In late October, the City of Sarasota granted administrative approval for the Women’s Exchange to construct a loading dock on Rawls Avenue. The Laurel Park Neighborhood Association and residents within 500 feet of the structure received notice of this decision in early November.
At the November 3rd LPNA General Meeting, a straw poll revealed unanimous support for appealing the City’s decision, which we feel does not factor in the compatibility of the commercial structure with the surrounding neighborhood. This project has a circuitous history. At NO point, however, have residents been permitted to speak to this issue at a public hearing.
That said, at both Community Workshops held on this matter and in all community discussions, residents have been steadfast in their concerns about safety and traffic patterns, as well as the impact of the industrial use of Rawls on our historic brick street and residential neighborhood.
The Laurel Park Overlay process affords us 30 days after the decision to file an appeal. At a special meeting held November 24, the Board voted to appoint Kate Lowman as agent for an appeal of the Women’s Exchange decision. The cost of an appeal is just under $1,600; that cost has been fully-defrayed by donations from owners near Rawls.
The appeal, along with a request that its consideration go directly to the City Commission, rather than the Planning Board due to unusual conflicts of interest in the latter body, was filed with the City on November 25. We anticipate a hearing on this matter in January or February, and will keep residents apprised as more information becomes available.
The City has scheduled a hearing on LPNA’s appeal of the Woman’s Exchange loading dock. It will take place before the Planning Board on January 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm. This will be the only item discussed at that meeting.
Because two of the Planning Board members have close ties to the project, the LPNA had requested that the appeal go directly to the City Commission. One Planning Board member, Chris Gallagher, is the architect for the project and must recuse himself. The other, Robert Lindsay, is the son of Elizabeth Lindsay, co-founder and Life Member of the Woman’s Exchange, as well as its current President. Mr. Lindsay has no direct financial connection to the project and does not have to recuse himself.
The City has ruled that the project must go to the Planning Board first. We have not yet received a letter to that effect but will provide it to the neighborhood once it arrives. PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR JANUARY 20 AND PLAN TO ATTEND! We will need your support. If you have questions or want to get involved, please contact Kate Lowman at 362-930 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.