Planning Board Remains Professional



Christine Robinson’s assortment of allegations in her recent SRQ op-ed had no basis in fact. Contrary to her allegations, there is no problem with the City of Sarasota Planning Board. The Planning Board consists of five accomplished, intelligent and dedicated individuals who voluntarily serve without compensation. Their responsibility is to make recommendations to the City Commission including amendments, ordinances, regulations and other proposals such as special studies necessary for determining compliance.

They inform, not dictate; they are not subservient to the staff; they listen, discuss and debate. Indeed, there are differences of opinion but they are always respectful. Her self-serving reference to the Chair of the Planning Board is small ball. The Chair’s professional career and service to the Sarasota community is in many ways exemplary.

Sarasota Commissioners Hagen Brody and Liz Alpert’s notion the Planning Board is political is blatantly false and shows a complete lack of being able to address the important issues. More importantly, there are three recommendations the Planning Board has made to Tim Litchet, Director of the Neighborhood and Development Services, on code enforcement, construction safety and conditional uses.

City and Planning Board Counsel Michael Connelly takes the position the Board has limited authority and can’t raise the issue of code enforcement. I disagree; the Planning Board has specific and general authority, particularly when it involves public safety. Judicial decisions agree. Residents of Sarasota have been complaining about site safety and other important issues for several months. The Planning Board listened and acted.

In March of this year, I attended a meeting at the request of Eileen Normile, Chair of the Planning Board, with Tim Lichet at his office. It was an excellent meeting, discussing primarily the issues of code enforcement and construction site safety. Tim had staff concerns related to code enforcement.

Fast forward to the July 1 City Commission meeting and the issues of code enforcement and construction safety were replaced by ridiculous assertions and disrespectful accusations by Hagen and Alpert, as well as Lichet’s testimony about his dedicated staff. Mayor Alpert failed to exercise any leadership in controlling the decorum of the meeting. Commissioner Jennifer Ahern-Koch and Willie Shaw tried to restore order. At the July 8 City Commission Budget Workshop, Lichet said he didn’t need any more people for code enforcement.

It’s time to regroup and adopt the changes needed to address the concerns raised by the community and addressed by the Planning Board. It should be done now and not two years from now.

Morton Siegel was a member of the Sarasota Planning Board for six years, serving one year as Chairman.

Photo: July 1 City Commission meeting.

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