Tuesday, July 24, 2018

UPDATE: Four housing tracts will overrun east Sarasota County without a public long range plan

Updated as of July 24, 2018:

If you live in Sarasota east of the Interstate, or if you like to experience the country roads of rural Florida, prepare for the shock of large-scale development. Several super-sized housing tracts are coming to East Sarasota. Four projects alone will add nearly 28,000 housing units on 20,705 acres.

Major developable swaths of east Sarasota County are either already underway or set to be approved before the inevitable next crash in the Sunshine State's housing cycle.

Sarasota County Map of developments to the East of I-75, north of Palmer Boulevard 

One of the four largest, Lakewood Ranch (LWR), ranks #5 among the "fastest growing suburbs in the US":

Sprawl: Fastest burbs in the US: LWR = #5

The four largest are Waterside at Lakewood Ranch (Rex Jensen), Hi Hat (Turner), LT Ranch (Turner) and Grand Lakes (Pat Neal). Stretching from University down to 681 near Venice in East Sarasota, these ambitious projects will replace East Sarasota's rural ranchlands and open space with huge tracts of housing.

And more gated housing projects are coming, including Lindvest, Lakepark Estates, Worthington, Palmer Place, Sylvan Lea, Hidden Creek, Rivo Lakes and more.

While quickly granting concessions to private developers, Sarasota County's elected Board displays no evident awareness of its civic responsibility to gauge cumulative impacts, nor, as the public steward of the land, to integrate these impacts within a larger vision of intrinsic tradition and commitment to public uses. One looks in vain for a discussion of bringing greenways or waterways into alignment to create walking paths, wildlife corridors, kayakable sloughs and riding trails that could offer the people of Sarasota public recreation North to South, and East to West.

During a public discussion of a County proposal to reduce open space requirements for developers, one resident put it this way: "If we make changes like this, it changes the character of Sarasota County that was the reason many of us came here."

Here's a brief overview of the four largest developments that are either underway or whose plans have received approval:

Rex Jensen's Waterside at Lakewood Ranch
It’s the first project coming to fruition in Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s Waterside at Lakewood Ranch, a 5,144-home, 5,500-acre development in Sarasota County set around a series of seven large lakes left over from SMR’s aggregate mining operations. 
The Waterside project generally runs from Interstate 75 to east of Lorraine Road and between University Parkway and Fruitville Road. It is located south of the Sarasota Polo Club and the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park.


"Waterside" will add 5,144 units, 5,500 acres


Turner Family: Hi Hat Ranch 

Stretching from Fruitville Road to Clark Road, this 10,000-acre mega-development of a former ranch will add an estimated 12,000 homes. 

Hearing July 11, 9 a.m. County Commission Chambers.

UPDATE: Board Action: Hi Hat Petition Approved July 11.

Add: 12,000 units, 10,000 acres


Turner Family: LT Ranch

This former ranch is approved and underway. It will start with 3,450 units and grow to some 9,344 units stretching from Clark Road down to 681.
LT Ranch
". . . the 1,725-acre property owned by the Turner family will break ground in the “2050 South Village” mixed-use development plan for the largely rural stretch leading out to the Myakka River State Park. 
"The massive project includes up to 3,450 residential units throughout the neighborhoods, up to 300,000 square feet of commercial space at the corner of Clark Road and Bee Ridge Extension, and a host of environmental and road improvements throughout the area, according to the plans." Herald Tribune 11.9.2016

UPDATE: Apparently this wasn't "massive" enough, because the Sarasota County Board in 2014 deviated from the Comp Plan to allow a more ambitious development:
Property owners planning to add a village on 4,672 acres near Clark Road and Interstate 75 got a lot more leeway Wednesday on how and when they build. 
County commissioners decided to amend the county’s 2050 growth plan to allow the owners, 3H Ranch LLC and LT Partners LLLP, to create 9,344 homes on the land, roughly 5,500 to 6,300 more than the guidelines permit. Herald Tribune 3.5.2014

Add: 9,344 units, 4,672 acres


West of LT Ranch, Pat Neal's "Grand Lakes" proposes to put 1,000 homes on 533 acres south of Clark Road at Ibis. The number of Pat Neal dwellings all told in Sarasota County will soon approach 10,000 units.

Hearing continued to July 11, 1:30 pm at Commission Chambers.

