Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

More Concern about Springs

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

More Concern about Springs

Article excerpt

NORTH PORT: As city seeks bids to open site anew, development fears surface

NORTH PORT -- Dozens of residents complained vehemently Thursday that the city's efforts to reopen Warm Mineral Springs could allow nearly 300 homes to be built at the iconic tourist attraction.

The City Commission voted 4-1 to seek bids from companies interested in signing a long-term contract to manage the springs, which has been shuttered since July.

But what seemed like a routine bureaucratic process became heated over details in the solicitation offer that pointed out Warm Mineral Springs is zoned to allow substantial development.

The zoning allows 62,000 square feet of commercial use, a 45,000- square-foot conference center and 270 homes to be separated from the springs by a 400-foot-wide buffer.

Juliette Jones of Friends of Warm Mineral Springs told commissioners a petition drive is in the works calling for a referendum to ensure only "passive park uses open to the general public" are allowed.

"Please do not build homes on land by Warm Mineral Springs," said Elizabeth Nazarian, one of numerous residents who contend the spring has healing waters. "... Do not destroy our miracle spring."

City planners said that zoning was put in place more than a decade ago specifically for that property. Various site plans showing platted lots have expired.

With that zoning still in place, potential bidders will presume the bulk of the land can be extensively developed, City Commissioner Cheryl Cook said. "That's been one of my problems from the beginning."

Cook cast the dissenting vote.

North Port and Sarasota County jointly purchased Warm Mineral Springs in December 2010.

But the two government bodies have squabbled over what to do with the 81-acre property.

North Port commissioners Cook, Linda Yates and Rhonda DiFranco have argued that the property should be preserved as a public park.

Sarasota County commissioners want the property developed as a resort that offers jobs and enhances tourism. …

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