The 2nd Annual Burns Square "Avenida de Colores" Chalk Festival has a new blog: with information on the festival and the artists participating.

Contact: Denise Kowal at

Website: Festival Information, Artist Applications, Sponsorship Opportunities and Volunteer Forms available at


The 2nd Annual Burns Square Chalk Festival has been announced with the theme being a celebration of the Goddess Flora with a "Avenida de Colores Floralia Festival". Street Painters, or "I Madonnair" who were Italian artists, have used chalk as their medium and the street surfaces as their canvas for over 400 years. This performance art will magically transform Pineapple Avenue - and the observers are a part of the process!

Flora, the sensual goddess of spring, is especially associated with flowers, vines, olives, fruit trees and honey-bearing plants and is usually depicted in paintings in flowing fabric goddess attire surrounded by blossoms. She is a goddess of youthful pleasures, birth and fertility the direct opposite of Halloween. The Floralia festival began in Rome in 238 B.C. to please the goddess so she would protect the spring blossoms.

The Floralia festival celebrates the liberation of blossoms after the confinement of winter. Chalk street painters, knows as "I Madonnair" will tantalize your sights as they chalk examples of romantic, contemporary or neo-classical art onto the street surface of South Pineapple Avenue throughout Saturday and Sunday. Professional I Madonnair, Lori Escalara, who was the people’s choice during the 1st festival, will return. First Place winner, Kitty Dyble Thompson will return and create an anamorphic picture that is beyond amazing to see. Performers will take the stage with various comedies and tragedy shows such as sword swallowing extraordinaire Johnny Fox. The street will capture your sense of smell with flower vendors as well as vendors selling honey, a common gift of the goddess. Women will be dressed in flowing goddess dresses selling flower wreaths to be worn in your hair. There will be a lack of sound by mimes on performing boxes and the beautiful sounds by pantomimes and musicians staged at different areas. Tasty sensations with booths of delectable food selections will be available, such as Nancy Krongold's BBQ and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Booths will be available for consumption of oceans of grog and spirits (Fruit Juice Smoothies, Mimosas, Champagne, and Beer). A true celebration of spring, the renewal of life and flower blossoms in honor of the Goddess Flora.

Various contests involving flowers will be held throughout the event. Best flower decorated light pole, best floral tiara and best floral painting. Have an idea? Please let us know.

A children section will be available for our inspiring artists to play with chalk and flowers.

The entire event is family oriented. For more information contact: Avenida de Colores at

Federal Highway Administration - Encouraging Roundabouts?

July 10, 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA, part of the US DOT), issued a guidance memo encouraging all jurisdictions to consider roundabout as a viable intersection alternative.  It can be found at

Roundabouts (Rev. 6/05/08) Description:
The modern roundabout is a type of circular intersection defined by the basic operational priciple of entering traffic yielding to vehicles on the circulatory roadway and certain key design principles to achieve deflection of entering traffic by channelization at the entrance and deflection around a center island.  Modern roundabouts have geometric features providing a reduced speed environment that offers substantial safety advantages and excellent operational performance.
Background:  Roundabouts have demonstrated substantial safety and operational benefits compared to other forms of intersection control, with reductions in fatal and injury crashed of from 60-87 percent.  The benefits apply to roundabouts in urban and rural areas and freeway interchange ramp terminals under a wide range of traffic conditions.  Although the safety of all-way stop control is comparable to roundabouts, roundabouts provide much greater capacity and operational benefits.  Roundabouts can be an effective tool for managing speed and transitioning traffic from a high speed to a low speed environment.  Property site selection and channelization for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are essential to making roundabouts accessible to all users.  In particular, it is important to ensure safe accommodation of bicyclists at higher speed roundabouts and for pedestrians with visual or cognitive impairments.
Guidance Statement/Application:
Roundabouts are the preferred safety alternative for a wide range of intersections.  Although they may not be appropriate in all circumstances, they should be considered as an alternative for all proposed new intersections of Federally-funded highway projects, particularly those with major road volumes less than 90 percent of the total entering volume, Roundabouts should also be considered for all existing intersections that have been identified as needing major safety or operational improvements.  This would include freeway interchange ramp terminals and rural intersections.

CNU Sustainable Communities 2008, Sept. 26 in San Francisco

As top politicians call for more drilling and the Congress contemplates drawing down the national oil reserve, CNU thought you might appreciate a more substantive discussion on how to pull America away from its dependence on oil.  Join CNU at Sustainable Communities 2008 for a discussion on how to transform our cities and town into walkable, transit-supported neighborhoods.

