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Gulf Coast Week

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  • | 6:00 p.m. May 9, 2008
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Gulf Coast Week


Toll road plans dying

The proposed 3-mile, $155 million east-west road linking New Tampa to Interstate 275, talked about for years as a way to lessen traffic in New Tampa and southern Pasco County, may be scrapped.

After $6 million on studies and right of way, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said the road is not financially feasible. Part of the opposition to the project has been proposed tolls for the road to start at $1.50 and rise to $2.75 in the sixth year.

Without the toll road, city officials are likely to cancel a proposed $23 million bridge over I-75 that would have linked New Tampa Boulevard to Tampa Palms.

St. Pete to open talks

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has asked the city to begin negotiations with two of three developers that submitted bids to remake Tropicana Field into a mixed-use development as part of the plan to move the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4450 million waterfront stadium.

Baker has asked the city council to authorize talks with Archstone-Madison of Arlington, Va., and Houston-based Hines Interests. The council will select the winning developer at a meeting June 5.

That is also when council members are expected to decide whether to give initial approval for a November voter referendum on the waterfront ballpark plan.


No-growth initiative passes

In a special election held May 6, Sarasota County voters overwhelmingly approved two ballot measures that some in the local business community considered pro-business initiatives.

The one ballot measure with the greatest potential for controversy - the initiative that would require the five-member county commission to unanimously agree on any changes to the urban services boundary - passed with the greatest amount of ease. About 79% of voters approved that measure, essentially a previously reached compromise between a few attorneys representing anti- and slow-growth interests and a few Sarasota-area developers.

The second issue voters approved, with 69% in favor, concerned the county's bond borrowing capabilities, which had been capped at $19.5 million for several years. Voters agreed to raise that cap to $300 million, which is now only supposed to be used for other voter-approved infrastructure and road projects.

Rural project expansion

The potential developer of 26 square miles in rural southern Sarasota County is planning to put an additional $90 million into the project.

The developer, Stan Thomas of suburban Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises, Inc., hopes that the money, to be used for road and other infrastructure projects, will help sway county commissioners to approve a planned expansion of the Thomas Ranch.

Thomas and his attorneys have spent the past few months working out details of the potential expansion with county staff and planners. The developer is seeking an additional 2,850 acres of county and North Port owned land to build on, which would boost the overall long-range plans for the project to more than 20,000 homes from its current 15,000 homes projections. The current Thomas Ranch plans also call for 3.5 million square feet of office, retail and commercial space.

Commissioners could vote on the project as early as mid-May.

Gyrocam lands huge deal

Gyrocam Systems, a Sarasota-based manufacturer of surveillance cameras that can detect roadside bombs as far as 200 yards away, has been awarded a $302 million contract from the U.S. Army to build as many as 500 hundred of the systems over the next five years.

The contract will push the company's annual revenues to more than $500 million, after hovering around $5 million in 2006, a company press release stated. The company also recently opened a 28,000-square-foot production facility next to its headquarters, near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and it now has about 115 employees, after having about 25 two years ago

The contract with the U.S. Department of Defense calls for the company to produce and install the Triple Sensor version of the cameras, which can rotate 360 degrees and be seen in both darkness and any kind of light. Soldiers use the cameras to detect roadside bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from afar, as opposed to having to walk right up to the hazards.

The company, which President Ken Sanborn founded 15 years ago after a career as a news helicopter pilot, was the Review's 2007 Technology Innovation Award winner for the Sarasota-Manatee region.


Lee permits hit bottom

Lee County issued permits for 47 single-family homes in April, the same number the county did in March. However, April's number is down 82% from the 262 issued in April 2007.

Also in April, Lee County issued permits for 22 multi-family dwellings, down 86% from the 158 it issued in April 2007 and down 8% from the 24 it issued in March.

On the commercial side, the value of the permits issued by the county in April was $5.5 million, down 80% from $27.2 million same month a year ago and down 14% from March.

Tech group launched

A group of technology executives has created a coalition of companies in eight counties and plans a launch event May 22 in Fort Myers.

The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership hopes to draw technology executives from companies in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Manatee, Collier and DeSoto counties.

Speakers at the launch event will include Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council; Tony DiBenedetto, president of Tribridge and founder of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum; and Bryan Mehaffey, vice president of engineering at Ave Maria University.

For details, visit


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