Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yet another special exception to Sarasota 2050

Developing story at the Herald Tribune:

Developer Neal gets OK to add gates at Grand Palm

Published: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.
SARASOTA COUNTY - Residents of Venice’s new Grand Palm community describe the development in idyllic terms, using words like “paradise” to describe the large lakes, preserved natural areas, walking trails, community pool and other amenities.
The property has been a hot seller for regional developer Pat Neal, who reported this week that Grand Palm’s 18 home sales last month led all of his communities.
But home buyers have not been the only ones attracted to the community: Residents say people are coming from miles around to walk their dogs, swim in the pool, use the tennis courts and let their children play on the splash pad.

Grand Palm homeowner Patty Corvino confronted one outsider at the pool recently and was swatted in the face with a rolled up towel. The situation led Corvino and others to request that Neal put up gates to keep the public out.

There was just one problem: Sarasota County’s development regulations prohibit gates in communities such as Grand Palm that are governed by the county’s 2050 growth management plan. So on Tuesday, Neal asked the County Commission for a special exception to 2050’s policy.

Gates restrict pedestrian and vehicle traffic and one of the major goals of 2050 is to make communities more walkable and interconnected so that residents don’t clog major roadways traveling from one neighborhood to another. But commissioners unanimously sided with Neal.
The vote came less than two months after county leaders approved what was supposed to be the third and final round of changes to 2050, raising questions about why the debate over gated communities was not addressed then.

Neal said after the hearing that “we don’t want to make this policy universal for Sarasota County in case there’s different circumstances” and he preferred to deal “with the particular situation in Grand Palm.”

Commissioners said Grand Palm — slated for 1,999 homes at build-out — may be a special case because it is not as large as other proposed 2050 developments and may not need as much public access or interconnection.
“I think this one was unique because it’s smaller,” commission chairman Charles Hines said.
“I think this one was unique because it’s smaller,” commission chairman Charles Hines said.
Hines emphasized that Grand Palm’s roads and amenities are being paid for through private money and will not revert to taxpayers when the development is complete. Providing the property with a special exception preserves the overall 2050 prohibition on gates so that larger developments, such as an extension of Lakewood Ranch into Sarasota County that may have more public infrastructure, will be more accessible, Hines said.
“I think the policy should stay there,” he said.
Allowing gates at Grand Palm “by no means sets a precedent in any sort of way” for other 2050 developments going forward, added Commissioner Christine Robinson.
“This is where you have theory and practical application colliding,” Robinson said. “The theory is great and it sounds fantastic. Then the practical application is making life miserable to those folks in that area.”
Residents applauded when commissioners voted to allow the gates.
Nobody spoke against the proposal.
Ed Legere bought the sixth house built in Grand Palm. He and other neighbors like the aspects of 2050 that require large amounts of open space to be preserved, but the retiree from New York said other restrictions are impractical.
The 2050 plan was adopted more than a decade ago in an attempt to open up rural areas of Sarasota County to more development while providing higher standards for new communities. Projects approved under 2050 are supposed to be walkable, preserve more open space and conform with other “new urbanist” planning ideas.
Commissioners recently completed a major overhaul of the plan that was designed to make it less onerous for developers. The debate over gated communities may be a sign that 2050 could continue to generate controversy for years to come.
“There’s a difference between a vision and how it all works out,” Legere said.
EARLIER: Just when it seemed the controversy surrounding Sarasota County's 2050 growth management plan had started to die down, developer Pat Neal is set to go before the Sarasota County Commission Tuesday with another complaint about the regulations.
The issue this time: 2050's prohibition on gated communities. A representative for Neal says the absence of gates at his Grand Palm development in Venice is resulting in trespassing, vandalism and theft and that gated communities not regulated by 2050 have an “unfair advantage” over non-gated 2050 developments.
Gated communities are more desirable and more profitable. But gates restrict pedestrian and vehicle traffic and one of the major goals of 2050 is to make communities more walkable and interconnected so that residents don't have to clog up major roadways traveling from one neighborhood to another.
The commission recently completed a major overhaul of 2050, but it looks like developers continue to have concerns about the plan and may be pushing more changes for years to come.
Check back at HeraldTribune.com for more on this developing story.

No comments:

Post a Comment