Warm Mineral Springs vote brings more questions
SARASOTA COUNTY — A day after the North Port City Commission voted again to sell Warm Mineral Springs Day Spa, Sarasota County commissioners were still scratching their heads on why the city made that decision and what it will do next.
“I wasn’t hearing a public outcry to sell this thing,” County Commissioner Charles Hines said of comments made by the public at Monday’s city meeting. About 17 people spoke, including two divers, who asked the city to keep the Springs.
The city voted 2-2 to sell its portion of the 81-acre property it purchased jointly with Sarasota County for $5.5 million
in December 2010. Commissioners Cheryl Cook and Ronda DiFranco voted for the sale while Mayor Linda Yates and Commissioner Jim Blucher dissented. Commissioner Tom Jones was absent after being hospitalized last week with a serious condition.
Because of the tie, the vote was voided and reverted back to the Dec. 18 decision by the commission to sell the Springs in its entirety. However, Yates repeatedly explained she never intended to sell the Springs in its entirety, which was the original 3-2 vote — with Blucher and Jones dissenting — in December. Yates called for a clarification of that vote Monday and said she voted to sell the Springs in its entirety to get county commissioners to meet with the city.
“My initial reaction was, it was not a unanimous decision by that board that that’s the right action to take, but the majority controls,” Hines said. “I’m not seeing that overwhelming push from the community to sell it, but their elected officials made a decision.”
While the effort to get a joint meeting with the county failed after the initial decision, the city is still going to try and hold a joint meeting with the county to determine what will happen as the city gets ready to sell its half of the Springs. The city did not decide what they want to do with a short-term operating agreement — something that is a key issue because of the licensing agreement the city and county have with Cypress Lending — the company that runs the property — that expires June 30.
“I’m more concerned that they’ve asked for a joint meeting again without articulating their position on the short-term of what happens with Warm Mineral Springs,” Commissioner Christine Robinson said. “I’m still confused as to what they want to meet about.”
Commissioner Joe Barbetta is also against a joint meeting on the Springs.
“I don’t see any reason for it,” Barbetta said. “They’re throwing the whole process out. I have no reason to want to meet with them on this matter. I’m not going to sit there and try and force them to change their minds. They’re adults, they’re elected officials and they should know what the right thing to do is.”
Hines was not sure what Monday’s decision meant for Cypress Lending or the immediate future of the Springs.
“There’s two things going on here: There’s the future use and development of it and then there’s the current operator that’s there,” he said. “We want the Springs to stay open and operate properly. It doesn’t look like we’ll have somebody else that could come in and give us a proposal, so what does that mean for the current operator and what does that mean to the continuing operation of the Springs?”
Robinson, Barbetta and Hines all said the Springs — and how possibly to move forward — will be discussed as either an agenda item or during board reports during the commission’s next regular meeting, Jan. 29 in Venice. Barbetta said he is hoping the city will take the time to possibly reconsider its position.
“Maybe they’ll take a step back and look at this thing,” he said. “I’m not sure what the process is after they made their decision, but I don’t think it’s in their best interest to sell and it goes against the grain of what the community wants.”