Decision looming for South Gate community on what to do with its aging community center
The future of a historic community center, swimming pool and the 4.4-acre property where they are located has created a rift in one of Sarasota’s oldest neighborhoods, leading to the creation of competing websites. in order to tip the neighbors to one side or the other.
Campaign-like garden signs saying “Neighbors, join us today!” “. have grown in some lawns in the 2,200 home community of South Gate.
Some neighbors have even started going door-to-door to defend one vision or another.
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The commotion centers around an offer from Sarasota County to buy the property just north of Bee Ridge Road at 3145 South Gate Cir. where a small building and swimming pool built in 1956 is located next to Phillippi Creek.
The county plans to demolish and refill the pool, rehabilitate the building, and turn the location into a waterfront public park that could have a kayak launch pad and fishing dock if its offer is accepted. .
However, the offer of $ 170,000 in cash for the property left many residents of the community puzzled and wondering what year it was, given that in 2021 real estate across Florida has taken off. the value.
County officials note that its offer was determined by deducting estimated repair costs for the community center from an appraisal they conducted on the property.
The owners association’s own appraisal put the value at $ 1.055 million.
The South Gate Community Association has operated the property since the neighborhood’s inception 65 years ago. The building itself is historic as it was designed by Victor Lundy of the Sarasota School of Architecture.
But with only about 10% of the community registered for the $ 75 per year fee, the association charges members plus about 80 other people paying the $ 150 per year fee to access the community pool, keep the association in the dark was a challenge.
The cost of operating the association property varies between $ 4,000 and $ 5,000 per month. To make up the difference, the organization rents its community center to the public.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having evaporated much of the revenue the organization depended on in 2020, it filed for bankruptcy in December and relied on a loan from a South Gate resident to float it until 2021 .
The idea of selling the property has been circulating among the organization’s board members since at least 2018.
With the county’s offer, the idea of selling the property first caught the attention of residents of the community, with an information meeting held last week.
More than 110 people gathered in the community center for presentations on the offer, as its dues-paying members will vote on Tuesday to see if they accept the offer.
Seth Johnson, vice chairman of the association’s board of directors, gave a 45-minute presentation on the decision to consider the sale. He was repeatedly interrupted by opposing people.
He said the process began in 2018, as he and other board members wondered “what if” potential catastrophic incidents that could happen to the property.
This council considered several options on how to finance the operation of the pool and community center, including creating a special tax district, selling the property on the open market, renting it to an outside group, and maintenance of current operations.
The special tax district and leasing to an outside group were both eliminated as available options, he said.
Selling to a developer would also not be ideal as it would mean the destruction of the community center and potentially the development of the property which would not be in the best interest of the South Gate community.
This leaves two options: sell to the county or keep the property.
While Johnson said he was unsure how he would vote in the meeting, he said if the community voted to keep the property, they needed four to five times as many paying members to function effectively.
Allison Werner, Board Member in charge of Marketing, made a presentation in support of maintaining ownership.
Werner, who runs a boutique real estate company called Couture Real Estate, said if an appraisal was done in 2021, the market value would easily fall between $ 1.2 million and $ 1.5 million.
“It’s a laughable offer,” she said of the county’s purchase plan. “It’s laughable that we even have to discuss it,” he added. laughable that we even have to discuss it. laughable that we even have to discuss it. ”
She said there was no rush to approve it, and that if the county wants the site now, it will still be an attractive park site later.
“I encourage you to vote no,” she said. “Appear
She noted that the board has had spared communication with the residents of South Gate and this is something she plans to change.
“We have to ask for help and we have to ask out loud and you are all here tonight because we have asked for help,” she said.
Several people then joined in opposition to the sale.
Michael Frantz was the only person speaking in favor of selling the property. He considers that the offer is fair, having regard to the use the property would be if it were sold to the county.
“Can you get more than that?” He asked. “Sure, but they’ll build some nice condos here and McMansions and say goodbye to the Lundy Building.”