Friday, June 20, 2008

Lake Sarasota in the News

Hearty congratulations to the hardest working beautifiers in Lake Sarasota!

Homegrown beautification

Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.
Last updated Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 2:41 a.m.

Despite lacking a homeowners association — a handicap for any neighborhood effort — a small group of Lake Sarasota residents are working with the county to improve their area of town.

INTERESTED?

The Lake Sarasota Community Group meets the second Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Sarasota Baptist Church, 7091 Proctor Road, Room 100. For more information about the group, visit www.lakesarasota.blogspot.com.

It started simply with picking up trash in the medians. Then they asked for help from code enforcement to gently persuade neighbors to cut their grass and clean up around their homes, though they first asked the neighbors directly.

"They said, look, we're really trying to fix the neighborhood; will you help?" said Debbie Marks, core service program coordinator with county Neighborhood Services. "And it usually works." It is her job to help homeowners associations or groups such as the one in Lake Sarasota get their efforts off the ground.

Encouraged by their early success, the Lake Sarasota residents -- called the Lake Sarasota Community Group -- sought and got a grant for entry signs to their neighborhood and did the landscaping around the signs themselves.

The group had its latest victory last week hammering out an agreement with the county for 20 to 25 oaks, weeping podocarpus and autumn cypress trees to be planted in their medians. The lack of a homeowners association, though, complicated things.

Lake Sarasota is a neighborhood of 1,600 homes just east of Interstate 75 on Bee Ridge Road. Though it once had a homeowners association and deed restrictions, lack of activity caused the association and the restrictions to lapse, leaving the neighborhood without a legal entity to represent it.

But the efforts of the tenacious little group of residents got the county's attention -- and its help.

"We've expended our own time and energy and money to do things ourselves, and the county appreciates that," said Laura Mathis, one of the group's members.

According to the agreement between the county and the group, the county will tend the newly planted trees. The county did not ask the residents to tend existing trees but told residents the trees would be removed if they become hazardous. Existing trees, including large, old Canary Island date palms, had been tended by individuals in the area for years. Budget constraints meant those trees could not be added to the new trees the county would plant and maintain.

With no legal entity to sign for the neighborhood, both the county's Urban Forestry Program and Neighborhood Services had to work out a special deal with the residents.

Demetra McBride, urban forestry manager for the county, kept it simple and just sent a letter to the residents saying that if the trees ever become a hazard, the county has a right to take them down.

"If they are not provided for and they decline to the point not of being unsightly, but if they become a risk, we'll come out and remove them," McBride said.

McBride said planting of the new trees will begin in the next three to four weeks.

Studies show that trees capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They filter pollution and improve air quality, and they raise property values 5 to 9 percent.

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