Big Pass July 23 Hearing

On July 23, the 12th Circuit heard arguments  on disputed facts regarding the the City of Sarasota’s project to dredge Big Pass. The Judge had only three questions, one for SKA and two for the City .

  • when did SKA make a demand on the City to comply with consistency determination for this project and City Comprehensive Plan  
  • when/who approved the 3/2/2015 City certification of Compliance with their Comprehensive Plan
  • how was the public noticed.

The hearing extended from 1 to 6 pm. Bob Luckner, as SKA’s Corporate representative, testified for 3.5 hours. The City called 3 witnesses. SKA described and entered exhibits including a Copy of the Verified Complaint against the City (2017), letters sent to the City, talking points of the meeting held between City and SKA in 2017, contemporaneous email between Nora Patterson, facilitator of that meeting and Robert Luckner. The City testified they made a consistency decision regarding the project in a 30-minute meeting on 3/2/15 between Alex Davis Shaw and Tim Litchet.  They reported following the same process used for each nourishment project in the past. The original request to APPLY for a Permit was submitted 3/15/15. This Notice wasn’t filed with the City clerk. The Notice link also didn’t work. The FDEP indicated it wasn’t relevant as no ‘legal’ actions were dependent upon this notice. The second time notification occurred (2018) it was posted online and didn’t include the City Engineer Determination letter. Finding the document online there was no less than 5000 pages, without guidance, to locate a single page letter. After this original Permit request was filed, Bob described with exhibits, three major changes in the project that occurred after the City approval including dune destruction to build the groins, use of the Ted Sperling (South Lido) County Park for construction staging and access, and the addition of sea grass mitigation. The City did not provide any evidence for a consistency determination of these changes.

During the hearing, it was reported the City requested permission to use the Ted Sperling County Park for construction staging. The County denied the request. SKA submitted copies of the Sarasota City Zoning code which calls for City Commissioner approval of dredging and construction within the Marine Park Zone (all submerged water and shoreline inside the City limits). City Commission approvals have not occurred nor a public input process completed regarding the conditional use of Marine Park zoned areas within the City. This would include areas of Big Sarasota Pass. Other areas within County Jurisdiction also requires the City to request approval for sea grass mitigation outside the County. The City has never dredged within its own or the County jurisdictional boundaries and have utilized sand from offshore and within a dedicated Navigational Channel. The court ordered parties to submit final written closing arguments by August 7. There will be no rebuttal.