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The land for Villages of Lakewood Ranch South is located between two major employment centers. Photo by Josh Siegel
East County Wednesday, May. 14, 2014 3 years ago

Commission holds Villages' fate

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The progress of The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South has been so slow that Todd Pokrywa, vice president of strategic affairs for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, keeps a document listing key events and dates in the life of the project.

The timeline begins in December 1999, when the Urban Land Institute identified 5,500 acres of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch (SMR) property as a potential mixed-use village. It has no end date.

But soon, depending on a vote by the Sarasota County Commission, Pokrywa will have a most significant milestone to mark.

The commission will review SMR’s revised development of regional impact and county zoning ordinance at a public meeting May 21.

The amended DRI (Sarasota commissioners approved the original DRI in 2010) confirms the terms of an amended transportation agreement with Sarasota County that permits SMR to begin construction before related road improvements are completed.

Approval would allow SMR to begin design and construction on the The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, which calls for 5,144 residential units and 390,000 square feet of commercial space on a parcel surrounding the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park.

“We needed to know if we built the first house that we could build the last house,” said Pokrywa. “This is a significant investment and we needed to know with certainty. With commission approval, we would have that confidence. It’s been a long road. This is the final hurdle to commence that effort.”

SMR has said the Villages project, the first-ever village-style development approved under Sarasota’s 2050 growth-management plan, will be both a talent attractor — 40% of it will be workforce housing — and traffic fixer (as part of the project, SMR has committed to extending major north/south roadways).

Above, the East County Observer presents its own timeline events in the life of The Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, with commentary from Pokrywa.

Project highlights
• The Villages would require a 20- to 25-year build-out

• The Villages would be built around seven lakes, which are byproducts of SMR’s shell mining operations.

Twelve communities would be built around the lakes.

The project includes a proposed nature center and trail, space for an elementary school and other amenities.

December 1999 — A ULI report identifies 5,500 acres of SMR property as a potential mixed-use village.
“Through all of this, the vision of what the Villages is intended to be hasn’t changed,” Pokrywa said. “It all goes back to the character of the land. It’s between two employment centers. It has seven lakes. It allows for different development, a more dense form, that allows us to capture a market we’re not serving now, with a (maintenance-free) lock-and-leave product.”

July 10, 2002 — Sarasota commission adopts 2050 plan

April 13, 2003 — Commissioners select Villages as a test site for village-style housing under 2050.

Aug. 30, 2007 — SMR hosts a bus tour of Villages property for commissioners.

June 2009 — The board approves only three of five comprehensive plan amendments related to the project. SMR said it needed all five approved to move forward. Commissioner Carolyn Mason, who voted in the majority, requests to hear the proposal again.

July 2009 — Mason, the swing vote, changes her mind, and all five comprehensive plan amendments go to the state for approval.

April 2010 —The Sarasota Planning Commission recommends denial of the Villages’ DRI, fearing noncompliance with 2050 and that the project would put financial strain on the county.

May 2010 — The commission approves the Villages’ DRI after SMR agrees to enter a development agreement with Sarasota County that commits SMR to fund the continuation of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Lorraine Road to Fruitville Road and an east-west connector from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Lorraine Road.

* A more than three year gap of public progress ensues.

Pokrywa says that during this time SMR conducted a transportation study and worked with Sarasota County staff to agree to terms for the transportation agreement.

“It was unexpected that the process took as long as it did,” Pokrywa said.

October 2013 — The commission approves an amended transportation agreement that allows SMR to begin residential construction before roadway improvements are finished. SMR also pledges $7.5 million for a proportionate-share road project that gives Sarasota County two options: a flyover across I-75 west to Cattleman Road or the extension of Iona Road south to Bee Ridge Road.

January 2014 — SMR submits an amended DRI and county zoning ordinance codifying the transportation agreement changes and conforming to changes in the 2050 plan. SMR also provides an updated fiscal neutrality report that shows the fiscal benefit of each project phase, rather than one total, project-wide figure.

“These were updates rather than changes in the Villages’ site plan,” Pokrywa said. “The 2050 changes allow us to better react to changing market conditions.”

May 21, 2014 — Sarasota commissioners review the revised DRI and county zoning ordinance. Approval would permit SMR to begin design and construction.

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].


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