Last Modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.
SARASOTA COUNTY - 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.
“Twenty-fifty doesn’t work for us as it was meant to,” said Jim Turner, one of the property owners. The characteristics of the land referred to as the Clark Road Properties make it tough to meet the density requirements, he said.
The 2050 plan was created more than a decade ago to prevent urban sprawl, preserve the environment and foster “smart growth,” characterized by mixed-use, walkable villages. But developers have told commissioners that it is too restrictive and inhibits growth. The county is making numerous changes to the plan, and some of the allowances granted to the Clark Road Properties — like flexibility on where it places the villages’ commercial center and the timing and processing of the development — could soon be available for all developers.
Under the 2050 plan, the county can allow developers to build more dense communities if they transfer development rights, preserving open space elsewhere.
The Clark Road Properties owners asked not to go through that process. They said their land makes it difficult to build densely, and they would have to obtain an unreasonably expensive number of the development rights.
They also asked to reduce the amount of open space they were required to maintain on the property from 50 percent to 33 percent.
Instead, they offered to improve Cow Pen Slough, which runs through the property. In November, Turner told commissioners that the property has been in his family for generations and they also want to see it well preserved.
“Sometimes you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole,” Commissioner Christine Robinson said, and the rules of 2050 are not flexible enough to apply to all properties.
Four of the five commissioners supported the amendment; Nora Patterson voted against it.
“I guess I feel like this is a really serious departure from the intent of 2050,” Patterson said.
Before the county agreed to the landowners’ requests, they had to send the proposed amendment to numerous agencies for their review.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and several other organizations said the proposed changes would not negatively impact state or regional resources and facilities.
The Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, however, opposed the change.
In a letter to commissioners, CONA president and county commission candidate Lourdes Ramirez stated that if the developers are allowed to build more densely without transferring development rights their property is no longer part of the 2050 plan — it is an overlay district.
It should be subject to further public and legal scrutiny, Ramirez wrote.
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