Lobeck Wants to Bring Controlled Growth Agenda to Dais

Todays News

Attorney Dan Lobeck knows his way through a government agenda. He has for years been a fixture of land-use hearings, often representing groups opposed to development proposals or speaking on behalf of his group, Control Growth Now.

This year, he’s running for a seat at the dais on the Sarasota City Commission, where he hopes to make a difference in managing growth.

“We need to accept growth will happen, but manage it in a way that preserves the city’s charm, character and value,” he says, “and most important makes growth pay its own way.”

Lobeck is one of six candidates seeking two at-large seats on the Sarasota City Commission. The decision to run himself comes after decades closely following local development decisions. His candidacy clearly has proved unsettling in some circles, with committees sending out mailers to voters blasting Lobeck. “Frankly, developers do me a favor boosting my name recognition,” Lobeck suggests.

What might bother the construction industry? Lobeck offers a list of decisions made by the past two years where he disagrees with the outcome, including the crafting of a comprehensive plan amendment that could expand the number of development applications approved at the staff level. The candidate said if such a change proceeds, it will allow developers to lobby staff outside of public hearings and increase profit margins for developments without going through a public hearing process.

Incidentally, Lobeck bristles at the term “administrative review” to describe this process. All development applications undergo a staff review. His problem, he says, is with “administrative approval” without ever putting a matter to an elected City Commission, or at least a Planning Board appointed by the Commission.

“We wouldn’t have public hearings if there weren’t important choices to be made,” he said. “I’ve come to learn by way of the various roles I’ve had at the state level, where I was a legislative aide to a Republican state senator, to locally, where I have been involved as a civic advocate for decades, that the principal thing wrong with government is when it is taken captive by those who would use it to their ends and contrary to the ends of everyone else. Developers have figured out there is no better return on investment than in buying politicians.”

He believes his election would reverse a pro-development trend on decisions made at City Hall, and feels the vast majority of voters hunger for such a shift.

He expresses clear frustration right now with what he considers a pro-development city staff, criticizing a recent presentation of attainable housing that suggested the threshold for defining affordability should be based on an income of more than $108,000 a year for a family of four.

Lobeck doesn’t like that administrative approvals can already be granted in the downtown core of Sarasota, something put in place to spur redevelopment years ago and which he no longer sees as necessary. To expand the process to single-family home neighborhoods would be a disservice to the community, he said.

Other candidates for City Commission this year include Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, Sheldon Rich, Terrill Salem, Carl Shoffstall and Debbie Trice. The top three vote-getters in an Aug. 23 primary will advance to a runoff in November, where the top two will win seats. The at-large election will be open to all voters in the city limits.

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