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Date of Issue: October 21, 2009

Herb Dolan project earns praise

A proposed recreational boating project for Herb Dolan Park caught a swift current Oct. 15, passing city commission’s preliminary review with much praise.

“I think it was brilliant,” Commissioner Janie Robertson said of the effort to create a multi-faceted project to bring improvements to the city park at 25th Street and Avenue A. “The way it fit together.”

The project involves a partnership between the city, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the consulting firm Scheda Ecological Associates.

SBEP announced earlier this year that federal money would fully fund the project, one of two major elements in the city’s master recreational boating plan. The other element is the creation of a formal mooring field south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The plan shows a kayak launch on the shoreline at the east end of 25th Street near Avenue A, a kayak rack nearby, parking along the south side of 25th Street and the west side of Avenue A and the removal of rip rap.

To shore up the area, the plan calls for geoweb netting, soil and spartina grass to create a softer, but stable shoreline.

The nutrient-absorbing plants near the intersection will be in a swale — a “vegetated bio swale” — so that, in addition to preventing people from parking, the swale will serve as a stormwater filter, according to city project/program manager Lisa Marie Phillips.

“It’s a crafty project,” Robertson said.

“The thing has really developed,” said Commissioner John Shaughnessy. “I’m looking forward to seeing it.”

Mayor Michael Pierce said, “It’s a wonderful thing to have happen here.”

City planning and zoning board members also will review the plans and submit comments.

The board had requested permission from the city commission to hold a formal hearing on the project, which was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 6.

Phillips showed the plans to the planning board during an Oct. 6 meeting, when members of the board agreed that they had some questions, specifically about parking and stormwater elements, and wanted to hold a formal review.

Earlier this year, the planning and zoning board had emphasized its interest in reviewing public projects in the city.

“We would like to be the planning agency for the city,” said planning and zoning board chair Rick Bisio.

Referring to the kayak launch and restoration project, he said at the Oct. 6 meeting, “We would prefer to have a chance to review it in the same way that we did with the Bridge Street Pier project.”

In a letter to the city commission and mayor, board member Joe Garbus wrote, “There was a general consensus that the planning and zoning board review the city’s recreational access and shoreline restoration project … and hold a separate hearing for the project.”

Commissioners discussed the planning board’s request with building official Steve Gilbert Oct. 15.

Gilbert said the commission had several options — to approve, deny or table the planning board’s request to hold a hearing, or to have the planning board members review the plans and submit their comments.

“This is not a development permit application,” Gilbert said. “Neither is it permanent infrastructure such as the city pier.… At this point, I don’t know whether it would be appropriate to spend city dollars to have a hearing or not.”

Robertson, noting that a number of meetings had taken place during the development of the Herb Dolan Plan, including several at the site, said, “I do not feel we need to spend the money to have a hearing.”

And Robertson made a motion, which passed unanimously, for the planning board members to review the plan and submit their comments rather than hold a formal hearing or meeting.

Phillips said comments from the city on the plan will be submitted to the engineers.

“It’s not exactly the final,” she said of the current document.