The proposed development would bring 232 multifamily units for residents age 55 and older.
Sarasota County’s Planning Commissioners made the decision to move ahead with a 232-unit development at the intersection of Palmer Ranch Parkway and Honore Avenue despite the objections of neighbors.
The 11-acre parcel is on the northwest corner of the intersection, adjacent to Brookdale Palmer Ranch. The proposal features one four-story building, two three-story buildings, a clubhouse and a parking garage.
To make the development possible, the planning commission had to approve three changes: a revision in the Future Land Use Map from commercial to high density residential, a land use designation change from commercial to residential and a change in the zoning.
Carlos Gonzalez, a county development services staff member, said that although the parcel would be turned into a residential area, it would not negatively impact the 1 million square feet of commercial and office use within a 2-mile radius of the parcel.
The proposed revisions also allow the developers to increase the density from nine to 13 units per acre up to 25 units per acre, which worried some commissioners.
Commissioner Laura Benson worried the height of some buildings near a main road would be uncharacteristic for the Palmer Ranch area. She mentioned that recent Palmer Ranch projects, such as Sage at Palmer Ranch, were all three stories or fewer.
“I’m not sure I can justify a four-story building,” Benson said.
Additionally, although it was originally advertised as an age-restricted complex, the plans submitted to the commission did not stipulate that it would be for residents older than 55, so commissioners feared it would turn into another run-of-the-mill apartment complex.
“I’m not getting the sense that there’s a commitment to a stipulation of some sort about it being a 55-plus community,” Benson said. “That means it could just be any other complex in the future, and I’m not a fan of that.”
In the end, Stantec, the developers, agreed to the 55-plus stipulation.
“This site would have expanded amenities to support the wellness concept for those 55 and older,” Stantec Vice President of Community Development Jim Paulmann said. “We think this area is well suited for that because there are a number of health offices, surgery centers, diagnostic centers and memory care offices within a few miles of the site.”
Paulmann said that because the structure would be adjacent to an assisted living facility, it also would offer options for spouses and family members who need to be near loved ones.
Although the area has been largely built up, neighbors say the parcel, which is the only remaining green space nearby, should be left untouched.
John Hockenberry, a member of the Silver Oak Estates Neighborhood Association, said the green space near his neighborhood was the reason he and his wife decided to move where they did.
“The community I live in is about a mile south of this parcel, and my wife and I drive up and down Honore Avenue a dozen or more times a week,” Hockenberry said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the beauty of that stretch of Honore was the deciding factor of why we chose to live where we do, and that would go away if this is developed.”
Further, he said many of the residential communities already on Honore are built back from the road and are hidden by trees. He feared that this development, which will be built with a 50-foot landscaping buffer from Honore, would ruin the beauty of the area.
In the end, commissioners unanimously supported the project with a stipulation that it is for residents who are 55 and older.
It will now go before the board of county commissioners for final approval.