NORTH PORT — A Sarasota County nonprofit whose message is balanced growth and government responsibility has for the first time endorsed North Port City Commission candidates.

But what is Control Growth Now?

Sarasota lawyer Dan Lobeck, specializing in condo law and homeowner association clients and fighting development for more than 30 years, is president of the nonprofit. Lobeck, whose law firm is Lobeck & Hanson, is regularly picked as one of Sarasota County’s most influential people. He has argued that locals want environmental protections and restrained growth.

Lobeck explained Control Growth Now’s role and its endorsement process for Sun Newspaper readers.

‘Our nonpartisan activism’

“Control Growth Now has for over 31 years advocated for integrity and independent thought in local government and for balancing the influence of developers to responsibly protect our neighborhoods, environment and traffic mobility, as well as to protect the taxpayers by making growth pay its own way.

“Our nonpartisan activism includes all of Sarasota County, including the cities. What the county commission does affects everyone both outside the cities and within. And what the city commissions of Sarasota, Venice and North Port do affects those who live elsewhere.”

Who calls the shots?

“North Port in particular has a history of undue control by developers, to the detriment of public interests. Even the way General Development (Corp.) laid out the city did not serve the people who bought homes in North Port, with no commercial areas, workplaces or hospitals to serve the residents, inadequate infrastructure and disregard for environmental preservation.

“Since then improvements have, of course, been made, including the mixed use provided in West Villages (now Wellen Park). However, developers still have all too often called the shots to the detriment of others.

“For example, impact fees in North Port have remained far below what is needed for growth to pay its own way, to build the roads and other public facilities needed to serve that growth. That shifts the costs of growth onto the backs of the taxpaying public, causing tax hikes and the diversion of funds from the needs of current residents and businesses.”

Eco-friendly?

“A constant struggle has been required by North Port citizens to protect the natural environment, including land preservation and the regulation of tree destruction by developers. Neighborhood compatibility policies in the city’s Comprehensive Plan are not what they should be. Additional work is needed to provide compatible retail opportunities and workplaces for residents, as well as medical services, to balance out the overwhelming, increasing residential development in the city.”

Election selections

“Control Growth Now endorses in local elections. We have done so in the two Sarasota County Commission elections that include North Port voters this November, and this year for the first time in elections for North Port City Commission. We seek candidates who support our values, maintain transparency and honest communication with their constituents and who are not bankrolled by development interests. As Ross Perot said, ‘Follow the money.’ Developers invest thousands in politicians and reap much more in return, and they wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work.

“Our group has a board of directors from throughout the county, including Victor Dobrin of North Port (board member with the West Villages Improvement District). We are a membership organization, with only $20 a year membership dues. You can join through our website or by mail and participate in our events and information.

“Our first (and hopefully last) pandemic annual meeting was just conducted by Zoom and can be viewed on our website (controlgrowthnow.org), including comments by most of our endorsed candidates, as well as our list of endorsements. Together we can do better to protect and advance our quality of life.”

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