Sustainable Communities 2008 will bring together leading innovators Sim Van der Ryn, Paul Hawken, Peter Calthorpe, Stewart Brand, Jerry Brown, Jacky Grimshaw, Judy Corbett and Peter Schwartz for a rare one-day seminar on the past and future of sustainable communities.

This incredible group of people introduced and advanced many of the innovations that formed the backbone of the green building sustainability movements beginning in the 1970's.  They helped show that environmentalism must extend beyond quick technological and temporary fixes to encompass a comprehensive vision for human habitats - sustainable cities and towns.

Now it's becoming clear again that our future depends on designing communities that help us overcome fossil fuel dependency and limit our global environmental impact.  And it's becoming just as clear that California can lead the nation if it gets passage of SB375 legislation, implementation of AB32 and other key measure right.  Participants in Sustainable Communities 2008 are the ultimate guides to the transformation we must make to move forward the thrive.  Join CNU for this event's lectures and important interactive afternoon session devoted to the future of sustainable communities and the government policies that will support them.

Visit the website at and register today!


The City of Sarasota will be improving the intersection at Orange and Pineapple by installing motion sensors which trigger the crosswalks to illuminate and flash.  In addition the area around the crosswalks will be brick paved.  The total improvement is around $300,000 and hopefully will be completed in time for our season.

Some discussion during the last meeting with the city engineering suggested that the Burns Square area property owners may have to create a BID to pay for the maintenance of the illuminated crossings.  How ironic that we do not get the improvement that we were willing to contribute to (roundabout) and instead we get this dumbed down design because of mainly Laurel Park neighborhood board members and then they actually suggest we may have to financially maintain it.

In addition this is the only traffic calming device the city has to maintain in the entire Burns Square district and therefore we feel it unreasonable to expect the property owners to contribute to its maintenance. While it may be above a normal level of service found in other areas of downtown, we would argue that this is a very dangerous pedestrian intersection and the city values this intersection as one of the most important gateways into our downtown core, therefore its safety factor and visual appearance would be of high priority.

We also learned the City of Sarasota maintains the crossing in front of Morton's Market and while the property owner installed the crossings, it is within close proximity of a traffic signal crossing.  So the city is maintaining two crossings for Southside Village which are within a throw of each other.


Sacramento's 'Blueprint' for Growth Draws National Attention
Page A1, Wall Street Journal

SACREMENTO, Calif. -- Gasoline was less than $2 a gallon when Mike McKeever brought his gospel of bikes, light rail and tightly packed neighborhoods to this state synonymous with cars, freeways and suburban sprawl.

"The development industry was very concerned," says Mr. McKeever, head of Sacramento's regional planning agency.  "The environmental community was openly negative," concerned that it was "just more talk, talk."

Seven years later, with gasoline hurtling past $4 a gallon, Sacramento has become one of the nation's most-watched experiments in whether urban planning can help solve everything from high fuel prices to the housing bust to global warming.

"They're really the model," says Steve Winkelan, a transportation expert at the Center for Clean Air Policy.

For decade, backers of "smart-growth' planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop.  Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution.  Several communities built from scratch upon those principles, such as Celebration in Florida, sprouted across the country.  But they were often isolated experiments, connected to their surroundings mainly by car.

For the rest of the article...go to

Rapid Transit Bus System

County project - Up and Running in 4 years!

Sarasota County has been working on securing a federal grant for a North-South Rapid Bus Transit system.  

The proposed project will improve service for several key markets, shorten times to key destinations and service from elsewhere will benefit from increased frequency and more efficient routing.

The Alignments being considered are US41, Rail Road Corridor, Old Bradenton Road and US301.  There are options available for the corridor treatment, such as dedicated busway corridor, exclusive bus lane, signal priorities and queue jumper lanes.  The Locations and Styles are to be determined but will have consistent rider amenities at each station.  The SCAT service does a good job connecting where the people are and major single employers are already covered well, but this proposed project links north and south to major employment areas.

A recent SCAT survey of riders asked detailed questions about orgin, destination, and trip purpose.  Best indicator of future ridership trends.  The key travel markets were SRQ to Downtown, SRQ to SMH area, Universities to Downtown, Universities to Southgate, Downtown to Pavilion/Stickney Point Area, MCC North Port to Sarasota, Venice to Downtown, Bee Ridge/Cattlemen to Southgate and MCC Bradenton to Sarasota.

