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Citizens Challenge Expansion of Lakewood Ranch into Rural Sarasota County

SARASOTA – Two longtime residents of Bern Creek Ranches in rural northeast Sarasota County have filed an administrative challenge on a recent Sarasota County Commission approval of a comprehensive plan amendment for Lakewood Ranch Southeast that would bring intense development to a rural part of the county.

Mike Hutchinson and Eileen Fitzgerald filed a petition for an Administrative Hearing against Sarasota County on Nov. 28, 2022. Hutchinson and Fitzgerald were among many residents concerned about bringing that kind of "urban sprawl" to an area that currently provides agricultural, wildlife, wetlands, floodplain, and other benefits to the entire county.

In late October, Sarasota Commissioners ignored the opposition and unanimously passed the amendment, which creates a new designation in the county’s 20-year-old 2050 plan. The designation of "village transition zone" will be applied to Lakewood Ranch Southeast.

The development would see around 5,000 units built on about 4,100 acres in a rural area just south of Manatee County. The residents are concerned that additional vehicle trips generated by this development will overload roadways like Fruitville Road and University Boulevard, which are already experiencing intense congestion.

Hutchinson and Fitzgerald say the development, as proposed, is incompatible with existing nearby rural homestead development, including Bern Creek Ranches, and that it will damage the quality of life and rural lifestyle for existing and future residents.

The administrative challenge asserts that the comprehensive plan amendment will result in prohibited urban sprawl development, is inconsistent with state law, is internally inconsistent, and is inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.

Representing the petitioners are Richard Grosso, Esq. of Richard Grosso, P.A., Robert Hartsell, Esq. and Shai Ozery, Esq. with Robert N. Hartsell, P.A., with Charles Gauthier, FAICP, as a planning expert.
Keep the Country, Inc., a not-for-profit organization formed to preserve and protect the rural areas of northern Sarasota County, is providing funding support for the challenge. For more information, go to SarasotaCountry.net.


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