SARASOTA COUNTY - The business community in North Port is now protesting the city's vote to sell Warm Mineral Springs. Monday we told you how commissioners voted to continue with the process to sell the city's stake in the 81 acre site. Now local chambers and other groups are coming together to try and stop it.
Right down the road from the springs, owner of La Rocca restaurant Christian Dina compares the highly contested property to a tied up horse. "With 15 strings attached." The risk with being pulled in different directions is course. "The horse it gets stuck and goes nowhere."
A business owner finding it difficult to see the city's biggest attraction not flourish. "Developing the place will attract more business. More foot traffic to the area which we desperately all need."
"It has just taken everybody by surprise," says North Port Chamber of Commerce President Kim Quigley. The vote to continue the process of selling their share of it after just two years has her organization shaking their head. "In North Port we have a lot of land but not a lot of landmarks. The springs is where people come from all over the world."
Business owners are concerned that city leaders are walking away from a project before they even explore potential options, something Quigley says the 500 plus businesses represented by the chamber would like to see first. "What we are hearing here at the Chamber is they want to explore the possibilities there. There is pressure out there. I know there are petitions going around."
One is being circulated by a group called the North Port Advocacy Alliance. "In 10 days we have 23 pages with 375 signatures. So for you to say that the majority of people out there don't want this? Please reconsider," says Wendy Namack with the organization at the meeting Monday.
The fact is development at and around the spring has been slow in private hands for all these years. Dina says he's not sure who should own it and operate it, just that something needs to get done. Perhaps with a little horsepower. "Sooner the better of course. Something must be done as soon as possible."
Just figuring out how the city will sell its stake in the spring is likely to take a significant amount of time.
The Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce is also now backing the North Port Chamber's stance. Calling it a regional asset.