The arrival of major developments like The Vue and a new Embassy Suites in Sarasota absent any public hearings about the proposals ignited a major debate in the last two years about project approvals in Sarasota. The most recent installment of SRQ’s Rumble series brought slow-growth and business advocates together to rhetorically wrestle over the merits of administrative review. Ultimately, a team of STOP Steering Committee members, arguing that public hearings should be held for all major projects, won over the crowd. Who made the best points? You decide. 

MOTION  Sarasota should require public hearings for all large proposals in the downtown development review process.


KATE LOWMAN | Laurel Park leader and STOP co-founder:  “[Public hearings] are almost never about stopping the project. Usually, they are about making a project fit better with neighbors. Often projects can be altered to mitigate the effect on neighbors, but it’s important changes are made early on, which makes it less expensive for the developer to make them. That’s the purpose of public hearings.”

MOLLIE CARDAMONE | former Sarasota Mayor:   “We did form STOP because of constant comments we had heard about The Vue. I personally think it’s an attractive project, but the sidewalks are way too small. However go across the street and look at Embassy Suites, which is huge, towering over us. There are some problems I would take a little issue with there. It puts our elected officials in a bad place.”

EILEEN NORMILE | former Sarasota City Commissioner:   “Smart Growth America puts Sarasota on the danger index as the 10th most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians, with special notoriety for that section of US 41 from Main Street north to the Manatee county line. Administrative approval of projects is not something any city is required to do. It is not a property right. That argument doesn’t hold up.”



KEVIN COOPER | Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce president:   “Administrative approval is not a right but an incentive. It was always part of a plan that included 1,800 properties that were affected by a sweeping downzoning. The city went to landowners and took their property rights. As part of the plan, the other side was administrative review—a simplified, streamlined process.”

CHRIS GALLAGHER | HOYT ARCHITECTS PARTNER:   “Public hearings for individual buildings
do not lead to high-quality walkable streets. They did not in the decades before the Downtown Master
Plan was put into effect, and they do not now.”

JAVI SUAREZ | Apex Studio Suarez Principal:    “Our opponents say [administrative review] is a taking of rights away from citizens. In fact, administrative review is not an approval process, but a process to determine adjustments. It cannot take away public input and allow the staff to make decisions. What it can do is determine dimensional standards, building design standards and so forth.”