By Roger Drouin
Property values top $50 billion
Property values across the county have now topped $50 billion overall for the first time since the economy plunged into the Recession. Preliminary figures from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office show the total county property value is up 7.78 percent from 2015.
The total estimated value of property in the county is $50,143,139,495, compared to $46,522,880,939 in 2015, the figures show. The latest number is up slightly less than $10 billion since July 1, 2013, when the value was $40,755,531,807.
A major source of the rising valuation was new construction in North Port, with 791 new homes built there. While the total taxable property value is still well below the peak of the real estate boom, it marks the third straight year of strong increases that ultimately give local governments more money to work with even if they don't raise property tax rates for next year.
North Port values grew nearly 13 percent, driven by more than $143 million in value added to municipal tax rolls through new construction in 2015, according to the data. In the city of Sarasota, preliminary numbers show the tax values rose 7.83 percent. Values in the city of Venice grew about 8.7 percent.
For our island visitors Colin brings a soaking
The winds and heavy rains from Tropical Storm Colin were felt in Sarasota. But the storm passed well offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing no major damage to the Sarasota area as the storm moved toward landfall in north Florida on June 6.
This year's third named tropical storm delivered intermittently heavy rainfall. Many parts of Sarasota and Manatee received more than two inches of rain as the storm passed, and a total of ten inches of rain total in the immediate days before and after.
The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of 57 mph in Bradenton Beach and 60 mph in Venice. There were sustained winds of 44 mph in Venice, where more than 2,000 people were without power at one point. AccuWeather reported a water spout off Lee County late Monday afternoon, but said tornado warnings produced no funnel clouds.
Florida Power & Light worked to restore power to more than 13,000 customers in Sarasota County and 5,300 in Manatee County. Most of those customers had power within a day.
Tropical Storm Colin also caused some beach erosion. The storm caused anywhere from 5 to 10 feet of beach erosion at Casey Key and Manasota Key, Sarasota County reported.
Most of the South Siesta Beach nourishment project was not significantly impacted, the county reported. But about 50 feet of sand was lost at the southern end of the project area near 9230 Blind Pass Road. Beachfront flooding occurred on northern Siesta Key, causing sand to be deposited on Beach Road. Coastal flooding occurred on Siesta Key Public Beach.
As the storm churned, Gov. Rick Scott canceled his trip June 6 to New York to meet with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump so instead he could monitor storm Colin and its path.
Tribute vigil held in Sarasota
Here in downtown Sarasota, more than 130 miles from Orlando, a candlelight vigil was held June 13. In Five Points Park, about 1,5000 community members attended the “Hate Will Not Win” vigil for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooing.
Residents stood shoulder to shoulder and many held hands to pay tribute to the victims and show support for their families.
Leaders with local LGBT organizations responded quickly with the event “Hate Will Not Win: Candlelight Vigil in SRQ for Orlando” organized on Facebook for Monday evening at Five Points Park. The event was hosted by the Harvey Milk Festival, which worked with the Sarasota Police Department, the City of Sarasota Government and the Sarasota County Government in planning the event.
On June 12, tragedy struck when 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 people inside the popular Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Early Sunday the gunman opened fire on patrons at the nightclub, a popular bar for members in the LGBT community in Orlando. A total of 49 victims were killed and another 53 injured making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Sarasota resident Edward “Eddie” Sotomayor Jr. was the first victim identified by the city of Orlando following the attack.
Planning board OK’s gulf gate development
A developer's plan to build 109 homes on the grounds of a Sarasota golf course just cleared a major hurdle. On May 6, the Sarasota County Planning Commission approved the development in the Gulf Gate community.
The project is slated to appear before the County Commission for a vote in July. A group of Gulf Gate residents has opposed the development proposed by Medallion Home.
Following the planning commission approval, developer and U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff’s firm closed on the sale of the former Gulf Gate Golf Course. Medallion seeks to have the golf course’s 49 acres rezoned to allow 2.23 units per acre, up from the current allowable density of 0.5 units per acre. Residences would resemble the homes Medallion built at Riva Trace, on Honore Avenue.
Discussions with Braves continue
Talks between the Atlanta Braves and county officials to bring the Braves to North Port are going into late innings.
The Atlanta Braves have hired design and construction consultants to help firm up plans for a proposed new spring training facility in North Port, as reported by the Herald-Tribune.
But neither the team nor the county are yet ready to consider a formal deal to bring the team to a planned development at the West Villages commercial district near U.S. 41 and River Road, according to a letter from Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz to Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer that was sent June 9.
The team has been negotiating with Sarasota and Palm Beach county leaders since March. Like all professional sports team negotiations, the discussions come down to dialogue and discussion regarding the proposed financial terms of any potential deal — including the proposed cost of the facility. A new stadium is unlikely to open until the 2019 season, a year later than planned, Schuerholz noted.
“While we have made a lot of progress to date, all parties have recognized that, among other issues, there remains the need for continued dialogue and discussion regarding the proposed financial terms of any potential deal including the proposed cost of the facility," Schuerholz wrote in the letter to the county. “To that end, we have retained design and construction consultants to assist us and the local landowner team in further refining the scope and cost of a potential spring training facility.”