The study time line so far where workshops Sept. - Oct. 2007, public eduction and participation June - Sept. 2008, complete data collection and analysis with technical input in Jan - Aug 2008 and then fall 2008 submittal to FTA, 2009 Complete National Environmental Protection Act Review, 2009-2010 FTA Project Construction Grant Agreement, 2011-2012 Initial Project Implementation.

To view the Ft. Collins Colorado Bus Rapid Transit line go to that has similarities to Sarasota.

Higher-Density Development


The National Multi Housing Council, Sierra Club, American Institute of Architects and the Urban Land Institute partnered to publish the book 'Higher-Density Development, Myth and Fact'.

This cooperative effort was organized and put into publication to help communities find new developing patterns for our growing and changing country needs.  This is another example of what I believe the downtown core city leaders support.

The Charter of the New Urbanism

The Charter of the New Urbanism is another example of principles I believe those of us in the downtown core community support.

We would be very interested in the principles the neighborhoods support.

Bill Dennis has put together a video of The Charter of the New Urbanism for those who would like to learn more.

The Original Green

Much has been discussed and written lately about an assumed conflict of opinions between our city core community neighborhoods and surrounding city neighborhoods.  

Just today, a reporter asked me what I thought the surrounding neighborhood leaders feel so threatened about from those in the downtown core; I responded that I honestly do not know exactly.  

I do know the conversations going on with the downtown groups.

I am posting an initiative that has been started by a friend of mine, Steve Mouzon.  He is a New Urbanist.  I believe those I work with in the downtown core believe in the principles and direction Steve is heading with sustainability.


Sarasota rules Plaza project is a hotel

SARASOTA - The Plaza Hotel is a hotel, after all, according to a new ruling by a city planning director.

Plans for the Plaza Hotel features a restaurant and two rooftop pools. The hotel is one of several planned for downtown.

An earlier review had denied developer Al Hochstadt’s plans for a 173-room hotel, finding the five-story structure between Orange and Palm avenues would be more time-share than hotel.

But in a July 15 letter Hochstadt amended those plans, committing to make just over half the rooms available for daily or weekly rentals. That makes Plaza Hotel primarily a hotel, according to a ruling by Timothy Litchet, director of the city’s neighborhood and development services, dated Wednesday.

The deadline to appeal Litchet’s ruling is Aug. 7.

Hochstadt’s plans drew criticisms from neighbors, including Lottie Varano who had successfully challenged the idea that the project is a hotel, since it was to involve sale of units under fractional ownership similar to a time share.

In May, Hochstadt filed suit against Varano, alleging he was spreading misinformation about the project, creating delays and costing the developer’s business money. Varano claims the lawsuit was aimed at intimidating him.

Neither Hochstadt nor Varano could be reached for comment Friday.

Hochstadt’s altered plans defined the project in terms of time: 173 rooms split into 9,020 weeks each year. He committed to making guest rooms totalling 4,520 weeks each year available for daily or weekly rental, while the remaining 4,500 weeks could be sold.

The new ruling sets the project on two paths. Hochstadt had appealed the city’s finding that his earlier project was not a hotel. That appeal could ultimately go to court and if Hochstadt wins he could be allowed to build as earlier planned, City Attorney Robert Fournier wrote in a memo to Litchet. If that happens Hochstadt would be in a position of picking which of the two approved options he wanted to build.

Antique Wood Water Pipe Found In Burns Square

wood pipe on top of new water line being installed

The constructions workers uncovered an antique wood water pipe this past week in Burns Square while installing new storm water and water lines.  The piece is about 2 feet long by 5 inches square with a 2 1/2 inch drilled out water line.  Contrast between this and the new water lines being installed today, one can see how progress and technology has changed in such a short period of's lifetime.


I sit here today very frustrated by a process that purported to build consensus but  in actuality produced only a "least-common-denominator" solution to a complex urban design problem.  We in BSQ hold as truth that we in Sarasota shoot for something higher than the "least common denominator."

