Below is a Press Release expressing concerns with the Pat Neal proposal for Grand Lakes, a 1,097 unit housing project that violates core principles of 2050 planning, according to neighboring homeowners.
According to this analysis, the Neal proposal "would set aside the compact mixed-use development requirements that are intended to prevent urban sprawl east of I-75."
Coupled with these concerns is a critique of County staff review of this proposal. The homeowners, who are working with a planner and an attorney, state that
. . . the current staff report ignores the county’s previous findings that this change violates a core principle. This time around, staff doesn’t bother to analyze the proposal or say why their 2050 Revisited analysis doesn’t still apply.”If allowed to proceed under the proposed changes to the rules, the development of Grand Lakes
will promote sprawl and encourage disjointed patchwork development—exactly the things the 2050 plan is meant to discourage,” says another critic, R. N. Collins.
Part of the concern is that the relaxation of the core 2050 principles would open the way for future, large-scale developments such as 12,000-unit Hi Hat Ranch to sprawl rather than conform to contained village templates that link residential and commercial use in a constructive and meaningful manner.
The integrity of the Sarasota 2050 plan faces a two-pronged attack this week.
In addition to the proposed relaxation of village development rules at the 10,000-acre Hi Hat Ranch, the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners will consider developer Pat Neal’s proposal to eliminate a 2050 plan requirement that every village either contains a mixed-use commercial center or is directly connected to one.
According to county staff, Sarasota 2050 is based on three primary tenets that include open space and connected systems preservation, compact mixed-use development, and fiscal neutrality.
Neal’s proposed change—which would apply to all future village developments—would set aside the compact mixed-use development requirements that are intended to prevent urban sprawl east of I-75. If approved, Neal would be able to build a 1,097-unit subdivision, called Grand Lakes, on a 533-acre sod farm two miles south of Twin Lakes Park on a dead-end country road.
Eliminating the village center was considered in 2014 when the county reexamined the entire plan in a public initiative known as 2050 Revisited. A group of large landowners and developers, including Neal, proposed eliminating the mixed-use center. But the change was rejected because the county’s analysis determined that, without direct access to a commercial center, a core 2050 plan principle would be violated.
Neal is again asking for the same change, but through a privately initiated process that sidesteps the more rigorous scrutiny under a public initiative process that the proposal faced during 2050 Revisited.
Dave Anderson, a homeowner who lives near Neal’s proposed subdivision, says, “In fact, the current staff report ignores the county’s previous findings that this change violates a core principle. This time around, staff doesn’t bother to analyze the proposal or say why their 2050 Revisited analysis doesn’t still apply.”
Anderson leads a group of concerned citizens who oppose the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment and the proposed subdivision. The group says that the county is ignoring its own rules. They have engaged an expert planner and Ralf Brookes, an attorney specializing in land-use matters, to help them.
“If approved, this proposal will have far-reaching effects. It will allow developers to reap the private benefit of additional density without providing an offsetting public benefit. It will allow traditional subdivisions to be built in the village areas, and it will promote sprawl and encourage disjointed patchwork development—exactly the things the 2050 plan is meant to discourage,” says another critic, R. N. Collins.
“It is a shame when citizens have to dig into their own pockets just to make sure the planning officials follow their own rules,” Anderson laments. “It is very discouraging to know that, if the board ignores the merits of our arguments and approves these proposals, the only recourse available to the public is very costly litigation.”
The group notes that recent approvals over citizens well-reasoned objections make it appear that the board favors developer economic concerns over the public interest of orderly, long-range planning.
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