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A Community Group Presents How Public Wants To Use Land At Celery Fields In Sarasota

Jul 12, 2018

Fresh Start for the Celery Fields, a group concerned about having development coexist with one of the birding areas in Sarasota County, chose four options to use the public land Wednesday. The group presented the picks to Sarasota County Commissioners.

Celery Fields was originally designed as Sarasota County’s way of managing storm water. It has become a habitat for several bird species and wildlife, with Sarasota’s Audubon Society actively maintaining the land.

Late last year, Sarasota County Commissioners voted against a proposal to turn the area near Apex and Palmer Boulevard into a recycling center.

“But what didn’t happen,” said Tom Matrullo, one of Fresh Start’s leaders, “Is the board didn’t say, ‘Look we understand this area has changed, we need to go back and review it and plan for positive development,’ they didn’t do anything of the sort.”

Matrullo said the county originally wanted to sell parts of the public land. After the public hearing, the board allowed the Fresh Start Initiative to gauge what nearby residents wanted to do with two of the three land parcels instead. The county hired a consultant to rezone the third parcel with the intention to sell it.

“This land is right next to a birding sanctuary, said Tom Matrullo. “You could put positive community oriented uses there that would make it even a better place than it already is.”

The organization has been sifting through ideas since late April. Matrullo said that over 50 homeowners’ associations have signed on with Fresh Start in support of this initiative.

The proposal now has two options for each of the parcels of land.

For Parcel 1:

  1. A multi-purpose facility
  2. A nature lodge and restaurant

For Parcel 2:

  1. Shops and Eateries with housing above
  2. Athletic Recreation Complex facilitated by the Sarasota YMCA

The Eco-Tourist Nature Lodge is one of the options in Fresh Start's presentation to Sarasota County Commissioners.
Credit Fresh Start

Since the first parcel of land is closer to the birds and wetlands, Matrullo said the Fresh Start committee chose eco-friendly activities, such as trails and gardens.

Based on community polling, Martullo said the most support among residents was for the YMCA sponsored center. He believes that plan will benefit the people who live around Celery Fields.

“There are communities, there are schools, there are all kinds of reasons to see that this area has changed, and it’s about time we changed our zoning and our land use to reflect what’s really there,” said Matrullo.