It has been well over a year since BSQ first presented the roundabout project to the city commission but somehow we continue to hear there was not enough time to achieve a real solution. 
Here is where our "least common denominator" thinkng has left us: 
We have eliminated the synergy with the County to save the City hundreds of thousands of dollars and the BSQ businesses the inconvenience of multiple construction projects, eliminated needed crosswalks, removed access for thousands of customers a day, eliminated additional parking opportunities, did not reduced traffic speeds, lost the opportunity to make the pedestrian a priority over the vehicle, maintained all the dangerous car crash conflict areas, eliminated reduction of our carbon footprint, have not reduced unneeded traffic lanes and took away opportunities for additional greenspace.  
Yes, you preserved the left hand turn out of Oak Street so the handful of residents who travel that way do not have to go around a block, but this choice was at the expense of the thousands of downtown customers a day who now have no access. 
This design preserves an intersection that whether it is or is not the most beautiful it can be is subjective; let alone, how the city has quantified that is questionable at best. 
The design before you is a design that the Burns Square Property Owners Association has been requesting since our 2005 charrette, which was prior to 2007 study which resulted in the roundabout recommendation and all of the benefits that came with it.    
Therefore, if this is all we can get out of this thing the commission tagged "process", our original 2005 design, then we hope you vote for these improvements before you today as well as immediately fund the Alderman roundabout for construction during the County Storm Water project. 

Denise Kowal, President
Burns Square Property Owners


A group of residents in BSQ formed the Burns Square Residents Alliance because too often the voice of the over 80 residents is being lost.  Additional encouragement came from the city commission for BSQ to follow the St. Armand's LMR (landowner, merchant, resident).  BSQ now has a PMR, which is the Property Owners, Merchants and Residents Associations.


I personally found the article very informative about SLAPP.

 As far as the Plaza Hotel and the developer, we in Burns Square continue to work WITH the developer to get the best possible project we can mentor in a positive way.  If the developer is proposing a project that is within the right THE CITY COMMISSION dictated in our codes, then what about his proposal makes him a ‘sob developer’ or has ‘developers greed’?  As they say, “don’t shoot the messenger”.

 I have great respect for the citizens concerned and nobody is saying they do not have a right to speak up; in fact it was never discouraged but honored.  As president of the Burns Square Property Owners Association, I spent time speaking with most of them and attended a condominium meeting on the subject as guest speaker.  But they choose to go in a different direction, hire a lawyer and stop open dialogue for constructive change. 

The hand was open but they have nobody to blame but them for the conflict that is now created by their actions…hopefully they will accept the open hand again and constructive debate can restart.

Denise Kowal, President, BSQ Property Owners

Critic Sued By Plaza Hotel Developer

HERALD TRIBUNE - SARASOTA Lottie Varano organized his neighbors, got an attorney involved and wrote letters to city officials to fight a five-story, 173-room hotel planned for his Burns Square neighborhood.

The developer is firing back with a lawsuit, blaming Varano for spreading misinformation, creating delays and costing his business money.

The lawsuit, filed less than a month before city officials consider the planned Plaza Hotel, has characteristics of a so-called SLAPP lawsuit, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Such lawsuits aim to silence dissent and limit public participation in government decisions.

Those suits are discouraged in Florida, one of 26 states to adopt laws to protect people like Varano.

But experts say Florida's law is weak and leaves residents who complain about developments open to legal fees and hassles involved with defending themselves in court.

Varano, who did not think discussing the project with neighbors and city officials would land him in court, now has had to hire an attorney and filed a motion to dismiss the case.

"It's someone who's trying to bully me around and prevent me from asserting my First Amendment rights," Varano said.

Developer Al Hochstadt said he would not have sued if Varano's complaints were credible. He declined to say how much he was seeking in damages, although Varano said Hochstadt told him it was $10 million.

"They've caused a lot of delays, they've cost us a lot of money," Hochstadt said. "These people have a lot of money and have a lot of political pressure."

The project is in line for a fast-track approval under the city's new downtown code: It can be approved by staff and does not need to go before the City Commission.

Seeds of dissent

Hochstadt began buying up land between Palm and Orange avenues more than 20 years ago, and sees his planned hotel as "a little piece of Europe" that will become a destination here.

He wants to break ground and complete the hotel by 2010.

Nearby merchants see the project as a way to boost foot traffic in the Burns Square area.

But residents say the project is too big and will generate too much traffic, clogging two narrow side streets.

On May 12, Varano sent a letter to the city challenging the idea that the project is a hotel, as it will involve the sale of some units under "fractional ownership" similar to a time share.

Varano and his neighbors are also outraged that the hotel could be built without a vote by elected officials.

Hochstadt met with Varano, the president of the Essex House Association, and other residents of condominiums in the area about those concerns on April 9.

In the lawsuit, Hochstadt says that meeting was an ambush orchestrated by Varano. Instead of a few residents, he says he was met by more than 50 people who pushed him for information about the project. Hochstadt says they were fishing for details they could use against him.

Neighbors have since organized a group called Concerned Citizens of Palm Avenue, and have hired attorney Richard Ulrich, who sent a letter to the city saying the hotel suites are more like condominiums.

