Warm Mineral Springs: Will North Port allow “High Intensity” development near the archaeologically important sinkhole?

Warm Mineral Springs
Warm Mineral Springs screenshot from YouTube video by Curt Bowen.

Warm Mineral Springs. It’s a small but important body of water in the southern Sarasota County city of North Port. On Tuesday Cafe, we interviewed experts on its history, archaeology, hydrology, caves and biology. And other guests spoke about a proposal by the City of North Port for development near Warm Mineral Springs.

Formed 12,000 years ago

Warm Mineral Springs was formed more than 12,000 years ago as a sinkhole in the middle of a much wider Florida when sea levels were much lower. The greenish body of water is now 240 feet across and more than 200 feet deep.

It’s considered a third-magnitude spring with 6-9 cubic feet per second of warm water flowing out from the bottom.

Warm mineral waters

Because the water comes from the Upper Floridan aquifer (1,400 to 1,600 feet below the ground), it is saline and about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and contains a number of minerals. The spring run connects to Salt Creek which flows into the Myakka River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

The warm waters of the spring run sometimes attract manatees in the winter.

A USGS report on Warm Mineral Springs by Patty Metz says the water level during the Late Pleistocene was about 100 feet below the modern spring pool surface (based on plant material and radiometric dating of human remains).

More intense development near Warm Mineral Springs?

The City of North Port is considering a public-private partnership (P3 or PPP) to restore three historic buildings and develop property near the spring. It has been considering four different development options that were presented in April. See below for the documents.

The presentation describes “Option 4” as “High Intensity” and lists one of the disadvantages as “Increases Level of Public Opposition.”

Under advantages, it lists “Increases Private Interest in P3,” and “Provides Maximum Economic Benefit (Ad Velorem $688K)”

That option separates the property into 21.7 acres of “Park Area” and 55.9 acres of “Future Development Area.”

A less intensive option was favored by one City Commissioner, Debbie McDowell.

The one called Option 2 “Eliminates Public Opposition,” “Prohibits P3 Resort Development” and “Does NOT Maximize Economic Benefit to City,” according to the presentation.

McDowell told WMNF keeping Warm Mineral Springs less developed would be more of a draw than a hotel and condos. “It’s not just the resort, it’s not just the residential component, it’s everything that’s associated with that. The roads that get in the parking lot the area for trash pickup, the stormwater removal. It creates more concrete on land that could generate far more economic benefit,” she said.

“If you left it as a park, How many people go to New York City to go to a resort? How many people go to New York City because they want to see Central Park?” McDowell asked.

The City of North Port has an online survey about Warm Mineral Springs

There’s a conceptual site plan from a company ensite that puts forward one example of what the development would look like. There are three multifamily residential buildings called “destination residential.” There’s a “Resort Hotel & Spa” a wellness center, an event space and performance venue, Native American History Museum, an Organic restaurant with an outdoor deck plus some community gardens listed in the development plan.

Did North Port’s city manager lobby the Florida Legislature to reject Warm Mineral Springs as an Outstanding Spring?

There was a proposal in the Florida Legislature to add WMS to a list of outstanding Florida springs.

But a document from a public records request by City Watch North Port Florida shows that the North Port city manager “determined it would be best to pause the pursuit of the designation as an Outstanding Spring” because of concerns about the impact on a Public Private Partnership and on future development in other areas of the city.

Commissioner McDowell called for an inquiry into the conduct of North Port’s city manager, Jerome Fletcher. There will be a meeting about this on June 6.

Listen to the show here (you can watch the show below)

On Tuesday Café, we spoke about Warm Mineral Springs with these guests:

Curt Bowen is a master photographer and video producer and has photographed Warm Mineral Springs while SCUBA diving. Some of his underwater videos can be seen below.

Patty Metz is a hydrogeologist and wrote a major analysis of Warm Mineral Springs for the USGS in 2016. Patty is a also substitute music dj at WMNF.

Steve Koski shared his knowledge about the historical, archaeological, and paleontological significance of Warm Mineral Springs. In the past he was an assistant underwater archaeologist for the Florida State University-administered Warm Mineral Springs Archaeological Research Project; and he was a resident underwater archaeologist, land manager and former research associate at the University of Miami-owned Little Salt Spring Research Facility. Steve is now the Sarasota County Archaeologist with Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources and an administrator of Sarasota County’s Historic Preservation ordinance. Even though that’s the case, Steve does not have jurisdiction in North Port, which has its own preservation ordinance, which establishes procedures to “preserve and protect all significant historic and archaeological sites as they become known, located within the city of North Port.”

Debbie McDowell is a North Port City Commissioner.

Stephanie Gibson is a North Port resident and part of City Watch North Port Florida.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly on WMNF beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen live on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on wmnf.org or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

You can watch Tuesday Café on the TBAE Network on Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

You can listen anytime on demand on wmnf.org or by subscribing to the Tuesday Café podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

https://open.spotify.com/show/311qfxLFcO8F7ZvnjgZogD – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

Watch the show on Warm Mineral Springs here:

Below are some underwater videos of Warm Mineral Springs provided by Curt Bowen:

This interview was shared by a listener of Tuesday Cafe:

Here are some documents related to Warm Mineral Springs from WMNF News on Scribd

Warm Mineral Springs Enclave development proposal:
Warm Mineral Springs “talking points” document from the City of North Port:
City of North Port, Florida staff presentation on Warm Mineral Springs 4/10/2023:
USGS report on Warm Mineral Springs from 2016 by Patty Metz:

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