SARASOTA -- Sarasota County commissioners Wednesday night took a long look at the third and final round of proposed changes to the 2050 plan for future growth, which has drawn support and scrutiny from developers and residents.
The commission was scheduled to vote on the changes, but the already six-hour meeting ran late after dozens of citizens and business owners came to publicly express support and criticism.
The 2050 plan, which allows developers to build numerous high-density neighborhoods in eastern Sarasota County by 2050, regulates housing types and densities.
Critics largely take issue with the concept of fiscal neutrality for developers, who now must show they can cover the cost of new roads and schools for projects without using taxpayer dollars.
Among the changes to be voted on Wednesday was an amendment to how fiscal neutrality will proceed under the 2050 plan.
Prior to the proposed change, developers had to prove building projects would generate more revenue than costs during the building process. The county had the power to stop development if costs outweighed revenues.
Under the new amendment, builders must prove a project is fiscally neutral before construction begins. The county will assess fiscal neutrality when the development is 25 percent, 50 percent, 65 percent and 80 percent complete, said Allen Parsons, county planning services manager.
Pat Neal, president and CEO of Neal Communities, asked the commission to rethink its approval of the
changes to fiscal neutrality. Neal developed Grand Palms in Venice, the only community built so far under the 2050 plan.
"A developer is a puppet of the market. He doesn't really have control over his prices," Neal said.
Other potential amendments:
A 15-year wait between building villages could be eliminated.
Properties of less than 20 acres would not be required to abide by land conservation requirements. Developers were previously required to follow conservation rules by grouping smaller lots in an effort to conserve land and preserve open space.
All villages may no longer be required to have one mixed-use village center for retail, office and government space. However, the first development built in eastern Sarasota County's three village areas (North, Central and South), must have a village center. Villages built later will not be required.
Ray Porter, a candidate for the Sarasota County Commission, said the county is moving too fast to approve 2050 changes.
"All things that rise quickly tend to fall quickly," Porter said, citing the housing market crash in the mid-2000s. "The impacts of that crash are still felt across the nation. ...Have we not learned from our own national and local histories?"
Kerry Kirschner, executive director of the Argus Foundation, said it is "erroneous" to say the 2050 plan has been rushed.
After all, the plan has been in the works for the last 12 years.
"2050 was meant to be used, not abused with over-regulation," he said.
There will be another hearing Oct. 22 for final approval on any 2050 amendments passed at this meeting.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.