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11-08-2007, 04:27 PM
Voters cast ballots against growth


Sarasota County's anti-growth movement has rarely appeared stronger than it did at the polls Tuesday.

Ignoring strong lobbying from the business community, voters in the city of Sarasota and Sarasota County overwhelmingly approved supermajority measures. The new requirements will make it more difficult for developers to build in many areas.

The message was also unmistakable in Venice, where three City Council incumbents blamed by their challengers for the city's rampant growth lost by landslide margins.

At the same time, voters easily approved a continuation of the county's 1 percent sales tax, a fund that will bring in $1 billion for new schools, roads and parks to counter pressures from growth.

"There is a general feeling of anger toward growth," said Henry Rodriguez, a prominent developer. "They're just angry."

County Commissioner Jon Thaxton said voters are responding to years of concerns about inadequate roads and diminished water supplies.

"Tonight is just a continuation of a really loud, clear message," Thaxton said.

But some in the business community say voters' anger is misplaced and is aimed at a problem that is already correcting itself. Because of the housing crunch, development is already slowing down, making it unnecessary for government to put more restraints on growth.

"The market's already stopping it," said Eric Robinson, the Sarasota County Republican Party chairman.

Voters in the city of Sarasota also backed a plan to limit campaign donations in City Commission races to $200 per person and to ban donations from businesses. In the past, developers have been able to exceed campaign donation limits by writing checks from multiple business holdings.

Business leaders and developers tried to defeat the supermajority issues, saying they would do more damage to the region's economy by hindering future building. Voters heard the message. But at the polls Tuesday they said they were not buying that argument.

"A lot of people say it will hold back progress," Park East resident George Gan said. "But what progress is there?"

The anti-growth mood is not confined to Southwest Florida. It is becoming a statewide theme as voters begin to question years of explosive growth, said University of South Florida professor Susan MacManus. She said voters are angered by congestion, but also by increased costs that have accompanied recent growth. Many blame growth for rising home prices, property tax increases and now the collapsing real estate market, which has made it difficult to sell a home.

She said voters are looking for someone to blame and have set their anger on developers and the people in local offices who appear to be aiding them.

Rodriguez, a Nokomis developer, said the anger is about more than development, which seems to be tied to the economic cycle that ushered in high property values then came crashing down. The wild swings have been too much for people, who generally do not like change, he said.

"I think people fear that this is how it's going to be going into the future."

The result is that every elected official in office during the past few years is on notice, said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. If politicians do not get out in front of that anger and address it, they may not survive re-election, he said.

"This county is very clear about where it is on this issue," Fitzgerald said.

Jeremy Wallace can be reached at 361-4966 or jeremy.wallace@ heraldtribune.com. Staff writers Doug Sword, Roger Drouin and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

11-08-2007, 05:23 PM
oooooo.... your an idiot... their will always be growth. This article refers to the state as a whole and mentions venice and nokomis.. :lol:

11-17-2007, 01:16 AM
There WILL always be growth... just not at the same rate it has been. NP just broke a record for the most commericial building permits pulled and they are actually starting to pave roads and widen main roads I.E. Sumter.... Toledo Blade... There are alot of houses setting empty still but that is everywhere, not just North Port. And as the prices keep dropping they will sell. People stop ragging on NP it's a good city and doesn't have any more problems than any other city or county....

11-18-2007, 12:28 AM
oh yea anti growth article is correct?? no! their is over 80,000 homes planed for areas in Np, not included are the developments on 41 north of river road that are still adding homes.. NP is here to stay.. Sorry :cry: ass biotches..