UPDATE: Board Action: Neal's Grand Lakes approved despite one-road access* was approved. The action raised a potential public safety issue for this giant cul de sac -- an issue acknowledged, but not addressed, by the Commissioners. Neighbors are considering options for an appeal, and say the Board ruling could open the way to sprawl across East Sarasota County.

See also the Letter to the Editor titled "Something is suspicious in Neal project approval":
All of the 300 current homeowners on Ibis were confined to their property earlier this year when a fire closed the road for hours. Now the county approves 1,100 additional homes, nearly a 400 percent increase, without fixing the egress issue on a dead-end street.
Grand Lakes
Add: 1,000 units, 533 acres


If all these tracts are approved as planned, they'll add more than 27,600 units to 20,705 acres of a rural area sparsely connected by two-lane country roads, which has no commercial, park or recreational areas. More are on the drawing boards -- including the 450-acre Lindvest tract at Fruitville and Dog Kennel Road, with 900 units. Changes to the 2050 Comprehensive Plan have helped Lindvest progress. Is Sarasota County going to answer these private developments with a balancing vision of public uses -- open spaces, trails, adequate roads and and recreational areas available to all? 

Here's a December 2017 Sarasota County map of developments between Fruitville Road and University Parkway:

Developments in NE Sarasota County: Source: Sarasota County

It's time to ask our elected officials: What are you thinking? Are you even thinking? What is this Board, as our representative, doing in response to this appetite for rampant growth? 

Here, for example, is a map of East County, with athletic fields open to the public. For those living east of the highway, one must drive 9-10 miles to the west or south.

Will our elected commissioners address the need for public planning and adjust impact fees to prepare for the coming demand for roads, trails, amenities, commerce, arts and recreation, or will they abdicate responsible governance, do nothing, and have us all go hang?

*Sarasota News Leader story made available through kind permission of the publisher.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Don't forget the 2,400 acres west of 75 accessible through the proposed Bay Street extension, which taxpayers are expected to pay for. http://www.parktrace.com/bay-street-extension/

  3. How will this affect our roads and water table?

    1. Gee, let's say there will be more traffic and more folks demanding potable water (and more grass demanding any kind of water).

      Or, was that a rhetorical question?

  4. Patricia, that's a reasonable question for county staff. For water, you might also reach out to Becky Ayech, who is an expert on water and lives in East Sarasota County.

    1. Well, what are we doing about it? Strange how we have lawn watering restrictions, but they can still keep building toilets!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Too much growth around here. I'm following the rest and moving out of here. The growth, the red tide, the congested roads. See ya!

  6. Both the Hi Hat and LT ranch ar not “former ranches!” Both are very active cattle ranches...the Hi Hat having been under continuous ownership for 80 years. How many of you folks commenting been here that long? And how many have been “great stewards” of your property for as many years?

    1. How many of you have “contributed” to our growth but complain about others wanting to build and live here too. Somewhat hypocritical I think unless you were born here! Dan? Where were you born? So you contributed to our growth. For shame.

    2. Stevie, there's a difference between the framework of the Comp Plan and a proactive effort to look at the cumulative impacts of 27,000+ homes, extrapolate the needs that that population will bring, and make long range provisions to meet those needs. As of now, the county claims it can't afford to hold on to 30 acres of public land for community purposes, but says they must be sold to developers to make up a budget shortfall. Clearly growth is not paying for itself, yet nothing other than selling small parcels of public land is being considered to address that obvious fact.

  7. One more...the county spend thousands of hours developing the 2050 plan...this headline about no public plan is wrong and deceiving.

    1. These developments are not in the scope of 2050. They are an overlay. Very little planning by the county went into them.

  8. I am with Anonymous. My house is also going to be on the market. The traffic that will be using Hummingbird Ave/Hawkins to avoid delays turning down Ibis to go to that new development across from Seranoa is going to be bad. The locals speed down the street now as it is. It takes now up to 10 minutes to get a clear spot to pull out onto Clark because DOT won't put in a traffic light to make it safer - DOT thinks a roundabout further east will slow traffic down. The lady is right...water situation is going to be dodgy at best and building on an old EPA-style dump site? Look at the trouble with the Foxfire development building on contaminated land. How stupid can the people of Sarasota be by not VOTING for growth controls.

  9. The 2050 plan has been corrupted to the point that it really is no longer a plan. It's merely a way for the county to pretend to be regulating growth, while enabling any player to get around constraints. A simple example: The Comp plan used to use "shall" when outlining requirements to be met by developers. Most of the "shalls" are now "shoulds" - force of ordinance is gone.