Bay Acres Avenue was due for a future extension, but now the land owner is asking the county for permission to put a trail there instead.
The Sarasota Planning Commission last week approved a plan that would pave the way for a mobility trail to connect U.S. 41 and Old Venice Road.
The disputed stretch of land was designated as a conceptual roadway on the Osprey Village Center Future Land Use Plan Map to extend Bay Acres Avenue. Now, the land owner, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice, is asking that the future roadway be removed from the map. It pledges to turn the stretch into a trail for pedestrians and bikes.
Essentially, the roadway was required in anticipation of more development in the area, after the Walmart and Bay Acres Estates development went in. But now, the diocese doesn’t plan any more substantial development and isn’t interested in paying for the construction of a new road.
“We made an agreement with a concerned citizen about putting a trail in there,” said attorney Jackson Boone, who represented the diocese. “It effectuates both concerns that we and the citizens have brought forward. It’s something that actually is a winning idea that we would carry forward.”
That concerned citizen is Darrell Nicholson, a father who lives in the area. He’s part of the Osprey Bicycle Safety Coalition, and wanted to see more connectivity in the area for students who are trying to walk to Pine View School.
Last school year, Nicholson’s son was hit by a car when he was riding his bike to school.
“I started looking at situation around school in terms of pedestrians and bicycles,” Nicholson said. “This is a good step toward fixing a problem that will help save lives.”
But the trail decision isn’t finalized. The Planning Commission only recommended the county remove the conceptual roadway from the map.
Boone maintained that his client would work with the county and Sarasota County Public Schools to get the trail done. Although it wouldn’t donate the land, the school board would help find grant funding to construct it.
Two planning commissioners voted against the removal of the conceptual roadway without firm plans for a trail.
“This is just something that seems to be emerging out of nowhere based on what may or may not happen in the near future,” Planning Commissioner Kevin Cooper said.
Other commissioners considered this the first step in putting something good on the land that would previously have been unused.
The County Commission is expected to weigh in on the change.