Legislators to vote on LWR’s green funding

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is seeking state approval to finance certain kinds of green technology, much as it would be for roads or other infrastructure, for its 23,000-acre stewardship district at Lakewood Ranch.

The Manatee Legislative delegation is set to vote this morning on the local bill, which also would slightly adjust the boundaries of the super-sized district.

The delegation is expected to approve the bill before introducing it during the regular session, said Cheryl Ennis, chief legislative aide to Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

Covering SMR’s remaining undeveloped property, the stewardship district is similar to Lakewood Ranch’s smaller community districts, developed on 4,350 acres in Manatee County.

The super district, approved by the state legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Jeb Bush several years ago, straddles the Manatee-Sarasota county line.

In the lead-up to the legislative session, Rex Jensen, president and chief executive officer of SMR, presented the proposed bill to members of the Sarasota and Manatee legislative delegations during public hearings in December.

One example of green technology that could be incorporated into the super district is alternative energy.

“For all I know, there is an energy-saving technology that is on the cusp of being cost-effective, but if you share it between several buildings, it could clearly be cost effective,” Jensen said.

Lakewood Ranch is the state’s largest master-planned community to receive green certification from the Florida Green Building Council.

In addition to requiring that green-friendly building materials be used in residences, the developer has discussed allowing only electric-powered cars in some neighborhoods, established miles of trails and a gopher tortoise preserve, and restored Long Swamp.

Development districts have the power to borrow money, issue tax-free bonds and award contracts for future development.

“Any changes that we might wish to make to it, whether it be a physical boundary change or a change in powers has to run through a lot of hands,” Jensen said, of the two county commissions and two legislative delegations affected.

An advantage of placing the remaining SMR property into one large stewardship district is that it allows the 23,000 acres to be developed comprehensively, rather than being divided into multiple community districts, which would be more costly.

The Manatee County Legislative Delegation meets at 8 a.m. at the Senate Office Building in Tallahassee to vote on the local bill.

Members of the delegation include senators Bennett, Nancy Detert, Arthenia Joyner, and representatives Ron Reagan, Bill Galvano, Keith Fitzgerald and Darryl Ervin Rouson.