Lakewood Ranch Herald

On the table: 5,500-acre LWR development

MANATEE — The Sarasota Planning Council today is slated to consider plans for The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, a proposed development affecting 5,500 acres east of I-75 and south of University Parkway.

As part of the plans, developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. seeks to redesign Lakewood Ranch Boulevard from a two-lane to a four-lane roadway, county documents said.

The company also would like to eliminate some “greenbelt” buffers, designed to separate land of potentially incompatible uses, protect native habitats and wildlife, and supplement natural vegetation.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Sarasota County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd.

It has also asked to revise requirements for one “greenway” area, land crossed with river systems, floodplain, native habitats, storm surge areas and uplands that should be forever protected, according to a planning commission report.

“The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South seeks to expand the success of the existing community by clustering a wide variety of residential uses around seven large lakes adjacent to two major employment centers, Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park and the International Trade Center,” said Todd J. Pokrywa, vice president of planning for SMR, when asked what the company was attempting to accomplish in the development that calls for 5,500 residential dwellings.

The planned-unit development’s design entails a collection of neighborhoods within a quarter-mile of a local village center or focal point that offers a wide range of residential housing types, he added.

The planning commission, an advisory body, will take up the company’s proposals today and make recommendations to the Sarasota County Commission. The county commission, with the final say, is scheduled to review the issue June 9, according to Warren Richardson, public information officer for Sarasota County.

Planners recommended approval of a change that would allow the four-laning of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard from University Parkway to Richardson Road, documents said.

They also recommended approval of SMR’s request to remove the “greenbelt” requirement along the northern boundary abutting Manatee County, explaining, “There is adequate data and analysis to support this amendment.”

However, the planning staff opposed the company’s request to remove “greenbelt” requirements along the development’s southern boundary, concerned that it would adversely affect the rural character of the area.

And if such an amendment were granted, planners argued, it would set a precedent that would allow similar waivers in all other such situations.

“All future ‘Village’ development would be eligible to have Greenbelt requirements waived...” the report said.

The planning staff also urged the commission to deny a change relating to the re-mapping of a portion of the “Gum Slough” Greenway and reduction of nearby buffer areas on grounds that “the requested map amendment fails on policy consistency.”

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