Lakewood Ranch panel seeks meeting with Rex Jensen on former visitor center

Kyanne Merrill, director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, was packing up her office Monday in the old Summerfield visitor information center, 6310 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

Once Community Activities moves into new office space in Lakewood Ranch Main Street, the Summerfield building will be vacant and its future uncertain.

That uncertainty is what prompted Community Activities to move, during the slower summer months, Merrill said.

Tuesday, members of a frustrated ad hoc committee which has been studying whether to acquire the building for more than a year, asked Town Hall Executive Director Anne Ross to meet with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO Rex Jensen.

They asked Ross to find out what it would cost to buy the building with its broad wooden front porch, Lakewood Ranch’s original town hall building. In essence, if SMR won’t donate the building -- and Jensen has already said he can’t do that -- what’s the cost of the building? The cheaper the better.

Members of the ad hoc committee, all supervisors from Lakewood Ranch community development districts, report that the sentiment on their boards is to walk away if the price tag is too high.

Nancy Johnson, a member of CDD 4, which serves the Greenbrook area, seemed to be most opposed to buying the building, arguing that it could be an expensive proposition, considering that the facility has only 13 parking spots.

“This is a big commitment. If they give it to us, give it to us free,” Johnson said.

Michael Finney, a supervisor from District 2, which serves Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, said he sees enough promise in the building, including as a safe place for children, as club meeting space, or a shared recreational facility with the county, that its cost should be investigated.

“The cost will determine whether we can do it,” Finney said.

But there will be some hard headwinds for the ad hoc board to overcome.

Janey Bruyer, a representative from District 6, serving Country Club West, said her board has no interest in the building. Tom Leavey, a representative from District 5, serving Country Club North, said he senses a strong negative feeling from his board about the possible purchase.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1