© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sarasota County's approval to develop in a rural area draws environmental concerns

Map of Lakewood Ranch Southeast
Sarasota County
/
Courtesy
Lakewood Ranch Southeast would be built alongside the existing Lakewood Ranch community

Opponents say Lakewood Ranch Southeast would create urban sprawl and overload two-lane roads while one commissioner said "we want to protect our environment."

Sarasota County commissioners voted Tuesday to allow a change that could mean 5,000 homes would arise in the county's northeast corner.

But many residents believe it would alter the area's rural nature.

Commissioners voted unanimously to change the county's long-range master growth plan. It extends the urban boundary into 4,000 acres of ranches and farms between Fruitville Road and University Parkway.

About a dozen speakers opposed what is being called Lakewood Ranch Southeast. They said it would create urban sprawl and overload two-lane roads.

Robin Williams is a retired environmental science teacher who lives in the area.

"We have overdevelopment. We are paving over areas and making surfaces that should be absorbing moisture having more runoff," Williams told commissioners. "The traffic in this area is unbelievable. It was never designed for this level of traffic."

But commissioners said having a planned community would be better than individual lots that are built independently.

Commissioner Ron Cutsinger said at least one-third of the property would be set aside as green space.

"So we're not paving over paradise at all," Cutsinger said. "We want to protect our environment. We want to maintain our beautiful pristine Florida, and we've demonstrated that by what we've done."

Now, Lakewood Ranch has to request various areas of the property to be rezoned.

The change to the the county's 2050 master growth plan creates this new “Village Transition Zone.” It will allow more homes to be built on the property than were previously permitted.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.