Hochstadt also sent an e-mail to Ulrich threatening a lawsuit.

A hearing for the Plaza Hotel project is scheduled for Wednesday before the Development Review Committee. If the plan meets all the standards of the city's new downtown code, the board has to approve it.

Hochstadt said he hopes the lawsuit sends a message to Varano and others opposed to his development.

"He's got to be very careful in what he does," Hochstadt said. "People must be responsible for their actions."

Obligations under the law

That approach is problematic because it is not up to a developer to decide what information is credible enough to be presented to decision-makers, said University of Central Florida sociology professor Penelope Canan.

Canan coined the term SLAPP in the 1980s, when she researched suits brought by developers to silence critics, especially environmentalists.

"If the government can't hear from the people it's supposed to represent, then the government can't do its job," Canan said. "It undermines good decision-making."

Florida law allows for a SLAPP lawsuit to be thrown out of court quickly and awards legal fees to the defendant, but it is weak compared to other states such as California.

In Florida, defendants have to convince a judge that the lawsuit is "without merit" and filed only because they used their free speech rights to address the government. If it is deemed a SLAPP suit, then the law allows the defendant to get attorneys fees and possibly damages from the person who filed it.

In California, the burden is on the plaintiffs to establish that they are probably going to win the lawsuit, or the case gets thrown out.

In both states, the battle can become complicated and expensive just to determine whether the lawsuit is a SLAPP lawsuit.

Canan said the average SLAPP lawsuit takes two years to go through the court system.

Threat of a similar lawsuit might make other citizens think twice about speaking up in their neighborhood, she said.

So far, SLAPP suits have been rare in Sarasota County.

Ann Kaplan, president of the Sarasota Council of Neighborhood Associations, or CONA, said her group's opposition has gotten her threatened with a lawsuit, but she has not heard of a SLAPP lawsuit filed in Sarasota County recently.

Sarasota attorney Morgan Bentley said there have been fewer SLAPP lawsuits filed since the state law was adopted.

Every case depends on the details, so it is hard for legislators to pre-empt an entire type of lawsuit, Bentley said.

As it is written, the law tries to balance two fundamental rights: the right to free speech and the right to sue someone for damages, Bentley said.

And the law's provision allowing for defendants to get damages against the person or company that filed the suit can be an effective deterrent, Bentley said.

"You just don't want to step in it," Bentley said.




SARASOTA, Fla.---- Major downtown Sarasota associations and constituencies representing over 3000 members have joined voices and resources to form The City Alliance. The City Alliance has the common vision of building a vibrant and sustainable downtown Sarasota. At the start of 2008, The City Alliance defined its mission to “Leverage the combined energy and resources of private sector stakeholder associations through collaboration, shared ideas, and group action on targeted initiatives.”


The City Alliance is a coalition of four major downtown constituencies:

§       business and civic groups, including cultural and religious institutions

§       commercial property owners

§       residents and their condominium associations

§       The Merchants Alliance of the five major downtown merchants associations.


The City Alliance was formed to present a united voice representative of the views and interests of downtown stakeholders in all public dialogue concerning downtown and city affairs. The goal is to work to insure that downtown Sarasota is an attractive and prosperous city center that sustains an attractive and prosperous city. The City Alliance is eager to join in public-private sector collaboration to help Sarasota weather the difficult economic times we face as a community, including the fiscal constraints on local governments.


The City Alliance has selected five initiatives for immediate attention:

§       implement the redesign of Fruitville Road from US 301 to US 41 as an attractive gateway to downtown and the bay front

§       establish a downtown improvement district

§       pursue the city’s project to make Tamiami Trail through the downtown corridor pedestrian-friendly for easy access between downtown and the bay front

§       faithfully implement the city’s master plan

§       continue to develop a Downtown Historic District.



Good Morning Dick:

I wanted to respond to your comments about Burns Square considering a model such as St. Armands LMR.  I feel we are on that path with the recent formation of the Burns Square Residents Alliance.  We now have a PMR for Burns Square (property owners, merchants and residents) and I have faith we will continue to work well together.

I going to reach and say this is not exactly your intended suggestion and possibly feel our PMR should include, well, I am not exactly sure.  I will make the assumption you feel it should include all the surrounding areas to the North, East, South and West.  I disagree to some extent because you are asking us to do something different than St. Armands model but I will address your 'consensus' comments in another email at another time.  Regardless, we would welcome those not in our PMR to the table, just as the LMR does.

