SARASOTA, FLORIDA, August, 23, 2013 – Sarasota County is set to launch “a pilot program” wherein it will sell the transfer development rights (TDR) for 635 homes off the county’s Deer Prairie Creek property, Sarasota Bay Real Estate reports. This move is designed to encourage developers who need such TDRs to get the viable densities they need in creating communities east of Interstate 75 which is covered by the Sarasota 2050 Development Plan.
This I-75 area is zoned under the 2050 development plan for one home per a minimum of five acres. More homes can be built per acre if the developers transfer development rights off to other private land which the county would rather preserve as greenways. Those developers who don’t have enough TDRs in their properties can buy from other landowners.
For self-contained communities
The county’s recent move comes on the heels of its commissioners’ decision this May to reopen the 2050 Sarasota plan to possible revisions in response to clamor from developers. Crafted more than a decade ago, the plan which took two years and $2 million to complete was ostensibly aimed at creating self-contained villages east of the Interstate and at protecting the county against urban sprawl.
Specifically, the plan covers the properties of Lakewood Ranch south of University Parkway, parcels owned by Palmer Ranch and other landholders, and Hi-Hat Ranch off State Road 72. It also allows scaled-down village versions between Venice, North Port, and Englewood, and lands close to the Old Miakka area.
Developers’ issues raised
Developers, however, claim that the 2050 Sarasota plan is restrictive with its numerous rules setting the community’s layout. What they want, for instance, is more flexibility on the size of buffers around community perimeters that shield the neighborhoods’ visibility from main roads. Another objection is on the plan’s requirement for a commercial district to be designed as a village center. The developers prefer that such retail core and neighborhood hub be located near the communities’ periphery in order to attract outside customers.
The developers, who also rue about the plan’s rules on housing types and density limitations, maintain that the Sarasota 2050 has stalled their projects. Notably, the only development that has taken off under the plan was the Grand Palm project of Neal Communities in Venice which is programmed for 1,999 homes.
Expect long debates
The county commission’s planning staff is now looking on the developers’ concerns and proposed revisions are expected to be submitted within two months. A protracted debate can be expected in the series of hearings that the commission will conduct on the proposals, Sarasota Bay Real Estate says. While the developers are firm on their stand that the plan needs revisions, opposition to changes in Sarasota 2050 is as strong, the full service realty firm noted.
The revisions sought by developers have been rebutted point by point in a joint position paper by several citizen organizations. Binding themselves as “public interest advocates,” this opposition consists not only of community groups under the Council of Neighborhood Associations. Also included among them are the Sarasota Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Control Growth Now, ManaSota-88, Sarasota County Public Interest Coalition, and Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.