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Sarasota Birding Spot Could Be Affected By Rezoning

Sarasota County
Celery Fields

Sarasota County planners will hear a request Thursday afternoon to rezone land for a scrap recycling center next to what has been called the best bird-watching spot in the county.

The 16 acres were originally purchased by Sarasota County for stormwater retention. It was envisioned as becoming part of Celery Fields, a former farm next door that has been transformed into a sanctuary for scores of bird species. But now, a group wants to develop the land for recycling construction and demolition debris.

That doesn't sit well with Rob Wright of The Audubon Society of Sarasota, which has a nature center at Celery Fields. He said the proposed rezoning would allow scrap piles up to 35 feet tall - which would tower over the eight-foot-tall walls. Wright added that pollution could leach into the ground water, possibly affecting Celery Fields, and the dust from the debris and trucks used to haul scrap would drift over the preserve.

"The county has already designated this as part of the Celery Fields Preserve, and secondly, the people of Sarasota County want it to stay that way," he said. "They don't want it rezoned.

The company proposing the recycling center, TST Ventures, L.L.C, already owns four acres of the 16-acre parcel. They want it declared surplus property so it can be purchased.

Wright says a group of protesters will be outside the Sarasota County Administration Building an hour before the 5 p.m. planning meeting.

Credit Sarasota County
Sarasota County
Aerial view of the property. Celery Fields is just to the right of the parcel

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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