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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 6 years ago

Pinecraft residents push for overlay district

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The historic community wants to preserve what makes it unique.
by: Jack Short Staff Writer

Dave Swartzentruber first visited Pinecraft in 1964, when Beneva was a sand road that ended at the Palm Grove Mennonite Church. The community was then about 40 years old, originally established as 500 platted lots near Bahia Vista Street and Phillippi Creek.

Now, the neighborhood’s historic character coupled with modern zoning ordinances have created conflicts as Sarasota has grown. Unlicensed businesses, such as bike rentals and short-term housing rentals, are common. Additionally, many Amish and Mennonite residents travel by bike or on foot, which can be dangerous on Bahia Vista, now a five-lane collector.

County staff proposed an overlay district to address such issues at the Jan. 7 Planning Commission meeting.

“The intent is to preserve what’s unique about Pinecraft,” said Planning and Development Services Director Tom Polk.

An overlay district could allow the county to address issues like short-term rentals, bicycle rentals, home businesses and nonconforming buildings.

It will also allow the county to perform safety inspections in rented accommodations, according to Swartzentruber, a Pinecraft winter resident who is part of a steering committee charged with coordinating efforts with the county.

The steering committee is also working with the county on a mobility plan to address vehicle and pedestrian facilities, crossings and signage and possibly legalize golf carts on district roads.

Swartzentruber hopes efforts will allow Pinecraft to grow while maintaining its character.

“We want to preserve Pinecraft and don’t want to have it commercialized,” he said. “We don’t want it to be a tourist attraction. We don’t want big-box stores. We want a quaint, pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly community.”

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