The Sarasota County Planning Commission approved a rezone request for a current development plan 6 to 1 after a color-coded public input session.
The Commission Chamber was divided Thursday night: opponents of the request wore green shirts and sat on the left side of the room, and supporters sat on the right, wearing blue.
Over 30 green shirts represented the Forest Lakes Village Condominium Association at the meeting, and more than 20 in blue represented the Forest Lakes Country Club Estates.
The Forest Lakes Golf Course at Beneva and Webber roads has ceased to be a functioning golf course, but an approved development plan in 2005 would reopen the course and develop 189 multi-family dwelling units in the southeastern section of the old course.
The development was put on hold because of the recession, but is now getting back on course.
The developer, Grosvenor Square Capital, LLC, asked to amend the development plan and rezone the space. Originally there were supposed to be 189 multifamily units, which would be in the form of 55-foot multiplexes and town houses.
The request would be to rezone the area to single-family attached or paired-villa type developments, such as townhouses, which would be capped at 35 feet in height.
The developer received more than 100 letters and emails in opposition to the change from the Forest Lakes Village Condominium Association.
The Forest Lake Village residents will lose the open space overlooking the course behind their condos when the development proceeds. Many of the residents were concerned with the loss of their view, and also the cramped design of the development.
“It’s squished. Where are the tennis courts? Where will the kids play?” said John Cowan, president of the condo association. He was concerned with the lack of space dedicated to outdoor amenities.
In response to the opposition, the developer had offered to increase the buffer between the new development and the condominium from 15 feet to 30 feet.
The Forest Lakes condos were designed with the golf course in mind – the living room and kitchen areas are in the back of the unit so residents can look out the large windows onto the old course.
Current residents feel that even with the additional footage, they will be looking into their new neighbors’ windows, or at a solid fence that is also proposed to divide the properties.
“I understand (the development) is necessary to fund the golf course, and we all want the golf course,” said Pat Druggan, a 20-year resident of the Village condos.
She moved to into the condo with her elderly mother and father from Ohio. Her father had lung problems and her mother had sight problems, Druggan said. Both of them enjoyed watching the golf course and breathing the open air outside their lanai, she said, and now they would lose that original draw for their property.
The association argued that the buffer couldn’t be fully landscaped, either, because of the necessity of a storm water drainage ditch in the area between the condos and new development.
The Country Club Homeowners association spoke in favor of the amendments, as it would bring the golf course alive again. Despite their numbers at the meeting, most of the member providing testimony kept their comments short with a simple statement of support.
“Forest Lakes Country Club Estates Homeowners Association has dreamed of another golf course for many years,” said Vicky Bass, association president. “This would be a dream come true.”
The rezoning request will appear before the Board of County Commissioners Wednesday, September 24.