2019 Year-End Close Out: A letter to residents from Commissioner Hines
Dear Sarasota County Residents:
As out-going Chairman I wanted to give a summary of 2019 by highlighting how your County government worked diligently to support our set strategic goals. This past year we strived to provide exceptional county services aligned with our resources, develop a high-performing county team, foster world-class quality-of-life amenities, create a great place to live, and provide robust, and growing business opportunities.
Reflecting on the past year, we are proud of our many accomplishments and equally proud of how we have addressed challenges — the most prominent of which was to address improving our community’s water quality. Accomplishments in this area included hosting the Water Quality Summit, adopting the Fats, Oils, and Grease Ordinance, and approving the design phase for the improvements to the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility.
At the same time, we focused on improving the quality of life for our residents and visitors through these major initiatives/projects:
- Affordable Housing – The Board made great strides in improving the environment for increased affordable housing development by passing the Accessory Dwelling Unit and Half Dwelling Unit ordinances, which loosen development restrictions to encourage affordable housing construction. Additionally, a market analysis was performed to identify county-owned land that could serve as affordable housing development parcels.
- Legacy Trail – On June 27, Sarasota County closed on the purchase of the $30.1 million railway corridor that will become the Legacy Trail extension. The nearly 8-mile extension will enhance connectivity from North Port through Venice to downtown Sarasota.
- River Road Transfer – In October, the Board approved a resolution to transfer portions of River Road to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for ownership. This is the first step to giving FDOT the ability to begin construction to widen River Road from U.S. 41 to Interstate 75. Once completed, this corridor will serve as an enhanced hurricane evacuation route.
- Atlanta Braves Stadium - In March, we welcomed the second major league baseball team to call Sarasota County home for spring-training and opened a facility that will be a year-around amenity for all of our residents.
- William H. Jervey, Jr. Venice Public Library - The new Venice public library opened to much fan-fair and delight.
- Bob Johnson’s Landing Park – This new park was dedicated and opened up the Wild and Scenic Myakka River to the public with easy and ample access to this unique river.
- Celery Fields – Lands surrounding the Celery Fields were set-aside to protect and enhance this great birding and recreational area.
- South County Courthouse – Design was completed and construction began on the much needed updating and expansion of the RLA government complex to serve the growing South County population.
The forgoing are just a few of the major accomplishments and projects that we worked on this past year, while maintaining the second lowest millage rate in the State and a AAA credit rating. Your Board of Commissioners and County employees are committed to providing exceptional service to all Sarasota County residents, visitors and businesses, and to being responsible stewards of our natural resources. In addition to the accomplishments above, Sarasota County is responsible for a wide range of vital services, including health and human services, arts, culture, recreation, growth and development, and attracting new businesses and industries.
There is no way we can always agree on every issue facing our community, but we should be able to agree that we live a wonderful and diverse community that has many amenities and opportunities for all to enjoy. We look forward to another outstanding year in 2020.
Charles D. Hines, Esq.