SARASOTA COUNTY - The future development of Warm Mineral Springs in North Port continues to be a topic of debate, especially by city commissioners. A heated exchange was captured Tuesday in an emergency meeting.
Commissioner Tom Jones: "I definitely think there should be the possibility of a hotel on site.
Mayor Linda Yates: "Can you explain?"
Jones: "I don't want to argue with you commissioner. I don't want you to use your position of a bully pulpit."
Yates: "You are out of order."
Jones: "I am not out of order. You are trying to quash dissenting opinions. That is not out of order."
Yates: "I will ask you to leave."
Jones "Go ahead and ask me to leave. Go ahead and ask."
A few more words exchanged. "You can ask all you want Mayor. Then you can ask the police chief to come get me because I am not leaving."
It was just a part of an eight hour emergency meeting at city hall this week. "We have some newly elected officials who may not share the same vision we had for the spring as the previous commission," Jones told ABC 7 in an interview Thursday.
Warm Mineral Springs was bought a few years back jointly by Sarasota County and the city. Deadlines with the current vendor end in June. Some, like Jones, would like to see hotel development on the site. "Having a world class destination you need an improved spa facility and you need accommodations for the folks who are going to come here from around the world."
Yates says that's not what was sold to taxpayers who forked out $5.5 million. "The plan has radically changed." Yates says it should remain more like a park perhaps with better amenities and promoted. "If a hotel company or private entity wants to develop a hotel that is great. Do that on private property. The public is not looking to be landlords or even owners of a day spa commercial activity."
Jones says it's had 10,000 years to privately develop, without government help. "The springs will never be any more than it was in the past and will never reach its full potential."
It's an issue not going away anytime soon. "It is obvious there is different definitions of economic development," says Yates.
Something missing in all of this are any studies of the actual water quality at the spring -- including the consistency of its temperature and how much water it is actually producing.
City Commissioners will return next Tuesday for a second emergency meeting at city hall starting at 10am.