SARASOTA -- The third and final round of revisions to Sarasota County's 2050 plan for future growth were advanced to the state after a six-plus hour county commission meeting and public hearing Wednesday night.
The 2050 plan, which allows developers to build numerous high-density neighborhoods in eastern Sarasota County by the year 2050, regulates housing types and densities and relaxes restrictions for developers to build new communities. The plan operates under the concept of New Urbanism, which involves building small, walkable communities with supply homes, jobs and businesses.
The revisions will be sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity before coming back to the county commission for final approval during a meeting Oct. 22, said Allen Parsons, county planning services manager.
The amendments include:
An update to the 2050 map to reflect changes since it was created in 2002, including future land-use designations and municipal boundaries.
Properties of less than 20 acres would not be under land conservation restrictions. Developers were previously required to group smaller lots in an effort to conserve land and preserve open spaces.
Builders must prove a project they can cover infrastructure costs such as new roads and schools without using tax dollars before construc
tion begins. The county will assess fiscal neutrality when the development is 25 percent, 50 percent, 65 percent and 80 percent complete, Parsons said.
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.
Commissioner Nora Patterson, who voted against the fiscal-neutrality amendment, said Thursday the fiscal neutrality methodology has yet to be clearly written.
"None of this is constructed yet. There are no regulations and we were asked to just approve going to one phase of development," she said.
Patterson said once policies are clearly communicated she may support the amendment.
"The way the plan reads currently ... the county has the ability to stop development so that makes it very hard (for builders) -- especially at this time when banks are somewhat leery of approving big developments -- makes it hard to get financing for developers even if they are self-financed," she said.
Other commissioners could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The amendments also include:
A 15-year wait between the building of villages could be eliminated.
All villages would 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 to do so.
The 4,000-foot separation requirement between hamlets, or individual neighborhoods, and their focal points is eliminated.
Multiple hamlets within a single master development plan could be within 100 feet of each other so the remaining open space can be used for agricultural or other uses.
Patterson voted against this revision, arguing the hamlets will become too congested and there will not be enough infrastructure to support residents moving in.
"You can essentially have a several-thousand unit development practically in DeSoto County and that's going to be 'touch to serve' and that's not what I call a relatively small development," she said.
Greenbelts could be included in the definition of "open space." A developer building a hamlet must leave 60 percent of the parcel for open space.
Before the October meeting, Parsons said the county will better define fiscal neutrality.
"There's going to be more staff work related to fiscal neutrality and defining how that is going to work," he said. "Most of our work will take place around that particular item."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.