Lakewood Ranch debates proposed memorial

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Questions about a proposed memorial that would built around a 12-foot, 4,000-pound box beam from Tower One of the World Trade Center helped officials decide they shouldn’t rush to a decision.

Gene Sweeney, a Lakewood Ranch resident, presented the proposal to supervisors for Community Development District 2, which holds the mortgage on the property at Town Hall.

But before the supervisors would consider making a decision on the request, they wanted to share monument details with supervisors from each of the other districts.

The monument would be dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to American service members who have fallen in battle.

Sweeney proposed the monument be located in an oval in front of Town Hall, where an American flag currently flies.

But there was concern that could be a dangerous location because of the traffic that flows around the oval.

Another suggestion was to locate the memorial on one side of Town Hall.

Sweeney said the monument would be built with contributions and corporate support, and would not require any tax money. It would be maintained in perpetuity through annual fundraising with proceeds going into a nonprofit corporation.

Robert Stepleman, district chairman, asked that a complete packet be sent to Community Manager Bob Fernandez and that the other districts be allowed to weigh in for district meetings in May.

Galen Griffin, a 10-year resident of Lakewood Ranch, and a Vietnam War veteran, said that while it pained him to come out against the memorial, he didn’t think it belonged in Lakewood Ranch. Memorials are more appropriate and fitting in locations where the terrorist attacks occurred, he said.

Gill Ruderman, a retired Army colonel, said he shared Griffin’s concern. He also said that he didn’t agree with the idea of a joint memorial to 911 victims and fallen members of the military from all wars.

“There are good reasons no other town has a joint memorial,” Ruderman said.

Steve Valley, an East Manatee resident who served in Iraq, said after the meeting that he also opposes the memorial as planned. Valley said he would honor the sacrifice of Americans in the military, and those who died in the terrorist attacks of 911, but not with the same monument.

Stepleman said an alternative to the Town Hall location could be property near the Lakewood Ranch Post Office that developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has offered.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.