Sarasota Considers Petition on Homeless Housing



A proposal for a Sarasota facility providing permanent housing for the homeless could faces opposition. City commissioners today will discuss an appeal for the project, which if it moves forward could advance a long-stated desire for Housing First solutions to a transient problem.

Sarasota Planning Board on Feb. 14 unanimously approved a site plan for a mixed-use project on Fruitville Road that would include 80 residential units. The joint effort of Blue Sky Communities and Community Assisted and Supported Living, operating as Blue CASL, will serve a disadvantaged population. A site plan application to the city says 50 percent of units will be leased to homeless individuals with disabling conditions and 20 percent of those units will be reserved for people transitioning from community residential care or who have been classified as “chronically homeless.”

“We came up with something that would be an asset for the city,” said Shawn Wilson, president and CEO of Blue Sky Communities, during the planning hearing. He stressed that the project has secured state and federal funding, meaning developers can advance the city’s Housing First approach without actually requiring the city to subsidize costs.

But commissioners today will discuss a petition by land-use attorney Dan Lobeck, who says the project is the wrong development for the wrong neighborhood. Lobeck says neighbors will come to City Hall to express reservations about having the dense development, where as many as four individuals could be houses in units that are less than 700 square feet. “And this is a population with significant potential for problematic contact with neighborhoods,” Lobeck says. “Even if we weren’t talking about diseases such as schizophrenia and about active drug users and alcohol abusers, that density is a problem.”

In the Planning Commission meeting, CASL executive director Scott Eller said past projects from his organization have seen tremendous improvement in the lives and conduct of residents. Planning Commissioners seemed most concerned about making sure the development interfaced with both city and county homeless individuals, and worked with the city’s homeless outreach teams.

The petition will be discussed at the city commission’s 6pm meeting at City Hall.

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