As you know St. Armands LMR is just St. Armands, which makes sense because those are the direct stakeholders.  It does not include Lido or Coon Key but I am sure they are listened too but their voice is not a part of the LMR the city so relies upon.

St. Armands circle itself is not a mixed use area either which Burns Square is.  We have had that wonderful mix of residential and commercial since the first building was built.  We are also historically within the dense city boundaries and do not seek to impose beyond our boundaries into our neighboring communities.  We wish to be sustainable by being compact, dense and cozy within our zoning area and rights.  We want improvements that support our rights to be vibrant.

The new president of the residents group, prior to the formation stated the following:
Hi Denise,  As you may know I was just re-elected to the board of Burn’s Court Villa’s Association and will be representing all 23 owners.  My residents are getting more and more concerned with the lack of cooperation from not only the City of Sarasota but also with a select few residents of Laurel Park.  All of our residents moved to Burn’s Court because of the “pedestrian friendly” atmosphere that welcomed our residents to shopping and restaurants.  As time goes by it seems that more and more places are closing down right in our back yard and to make it worse the City and a few Laurel Park residents are standing up to block any progress or future development in our part of town which could lead to a “re-birth” and feed the remaining local merchants.  We all moved to this area so that we could walk to everything- that all becomes a mute point if the local businesses can’t keep their doors open.  Please let me know what we can do to help save the area before it’s too late.  Best regards, Mark Miller

Burns Square is also very far away from the build-out and financial success of St. Armands.  They are successful for a number of reasons.  The main one is the continual storefronts throughout, creating that walking experience so talked about in New Urbanism, something we do not have in Burns Square but strive for.  You seem to think they are improving, I sort of agree and disagree.  The St. Armands I remember was like a Rodeo Drive and not infested with T-shirt and Trinket stores or cheap replicas of art and canned music.  I think John Ringling would be horrified.  Regardless of what is tasteful in one's eye, I do know if they could do it over, they would follow Burns Square model and worked on a Master Plan prior to any improvements they did.  That they regret to this day because improvements were done that were not well thought out, such as the current intersection in front of my building.

Lastly, we are open to a facilitator from the city as you suggested.

Fondly, Denise Kowal, President
Burns Square Property Owners Association

Richard Clapp Wrote May 23, 2008 EXCERPT:

As you know, St Armands has a well functioning association of landowners merchants and residents  (LMR Group).  While each of the separate groups has their own considerations, they have a common vision for St Armands.  They meet regularly (with a city facilitator) and make progress.  One of their sacred principles is that none of the members will make changes without the knowledge and input from the other members.  They realize that they all need to be together for the success of everyone.  They also realize the value of a neutral facilitator to keep the discussion fair and within proper bounds.  This group has worked well over the last 8 years or so.


Dear Dick:

We are slowly getting to your other comments in your email of May 23rd.  We offer this conversation on 'consensus' to hopefully improve process for Burns Square (BSQ) and City Hall.  

We in BSQ have been struggling with your (appears Kelly's, LouAnn's and Bob's too) 'consensus' approach for BSQ projects that lead to the city commission denial of the Orange/Pineapple roundabout.  We feel the 'consensus' system is drastically flawed.

The city manager and the majority of the commission relied on the multiple choice design sheet in which a select group of people placed personal preferences and a 'consensus' was drawn as you state, "The roundabout discussion clearly was not agreed to by most of those affected."  

While we feel the Laurel Park (LP) board successfully organized and rallied people to vote for 'no change', and the people on Palm, majority of whom supported the roundabout, filled out sheets requesting 'no change' for friends from LP, we wonder why Hudson Bayou and Main Street were not notified to give input?  They are our neighbors to the South and North.  Since the overwhelming number of people actually travel in (north) and out (south) of downtown instead of sideways (east/west) through BSQ, wouldn't their input be as important?

In addition you state, "The vitality of a city is a function of everyone - residents, businesses, functionality, personal preference, etc." (questionable since our 60+ year sprawl mentality).  If this is the case, then why was every other city neighborhood denied notification?  And why wasn't the DTC interests invited, such as the DTP, DTCA and DSMA?  Also, shouldn't the city include the city core businesses, residents, property owners and civic community that relies on BSQ's success?

The BSQ Property Owners and BSQ Merchants associations publicly worked together through 2007 on a concept that started in 2005 to offer the city an engineering and new urbanist design that supports our city master plan and the needs of BSQ.  Hundreds of BSQ supporters wanted the professionally engineered and planned roundabout but this voice was ignored in this process for the multiple choice design sheet.  Admittedly, there was a select group in BSQ (11 out of hundreds) who filled out forms for friends supporting 'no change' (even though 9 of those supported the roundabout and still do).

