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Public Record Emails Provide Insights to the BIA "White Paper


BRADENTON – Public record emails are providing insight into a white paper document provided by the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association (BIA) to Manatee County’s Department of Development Services. The "LDC White Paper" outlined proposed changes to the county’s land development code as suggested by the BIA.

Earlier this month, TBT reported on the BIA white paper in our story, Who is Driving Comp Plan and LDC Changes? In that reporting, TBT brought to light the existence of a Microsoft Word document that contained historical edit details showing local land use and real estate attorney Scott Rudacille had produced the document.

The LDC white paper was later passed to the county by the BIA. At the time of our previous reporting, it was unknown which representative(s) of the BIA may have provided the document which suggested revisions to the county’s land development code.

According to its website, "The Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association is a membership-driven networking and advocacy group focused on the needs of the building and development industry and related business in Manatee and Sarasota Counties."

Some current county commissioners have existing or previous connections to the local BIA.

District 4 Commissioner Mike Rahn, who was elected in 2022, is the former president of the Manatee-Sarasota BIA. Rahn, who is also a former county planning commissioner, is listed on the BIA’s website as a "Life Director."

David Ballard, a recent former staff member who served as the organization’s Government Affairs and Membership Director, is the husband of District 2 Commissioner Amanda Ballard. Mr. Ballard’s information and role at the BIA were deleted from the organization’s website, however, earlier this month after it was learned that he had been arrested for a second DUI in the space of just over 30 days.

Don Baugh, the husband of District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, serves on the board of directors of the Manatee-Sarasota BIA.

Newly obtained emails related to the BIA white paper show that David Ballard and BIA President Jon Mast attended a meeting with Deputy County Administrator and Development Services Director Courtney De Pol, Deputy Director of Development Services Denise Greer, and the county’s impact fee coordinator, Nicole Knapp, on the morning of January 6.

A couple of hours after the scheduled meeting, BIA President Jon Mast emailed the LDC white paper as an attachment to Greer. Included as additional recipients of Mast's email were David Ballard, De Pol, and Knapp.

"Thank you all for meeting with us this morning to discuss or (presumably a misspelling of "our") proposed changes to the LDC. The attached is the work document with the proposed changes, again, I apologize for the zoning code changes that are not in color, but they are underlined," Mast wrote to the others.

Around 4:30 pm on Jan. 6, Knapp sent the BIA’s white paper document to William OShea, a principal planner in the county’s comprehensive planning division.

"This is the document that was shared with me earlier today from the BIA. Unfortunately, the new suggested zoning district and the changes associated with it are not in color, but they are underlined. Please discuss verbally with Denise (Greer) any real big concerns you have or even additional areas that could be stricken," Knapp wrote to OShea.

After sending the email to OShea, Knapp then sent an email to Greer and De Pol.

"FYI, I shared this document with Bill, and Bill only. (presumably referencing William OShea). I asked him not to even discuss it with Charlie because I didn’t want to risk that any planners heard about the suggested revision before fellow managers did," Knapp began her email. "Charlie" is a reference to Charles Andrews, another of the county’s comprehensive planning division’s principal planners.

"I asked Bill to talk to you, Denise, if he saw any huge red flags regarding any item that may have a ripple effect that we wouldn’t have thought of," Knapp’s email continued. "He and I also talked at length about the suggested new flex zoning district and Bill agreed that we need to look at where we allow our housing products before we’re quick to create another zoning district..."

The email records, obtained by TBT through a public record request, show no other communication from Jan. 6 or the days following the meeting between officials of development services with representatives of BIA, Mast, and Ballard.

The next email produced to TBT as responsive to our request for public records is dated Jan. 24. In the email, Greer addressed several development services planning managers, informing them of a meeting scheduled to "go over staff comments to BIA change request to LDC." Gary Race, planning manager of the county’s division of environmental planning, responded to Greer’s email.

"I’m sorry," wrote Race, "I thought this was months down the road. I’ve barely had time to send the complete copy of the changes to staff."

Greer responded to Race, writing, "You are welcome to invite one or two senior staff members to review, but you should not be waiting on them to finalize recommendations. We need to get the process moving. I am not expecting you to list every code change needed that will need to be cross changed, this will be done by our Comp Panning staff as they process the change. We need to have a good idea about how the changes will affect aspects of the code and possibly public works standards. We will likely need another meeting once we get this initial discussion moving."

Approximately 15 minutes later, OShea sent an email to Charles Andrews and cc-ed Knapp. Attached to the email was a copy of the BIA's LDC white paper document.

OShea wrote, "Charlie, attached for your review/comments. Please do not discuss in front of any staff not listed in the meeting invitation I will be sending you. If Nicole is back, we may not be attending the meeting. Thanks."

As TBT reported earlier this month, some of the proposed changes to the county's LDC that appear in the BIA’s white paper also appear as upcoming text amendments on the county’s tentative public hearing list. The hearing list also includes tentatively scheduled public hearing dates for LDC and comp plan text amendments relating to wetland protection. These items may come before the county planning commission and commissioners as soon as April. 

TBT reached the county by email to request comment on the BIA white paper and to inquire whether the LDC changes as proposed by the BIA will be brought forward as county-initiated text amendments. TBT also inquired whether the BIA had submitted an application requesting changes to LDC or comp plan, if the organization had paid any fee, or otherwise taken steps as a private applicant requesting the county make changes to its land development code.

County PIO Bill Logan responded to our request for comment in an email simply answering "yes" to TBT's first question, and "no" to our second. 

Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter for The Bradenton Times. She covers local government and entertainment news. She can be reached at dawn.kitterman@thebradentontimes.com.


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