Consider The Greater Good With Selby Plan

Letters

BY SUZANNE ATWELL SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY OCT 26, 2019

When one thinks of Sarasota, names like Ringling, Palmer, Crosley, and yes, Selby come to mind. These great families are not just foot notes in local history books, their legacy and their commitment to Sarasota has evolved as we have evolved as community.

Juxtapose that demonstration of stewardship and change with the “I’ve got mine” messaging on signs up and down Orange Avenue declaring NO-NOT-NEVER-NO WAY.

As our City Commissioners weigh the pros and cons of Selby Gardens plans for the future, they would do well to honor the legacy of the core principles that defined our past while embracing the constantly changing landscape and needs of the future.

Beautiful as it is, Selby Gardens is much more than an asset to the City. It is literally a part of our identity and a valuable resource for the entire region, indeed to the state and the nation. As a world class attraction and center for research, education and environmental stewardship , Selby’s present location is a testament to its historical past, it’s legacy of success and it’s commitment to a sustainable, relevant future.

The plan the Selby Board and their leadership team have presented speaks to all those things. They are not asking for public funds nor for an expanded footprint, but simply for the blessing of the Commission for privately-funded improvement which will enhance the experience of visitors and promote its educational and research activities.

The concerns of affected neighbors are understandable but not considerate of the greater good of the community. Despite arguments to the contrary, Selby has reached out to many neighbors and the plan before the City Commissioners reflects constructive response to those concerns. If I lived in that neighborhood, I probably would be concerned. But that is not a strategy that allows for the evolution of a great public resource.

This is about all of Sarasota and well beyond. Many believe the role of the City Commission is simply to add up the e-mails, count the number of persons appearing at City Hall, and define that as the community consensus.

It is not. That’s math. That is not leadership.

Contentious issues rarely enjoy community consensus, the only consensus is between those who have expressed themselves. Elected officials are not delegates of any segment of the community. Rather, they are representatives responsible for acting in what they believe is the best interest of the community. That is very different from simply determining what the majority of those expressing an opinion seem to want. It requires listening of course, but it also requires exercising good judgment and respect for the Greater Good of the community as a whole.

The Selby Plan relies on a vertical parking strategy that frees up more real estate for gardens and less for muddy parking lots. The sustainable, solar-power driven energy system they propose is forward thinking, innovative, and aligned with the core value of environmental stewardship. And finally, we speak a great deal about preserving the character of our neighborhoods. The Selby Gardens Master Plan will not only do that, it will enhance it for generations.

Sarasota is a growing and increasingly sophisticated market, the leadership at Selby Gardens recognizes this and has presented us with an innovative, world class vision for the future.

The time has come for our Commissioners to make a choice.

Allow Selby to invest private money on a course that serves the greater good of the majority or succumb to a vocal but small group of neighborhood property owners.

I think we all know what Marie would have to say about that.

Suzanne Atwell is a former mayor of Sarasota.

Rendering courtesy Selby Gardens.

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