So here we are.  This monumental project for one of the city's most important intersection has been reduced to a few people from BSQ, LP and Palm sitting around a table in the engineering conference room trying to get 'consensus' on a dumbed down 'do nothing' design.  BSQ is threatened with no improvements unless we can find 'consensus' with the two LP spokespersons who did not share BSQ values the first time around.  But we are told the commission will agree with this 'consensus' design created by 4, 5 6 or 7 of us instead of the professional thoughtful planning BSQ did with hundreds involved?  

Therefore I ask, is this how our city government is going to continue to make decisions?  Is 'consensus' Kate Lowman and Denise Kowal agreeing?  Or is it two people from LP, Burns and Palm?  Or is it ten people from LP, BSQ and Palm?  Or is the presidents of the associations and which associations?  Is it each individual condo on Palm or the Downtown Condo Association?  Or a few from every neighborhood in the city?  Who and how many of our 50,000 residents exactly makes up 'consensus'?  And if we meet with you on Monday at the city commission meeting with a 'consensus' design, did the city commission really accomplish something great for this city of ours or is it as I stated:  BSQ "needs are continually ignored for political reasons and a few residents who are content on controlling things that are counterproductive for business and the city's vitality"?

Respectfully, Denise Kowal, President
Burns Square Property Owners Association

PS... That LP & Palm neighborhoods were not included or timely included is demonstrably untrue.  It is demonstrably true that they do not include us.  There was adequate time for everyone for the construction of the roundabout but so much time was wasted and still is.

PSS...Also, the BSQ intersection is not LP or Palm ( Hudson or Main) and those neighborhoods do not start until outside BSQ DTC zoning, except Main.  This is no arbitrary turf line drawn by neighborhood associations but a well defined zoning difference with totally different uses.  In addition, our intersection within BSQ boundaries is not encompassed in LP as you state.  BSQ and LP are not one, in fact LP only borders 4 of our 13 or so blocks in BSQ.  

cc:  Burns Square Association (Merchants), Burns Square Residents Alliance, The City Alliance, Downtown Sarasota Merchant Alliance

Richard Clapp wrote May 23, 2008 11:23:37 PM EDT:

The vitality of a city is a function of everyone - residents, businesses, functionality, personal preference, etc.  I do not think it is a fair statement that business "needs are continually ignored for political reasons and a few residents who are content on controlling things that are counterproductive for business and the city's vitality".  There have been several attempts to look at a vision for the area encompassing Laurel Park and Burns Square.  For a number of reasons (history, personalities, etc.) no agreement has ever been found.  Recently the Palm Ave condo people have raised issues with the Plaza Hotel concept.  I think an honest, open, inclusive visioning process could help.  I believe that the residents want to have a lively and functioning Burns Square area but they feel they have been excluded from many of the discussions.  The physical connection of these two areas plays a strong role in both areas quality of life and business success expectations.  Both need to be involved in the discussions and planning.

The roundabout discussion clearly was not agreed to by most of those affected.  Additionally there was little time between when it was proposed and when a decision needed to be made - not enough time to find a solution that most could agree to.


I do not believe the city is saying "consensus is more important than safety".  Safety is a factored in the proposed minimal street design changes (as directed by the city commission).




“City Core and Surrounding City Neighborhoods; Can We Find Mutual Understanding?”

I moved from Cohasset, a beautiful town on the rocky shores of the Atlantic coast just south of Boston to Laurel Park in the early 1980’s.  This is during a time when homes in Laurel Park could be purchased for $20,000 and that was a double lot.  I cried many times my first year and half because downtown was so unappealing to me, then I discovered Siesta Key and moved to Midnight Pass.  But in 1983 I cast my lot with downtown, and I made the decision that I was going to do what I could to help it become the best city it could be.

Over the past 60 years, as our addiction to the automobile has become epidemic, the evolution of our cities has taken a path unlike any other in our history.  What happened?  In a word, we sprawled.  We didn't just move westward looking for new, self-sufficient farms and new cities, we moved away from the center of the cities but expected their urban amenities to remain available to us…..  And why not?  All we had to do was hop into our cars!  ……  Now, Is there anyone left in the room that hasn't caught on to climate change?  & 4 dollar gasoline?  - so I’ll move on.

