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Sarasota City Commission Rejects Selby Gardens Expansion Plan

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. DAYLINA MILLER/WUSF

Plans to expand Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota were rejected Tuesday night by a 3-2 city commission vote, but the leadership of the privately owned garden is vowing to find another way to pursue what it describes as much-needed growth.

The $92-million plan would have added a vertical sky garden, a parking garage and a rooftop restaurant to the 15-acre bay front location.

Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens, said she is now evaluating other options, but declined to give specifics.

"Remaining with the status quo is not an option, I can tell you that," she said.

Rominiecki added that the zoning of Selby Gardens is out of date and needs to be updated so the botanical garden can be protected for future generations.

"The expansion is absolutely critical," she said. "We cannot accommodate our visitors currently. On peak days we turn away more than 200 visitors."

Critics said the scope of the project was too large for the residential neighborhoods nearby. Increased traffic also was a concern.

"We are disappointed to say the least, but we will be evaluating what our options are," Rominiecki said. "We have the world's best scientifically documented collection of orchids and bromeliads and right now they are on the ground in the flood zone in an aging infrastructure."

"And a key aspect of this plan is about safeguarding our collections, and that is vital and critical."

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