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Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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  • | 6:00 p.m. September 24, 2004
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Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Building in a fog

Michael Saunders, president of the real estate firm of Michael Saunders & Co., wants to develop a two-acre parcel at 307 and 495 Orange Ave. S. in downtown Sarasota, but that property zoning is changing - to Downtown Edge.

Downtown Edge zoning, part of the city's new Andres Duany-inspired master plan, has Saunders and other downtown property owners unsure of their development options. While the plan has been approved, the zoning regulations are currently being debated.

"It certainly impacts our options," Saunders says. "At first look the zoning creates a five-story wall right at the sidewalk level. The zoning limits our setbacks to much higher up. We are just doing some planning for what the transition zoning will be, but so far it doesn't seem to paint a pretty picture."

Saunders' conceptual development plan under the current zoning calls for retail at the street level with parking above. A park-like terrace was planned for the top of the parking area with smaller office towers rising from there.

"The people this is going to impact the most are the people who own the property," Saunders says. "The people who choose to develop down there given the zoning change can make the decision, but the property owners, who bought their land under the old code, don't have that choice. Even with all the codes and grandiose ideas, it's the market that dictates what you can do with your property. I think this something that people have forgotten."

Make like a tree and leaf

All Marcus and Pamela Anast wanted was a driveway for The Sarasota Collection Home Store's new location on Central Avenue. The problem was a 15-foot city-owned palm tree on the sidewalk in the middle of the proposed driveway that the city seems reluctant to relocate. The crux of the issue is a city council approved 90-day moratorium on tree removals in the face of a comprehensive plan/olive tree conflict.

"The problem first came up when Bill Davis, (owner of Barnacle Bill's Seafood Market & Restaurant) wanted to remove the black olive trees," says Mary Anne Servian, Sarasota's vice mayor. "The downtown code called for owners to build arcades or galleries. That would mean that all the olive trees on Main Street would likely have to be removed to develop under the new code. So because of the conflict, we ordered a 90-day hold on removing the trees - to protect the black olive trees - to study that particular issue."

The city commission is putting together a bipartisan committee to find a solution that marries the two ideas. But meanwhile, Marcus and Pamela Anast are left waiting.

"We really just wanted the drive-through to give our customers a sense of security," Marcus Anast says. "We have been working with the city on this since April. We have offered to move the tree down to Blue Line to replace a decimated tree there. It is just an unfortunate bureaucratic issue." Tim Litchet, director of building, zoning and code enforcement, was not available for comment at press time.

Small business health tied to health insurance

With skyrocketing premiums, business owners may not need any more confirmation that health insurance is a big issue, but a new survey by the International Profit Associates Small Business Research Board reports that health insurance issues ranks just below the overall economy.

"Other than the general state of the economy, the IPA SBRB poll makes it clear that small businesses believe that health care costs are impacting their operations more than any other single cost factor,"says Gregg Steinberg, president and CEO of Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based International Profit Associates, a management consulting service.

Study participants were asked to identify the three costs that were increasing most rapidly for their businesses.

Ranking1(Low)3 (Medium)5(High) Avg. Number


Health care costs14%20%25%3.3


Consumer confidence18%21%11%3.1

Capital investment19%26%6%2.8

Interest rates18%34%8%2.75


If you're apprehensive about the repercussions of our hurricane trifecta, consider this: Michael Saunders says that since Charley hit Charlotte County her company has written sales offers for $5.8 million, $6 million and almost $9 million in the Sarasota County area. Tom Quale, president of Landmark Bank, heard from Florida Power & Light Co. that its backlog would prevent FPL from turning on power at Landmark's new Fruitville Road branch until November. Except for that, the branch is ready for operation. So with time equaling money, Quale made a few calls. The power was to be turned on the week of Sept. 27. Kraft Construction, the general contractor for Plaza at Five Points, One Hundred Central/Whole Foods Market Centre, was selected as the construction manager for the High Point Place Condominium in Fort Myers. At 32-stories, High Point Place, developed by Joseph Cameratta of High Point Place LP, is being billed as the tallest building in Southwest Florida. It will feature two towers, with more than one million square feet of structure.


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