Luckily for us, the City of Sarasota was born just prior to this type of thinking, and even though the industrial revolution was underway at that time, widespread ownership of cars had not happened.  Our founders created a city using traditional Urbanist principles, with diverse, compact neighborhoods surrounding a city core.  A city in which Sarasota’s population lived in cozy proximity to each other, near everyone's daily needs and entertainment venues.  Downtown belonged to everyone, because everyone supported it, and it supported them.  Everything important happened downtown.

But the Old Urbanism, which our founders relied upon in designing our city, was systematically shattered, as our society sprawled, and decade-by-decade, we destroyed the downtown community.  We no longer took ownership of our downtown, and we started to look outward for our daily needs.  We sprawled, we sprawled our living spaces, we sprawled our businesses, we sprawled our entertainment - we sprawled and we are still sprawling today.  And as we sprawled, we drove.  We drove until "a chicken in every pot" became "Two SUV's in every driveway".

It is through this neglect by sprawling that, we, the citizens of Sarasota, over time lost ownership of downtown.  And because so many lost interest and looked outside the city to meet their needs, our city spiraled downward and became blighted.  Our economic engine was dying.  Downtown no longer belonged to everyone.

As in many beautiful cities, there were people downtown who continued to struggle to put our city back on track, visionaries, and by the turn of the 21st century our city commission did the right thing, and took ownership that in fact our downtown had failed.  Both Mayor Palmer and Commissioner Atkins were part of that turnaround, and I am proud to say, “I was too”… and as I look around the room, I see many of you who can say, “so was I”.

That process began by speaking to the responsible part of us, the part that enjoys being grown up and socially responsible locally.

It was at this time, our commission made history by adopting some highly important documents, the Downtown Master Plan 2020 and the related SmartCode.  Those documents intended the city I envision, giving stability, predictability and a vision so that people such as I, who invest our lives in this city, can plan our futures accordingly.  I say I support the intent, as opposed to the eventual content, because Sarasota politics took the calibration of those documents away from the professional planners where it belongs, and thrust it into the political arena.  This has created instability and un-predictably with an inconsistent vision, reducing those of us who invest in this city to gamblers.  From visionaries to gamblers in less than ten years.

Now is the time for us to work together and embrace our Founders' vision while also protecting the intent of our New Urbanist Master Plan by helping our city and downtown reach their full potential.  Marrying the Old Urbanism of no cars, with our New Urbanist principles of cars in appropriate amounts and places, and getting a grasp on our human footprint is something we can all support for our downtown.  It is something that makes sense.

I say, that if our community chooses to allow... select neighborhood leaders to dictate... a future that is against increased density and growth within our city, then at least lets face those decisions honestly.

Let’s acknowledge that to allow our city neighborhoods the luxury of not increasing their density or even... the density of their neighbors, we are accepting a future that brings a larger impact on our natural resources, produces more pollution and does not support a sustainable future.  By doing this, we are accepting all the mistakes we have made over the past 60 years of sprawl.        This choice of course will put more of the burden on the city core and suburban areas, because people will go somewhere.  That is a decision we can make.  However, it is not a decision without consequences.

I just say, do not ask our downtown to follow that same path.  Do not impose these so-called "neighborhood values" on our downtown because our downtown, our city core is the only area that can support the big picture changes needed for decreasing our human footprint, protecting our physical commons and moving towards a truly sustainable community.  A properly functioning city is more protective of our natural resources than any other human habitat. 

We live in an interconnected world in which even one seemingly small change ultimately impacts everything else for years to come. 

Under the circumstances, is it okay for us to demand that all change be gradual because change makes us uncomfortable?  When more than a hundred species go extinct every day because continued encroachment of sprawl upon natural habitat?  I truly hope not.

Therefore I ask of you …..what kind of future do you want? And how do you think we will get there from here?  And will we be driving…or walking?

 Thank you.


Bob, can you address the status of the land purchase for a parking facility and the city's priorities for the intersection of Orange and Pineapple since we are in the midst of construction.  Thank you, Denise

Denise:  I am meeting with staff next week to see what can be done to move the Orange/Pineapple intersection improvements forward.  Parking land acquisition program is still in process.  Bob Bartollota

Bob:  (ON PARKINGProcess... So is the carving of the Grand Canyon but at least you can see progress.  Denise

The City Commission approved entering into negotiations with Michael Saunders for the Verizon parcel on November 5th, 2007 (  At the following City Commission meeting, the City Commission approved entering into negotiations with the Woman's Exchange for their parcel on November 19th, 2007 (