by placing an emphasis on greenspace.
A summary of our recommendations follows:
-Page IV-8.1 of our Master Plan should be changed to reflect a commitment to greenspace vs. the current hardscape focus.
-We are not asking for brick-paved areas where people congregate, such as along Lemon Avenue, to be converted to greenspace. These areas provide a venue for vital community events.
-Whenever possible emphasis should be on in-ground planting beds for environmental advantages and maintenance ease as well as aesthetics. Pots, which tend to have a colder, more sterile appearance, should be used only where in-ground beds are not feasible. Planting beds can provide a larger area of greenspace and a more lush appearance. Pots are problematic - if hooked to irrigation, they cannot be moved. If movable, they are higher maintenance without the irrigation.
--Existing in-ground planting areas should be retained even though there is currently no money for improving the plantings or maintenance. They should act as place-holders until funds - most likely private - are available for upgrades. Once paved over, they will never be returned to green.
-The proposed Main/Palm bulbouts should have roughly the same percentage of greenspace as is now in the sidewalk areas. This would provide space for additional cafe tables and more landscaping. Canopy trees should be planted to provide shade, ambiance and environmental advantages. Because of the significance of this intersection, a public meeting should be held to solicit citizen input.
-When restaurants such as the new pizza restaurant north of Epicure Cafe on Palm request the use of public ROW for tables, they should be required to provide and maintain significant, high-quality, in-ground planting beds and canopy trees (where possible) to the city's landscape specs. If their request would remove existing greenspace, they should pay to mitigate by converting nearby hardscape to greenspace. The neighborhood association should be advised of proposed changes and be allowed to provide input. -Window boxes should be encouraged wherever possible.
-Pervious areas such as Ringling Boulevard medians should not be hardscaped. When hardscaping is necessary for crucial safety concerns, it should be mitigated with new greenspace nearby.
-We understand the budgetary pressures the city is under and, accordingly, have tried to put forth recommendations that will cost the city little or no money. The request for additional greenspace would primarily affect new developments, such as the two Leiter projects on Palm, with the intent that they provide significant in-ground planting beds in the ROW in front of their buildings plus canopy trees, if possible, vs. primarily brick-paving with some flower pots. Also affected would be restaurants requesting to use public ROW for commercial purposes.
Many thanks again to the Commissioners for voting for the development of a Greenspace Policy and to the Staff for holding the excellent Greenspace Workshop, for all of their efforts and for continuing to solicit public input.
Steering Committee, Save Our Sarasota