Sarasota to take another run at Lakewood Ranch growth options

dgraham@bradenton.comMay 9, 2013 

SARASOTA -- Future Lakewood Ranch developments could change after Wednesday's 4-1 county commission vote to allow alterations to the Sarasota 2050 Plan and related zoning rules.

Only commissioner Nora Patterson voted against the motion to waive the scoping process amending the comprehensive plan on Sarasota 2050 Policy with a full public hearing review as required by county code.

The county planning department will now craft zoning changes and return them to the commission within 60 days followed by public hearings. Changing the comprehensive plan can take four to six months, according to planning director Tom Polk.

Public hearings will take

place at planning and county commission meetings.

Zoning changes could affect areas under development and designated for commercial land use, neighborhood developments and add flexibility for county administrators to determine specifics, Polk said.

Planned villages in the Lakewood Ranch stewardship district have already received approval from Sarasota County, and would not necessarily be subject to any changes, Polk said.

"They would have to request those changes because they are already set with the commission based on their development," Polk said. "There is availability to them."

Polk said if Sarasota County makes policy or zoning changes that favor Lakewood Ranch development not yet begun, a builder could appeal for alterations to current conditions.

"Some of those conditions may have been prescribed to them specifically, but if they are 2050 considerations, they can bring them forth," Polk said.

The Lakewood Ranch stewardship district was set up to incorporate an infrastructure that serves the Community Development Districts within its boundaries. A big part of the 2050 plan intended to make development fiscally neutral.

"The current considerations in Sarasota County about fiscal neutral development may not have much impact on those properties," Polk said.

"Sarasota has an urban service boundary that defines where it will provide services," said architect William Zoller, a Manatee County native and president of Citizens for Sensible Growth in Sarasota County.

"Many of us are here to try to preserve and maintain rurality and have wanted to hold that line on urban services. The goal was to allow development but preserve wetlands and environment, but have the county not pay for it. That's where fiscal neutrality came in."

Although his organization joined with Manasota 88, the Manatee-Sarasota Chapter of the Sierra Club and others in opposing changes to the Sarasota 2050 Plan, Zoller told the board it might as well abandon the entire comprehensive plan and go back to the existing options of 5 acres or greater single units or use conservation subdivisions.

He cited Panther Ridge in East Manatee as one example of a conservation subdivision.

"Let's say you have one unit per 5 acres and you have 1,000 acres. If you put all 200 units on 20 or 30 acres and you maintain 900 or so acres as common land, you preserve all that extra land and make it wildlife trails or whatever. Those are actually permitted under the Sarasota comp plan as it is right now. You cluster your units."

The underlying comprehensive plan did not change, he said.

"If you want to build higher densities, it's enormously valuable," Zoller said.

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 or @ tweet DeeGrahamBH.

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