Willie Shaw again appointed as mayor
Willie Shaw will serve a third consecutive term as Sarasota’s mayor and Shelli Freeland Eddie was appointed vice mayor on May 27.
City commissioners appoint a commissioner to the ceremonial post of mayor and vice mayor at an annual meeting.
Shaw represents District 1 in the city. Freeland Eddie represents District 3. The action on May 27 was the first time in the city’s 100-plus-year history that two minorities were elected to serve as mayor and vice mayor at the same time, City Manager Tom Barwin pointed out later that day in his weekly email newsletter. Furthermore, Barwin wrote, “Since 1945, this is just the fourth time a Commissioner has been selected to serve as mayor three consecutive years.”
New College Professor enters race
One of the region’s top political experts has entered the political fray himself. Frank Alcock, a professor at New College of Florida, announced in May he would run as a Democrat for state Senate in District 23. Alcock is a regular commentator in the media about the state of local races.
The most attention on the race so far has been on the Republican primary, where a crowded field of experienced professionals will campaign. The field includes state Reps. Ray Pilon and Greg Steube, former state Rep. Doug Holder, former Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson and Potomac Financial President and CEO Rick Levine.
In the Democratic primary, Frank Cirillo, a recent Economic and Political Science graduate of the University of South Florida who just moved back to Sarasota, also has filed for the seat. Cirillo will run on environmental issues like banning fracking. The primary election is scheduled for August 30. Winners of the party primaries will face off in the general election, scheduled for November 8.
Payne Park townhomes pitched
Houston-based homebuilder David Weekley Homes filed a preliminary application with city staff for a townhome project for property on School Avenue, close to Payne Park just outside downtown.
The property was the site of a controversial mixed-use development that drew the ire of many nearby residents. That project would have resulted in residential units, office space, a hotel, and retail.
However, scaled down plans now call for133 single-family townhouses on 8.7-acres, the portion of land David Weekley Homes is contracted to purchase. In addition to removing the commercial and office space, that proposal includes more than 100 fewer homes than originally envisioned. The homes will be three and four stories tall, and each home will have a two-car garage. The size of the homes ranges between 2,000 and 2,650 square feet. According to documents filed with the city, David Weekley Homes listed itself as the contract purchaser of the property at 301, 325 and 601 S. School Ave.
Wawa opens, Sarasota’s first
Sarasota County’s first Wawa store opened June 9 at 3703 N. Washington Blvd., at the intersection of Myrtle Street. Sarasota Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie and County Commissioner Carolyn Mason welcomed the store to the community.
The popular Pennsylvania-based chain is known for its cheap gas and sandwich shop-style food counter.
Wawa debuted in Southwest Florida with a store at 701 1st St. E. in Bradenton in December 2014. Since then, its convenience stores have spread rapidly throughout the state. Two more have opened in Manatee County, and Venice is expected to see its first this fall at U.S. 41 and Englewood Road. Overall, the store plans to open several locations in the Sarasota area in the next five years.
Angelo’s Italian Restaurant, located at 6115 Tamiami Trail, will be holding a Grand Opening celebration with a party on Sunday, July 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. Enjoy some Happy Hour drinks along with some FREE sample bites prepared by Angelo and his staff. Angelo is no stranger to the Sarasota restaurant scene, having worked at Café Gabbiano on Siesta Key, and Chianti before opening his own restaurant. His new restaurant is already garnering rave reviews since it’s opening in April.
“Last night my wife and I came into Angelo's unplanned. Man were we lucky we did! Our first interaction was with Angelo himself opening up the door and greeting us. We were amazed with how well the place looked on the inside. We were hesitant to stay and eat because we assumed the price was going to be a lot more than we had planned on. Once we got the menu, we saw the prices were very reasonable, once we tasted the food we felt like the prices were a bargain! This place was full of people who appear to eat there very frequently. Nobody had anything but amazing things to say about Angelo or his food. Angelo was circulating around the dining area and making sure everyone was not only satisfied, but also felt like part of his family. The meal was ended by Angelo serving limoncello made from scratch. This was zomething I had never tried, but quickly fell in love with it. Angelo made sure I was introduced to it adequately! I cannot wait to go back! The food, atmosphere, drinks, and price were all great. Thank you Angelo for your food and hospitality,” said Ryan R. from Sarasota (Yelp review from June 15, 2016).
For more information, call 941-312-4747.
News from Alpine Steakhouse
Alpine Steakhouse announced the new “Join our VIP Mobile Club”. You will receive mobile coupons, special updates, exclusive rewards and VIP offers. Simply text “ALPINE”; To: “7000”.
Alpine Steakhouse, established in 1975, is Sarasota’s only old-fashioned butcher shop and restaurant under one roof. If you’re looking for those hard-to-find cuts of meat, give them a call. The store/restaurant is located at 4520 Tamiami Trail: 941-922-3797.