They decide new development plan veers too far away from original plan
Although Sarasota County Commissioners praised the work Benderson Development has done in the area, they voted 5-0 on Wednesday to deny a petition to amend the Fruitville Initiative.
Benderson had asked the county to allow for bigger blocks and lots in a 42-acre parcel, purchased from the county, that is south of Fruitville and East of Coburn roads. That would have allowed the construction of two large light industrial buildings that would have housed 176 loading docks.
The loading docks seemed to cause the most concern of those who made public comments in council chambers on Wednesday.
"Is this an area people will walk to use, or will they be fighting tractor-trailer traffic?" asked Commissioner Charles Hines.
Todd Mathes, the director of development for Benderson Deveelopment, said, "This is not going to be a truck stop.
"We are not proposing a change in the use (of the land). What was adopted doesn't exactly work. This plan is consistent with what was intended for the Fruitville Initiative."
Mathes said Benderson had gone "above and beyond" in designing main and primary streets in the parcel that would be user-friendly to the general public. He said the idea of the construction of the two larger buildings was to bring new business into the community and create jobs. "There will be people in these buildings who, hopefully, will live nearby," Mathes said.
About 30 people spoke in front of the commissioners and almost all were against the amendment.
John Krotec, who worked with the Fruitville Community Alliance group, was passionate, as were most of the speakers.
"We wanted a safe and walkable neighborhood," he said. "This is supposed to be the main gateway into our beautiful community. That vision is being compromised. If (the commissioners) approved this, it would be disrespectful of the citizens' process."
One Sarasota resident said the result of the proposed changes would be a "truck depot."
Another called the original plan "brilliant" and urged commissioners not to allow Benderson to veer away.
Even in denying the amendment, Commissioner Paul Caragiulo scolded some of those who portrayed Benderson as some kind of enemy.
"This is not the same community that I moved into," Caragiulo said. "There are more people coming and we all are going to have to deal with the new normal."
Hines added, "Thank goodness Benderson has done what it has done. They have risked their capital and brought us their knowledge."