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New luxury apartments could be coming to Lakewood Ranch. One element has officials worried

A national apartment complex developer has found a foothold in Manatee County.

Picerne Real Estate Group, a company that owns and operates more than 25,000 apartment units in 22 states, came before the Planning Commission on Thursday to request approval of a new project in Lakewood Ranch.

The complex would house 254 units in the development just east of Lorraine Road along State Road 70.

Oasis at Sarasota, a similar Picerne project, opened in 2018 along U.S. 301 and University Parkway.

In Lakewood Ranch, the Board of County Commissioners approved a general development plan with flexibility to either allow for commercial use or an apartment complex with 220 units.

The increased number of units didn’t seem to be much of an issue for planning commissioners but their proposal to build out less parking than the county mandates was harder to swallow.

Darenda Marvin, a land planner on the development, said Picerne requested a ratio of 1.8 parking spots per unit, instead of the 2.1 that the county typically requires. The company went with a lower number based on their experience with the optimal amount of parking based on some of their other properties, said Picerne Development Manager Bill Shallcross.

“We’re extremely sensitive to parking,” Shallcross said in an interview following Picerne’s proposal. “I lived in Carlton Arms and it was under-parked. When you come home and you can’t find a parking space, you won’t tolerate that for very long.”

The land development sits in the watershed, according to county staff, and the suggestion was given so that the developer could reduce impervious surface area, Marvin said.

Ultimately, any potential issue with parking would be for renters and the property managers to deal with, Commissioner Paul Rutledge said, noting that if parking is an issue at the complex, residents won’t be likely to renew their leases.

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“It’s your money. You’re a smart guy, but even your presentation tells me that maybe the 1.8 (spaces per unit) is a little conservative,” Rutledge told Shallcross.

Planners with Manatee County staff were also confident that the parking ratio would be sufficient, citing the percentage of spaces used at other sites with similar parking guidelines. Marvin, however, agreed to conduct a separate parking study to present to the Board of County Commissioners at a later date.

“Generally, I would say good luck with your estimate, and I hope you’ve got it and if not, you’re going to feel it in your re-rentals or they may come back at a later date and ask for more parking,” Commissioner Bill Conerly said.

According to Shallcross, none of the sites in Brandon, Tampa or Orlando exceed 90 percent utilization and finding a place to park hasn’t been an issue for residents there. Picerne’s Oasis apartments also offer rentable garages to guarantee residents a spot to keep their car.

County Commissioners will have the final say on whether the parking reduction is allowed, but Shallcross hopes to begin construction of the complex by early June and begin leasing the first apartments in summer 2020.

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