Sarasota city residents are growing more concerned about the future of unincorporated areas of the county east of Interstate 75.
The interest stems from potential changes to the county’s Sarasota 2050 policy, which manages the long-term development of county land. The policy, formally implemented in 2004, has failed to lead to significant development, and the county has expressed an interest in making adjustments to encourage new projects using the plan’s guidelines.
Part of the plan calls for the development of neighborhoods built around a mixed-use village center east of I-75, with the majority of housing located within a quarter-mile of the village center to promote walkability.
Potential changes include dropping the requirement that the village center be centrally located within a village, allowing for greater flexibility in defining walkability and re-examining how to determine if developments are fiscally neutral.
Lourdes Ramirez and Cathy Antunes, members of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, have been making presentations to city neighborhoods about those possible adjustments. They fear the potential changes could lead to sprawl — an effect the 2050 plan was enacted to prevent — and draw developers away from the city.
One of the groups that received a presentation was the City Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. CCNA Chairman Bob Easterle said those concerns were largely shared by many of the group’s members after the presentation.
City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell echoed those concerns at a Sept. 16 meeting. She also said she wanted to keep the original intent of the 2050 plan — creating sustainable, walkable New Urbanist communities while avoiding sprawl — at the forefront of any discussions.
The city’s concerns were brought up at Tuesday’s joint meeting of the city and county commissions. Commissioner Susan Chapman said the 2050 plan called for formalized planning alliances between the county and its municipalities.
Parsons expressed a willingness to coordinate more closely with city staff, but County Commissioners Joe Barbetta and Christine Robinson said the effort to stay in the loop should come from the city’s end.
“We’re not doing anything drastic,” Barbetta said. “We have meetings. Have your planning staff come to the meetings.”
Atwell said there shouldn’t be any effort to downplay how significant any changes to the 2050 plan might be, but was encouraged by the talks at Tuesday’s meeting. She said the city would remain active in future discussions about changes to the 2050 plan.
“We really need to be smart about how we tweak it,” Atwell said. “We need to think about how it affects all the municipalities that pay taxes into the county.”
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