Sunday, August 12, 2018

Grand Lakes draws two lawsuits for "promoting sprawl"

PRESS RELEASE -- August 13, 2018

Citizens’ Group Files Two Lawsuits to 
Stop Pat Neal’s Grand Lakes 2050 Village Development

Two lawsuits filed against Sarasota County on Friday, August 10, 2018, by a group of affected neighbors will likely put a 1,100 home subdivision in east Sarasota County on hold.

The Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners approved the Neal Village development, known as Grand Lakes, on July 11, 2018, in a series of 4-1 votes.  Casting the dissenting votes, Commissioner Charles Hines asked: “Where is the walkability?  Where is the compatibility?  Where is the connectivity with the larger overall village?”

The 2050 Village concept is an optional development framework that permits additional density.  This extra density is in exchange for  public benefits that guide development in the rural areas east of I-75 into compact, mixed-use, pedestrian friendly villages by protecting large areas of open space, and ensuring that supporting infrastructure is paid for by the development.

A large group of Serenoa, Serenoa Lakes and nearby large lot homeowners, along with Twin Lakes Park users, presented their objections during the public hearings leading up to the commissioners’ July decisions.

Developer Pat Neal
The citizens group says that Pat Neal’s privately initiated comprehensive plan amendment, which enabled the rezoning to proceed, violates the county’s long-range growth plan. They also say the rezoning itself violates several of the county’s zoning regulations.

The comprehensive plan amendment lawsuit requests that the State of Florida hold an administrative hearing to find that the Neal amendment is inconsistent with the other goals, objectives, and policies in the county’s comprehensive plan because eliminating the village mixed-use requirement promotes urban sprawl.

Eliminating the mixed-use requirement was previously considered in 2014 during a public initiative known as 2050 Revisited. At that time, several large landowners and developers, including Neal, proposed eliminating the mixed-use center. County staff rejected the developers’ proposal because staff’s analysis determined that, without direct access to a commercial center, a core 2050 plan principle would be violated.

Grand Lakes Map
Nothing has changed since 2014.  Nevertheless, when Neal proposed eliminating the mixed-use requirement as a privately processed amendment, the 2018 county staff reported that they had no objections and recommended approval.

The second (rezoning) lawsuit asks the Sarasota County Circuit Court to reverse the rezoning approval because the Grand Lakes application did not satisfy the protected open space and non-residential use requirements in the county’s village zoning regulations.

The petitioners’ attorney, Ralf Brookes, says the outcome could have major implications throughout the county for future 2050 village development.

The Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and 1000 Friends of Florida, Inc., a leading smart growth advocate, see the merits of the lawsuits and are providing financial support and legal assistance in the Grand Lakes challenges.

David Anderson, spokesperson for the petitioners, says, “It is a shame when citizens have to dig into their own pockets just to make sure the planning officials follow their own rules.  It is very discouraging that the commissioners ignored the merits of our arguments and approved the Grand Lakes proposals, so, our only recourse available is very costly litigation.”

For more information contact:

David Anderson, President, Serenoa Lakes,

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