Leading Question

By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2003

It sounds like a demographic revolution. Three networking groups for young professionals have popped up in Sarasota County in the past 12 months. Sarasota school district officials report an average 1,000 additional kids have entered our public schools every year since 1998. And if you attended Van Wezel's open-air summer concerts, you saw how packed the lawn was with young couples and families. All those fresh faces might lead you to believe that Sarasota's getting younger, right?

Sorry, kids. It turns out the latest population count shows the opposite. EasyAnalytic Software, inc., a New York-based demographics company, reports that 2003 figures show Sarasota residents-both the city and county-are actually a smidgen older than they were in 2000. The median age of county residents rose from 50.5 to 51.3; the median age of city residents, from 41.1 to 41.5.

The fact is, because of growth, there are more young people here than ever before. But there are even more old people arriving and living longer, and that's why the average age keeps rising. But Manatee County's 2003 median age is much younger (43); the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research predicts that Sarasota's over-65 population will be 42 percent by 2025 compared to Manatee County's 33 percent.

And Duany says.

Some developers are mad that the City of Sarasota is codifying the Duany plan, which, they complain, will be way too constricting, specifying set backs for every story, the shape of windows, even prohibiting certain materials-no wood, glass or metal on the fa├žade, for example. Even Duany didn't want to go that far, developers have been muttering. He simply wanted the city to use his plan as a guide.

Fiddlesticks, says the New Urbanism guru Andres Duany, on his way to preach his vision of urban planning in Stockholm and then in London.

"Of course it is necessary to have the Sarasota Code codified so that it supports the master plan," says Andres Duany. "How else will it be implemented? But above all, this is a nation constituted of laws, not a pile of opinions. It is important that the owners and residents of the downtown have a predictable zoning situation, and not be subject to the constant willy-nilly negotiations of influential developers and their consultants. Not having code is a mess that will badly damage the political process for decades to come."-Karen Mamone

Duany's plan (the Downtown Code) will be discussed in hearings and workshops through March at Sarasota City Commission chambers.

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