Fruitville 210's work pays off with addition of street lights and sidewalks.
It has been 11 years of community meetings and conversations, 11 years of meeting with Sarasota County staff and 11 years of patience.
After a vote at the June 21 Sarasota County Commission meeting, communities north of Fruitville Road are getting what they desired in terms of street lights and sidewalks.
Sarasota County commissioners approved a $990,681 contract with Frederick Derr and Co. to complete sidewalks and install LED street lights the entire length of both 17th Street and Richardson Road in the communities. The project will start in July.
Sarasota resident John Krotec helped bring his friends and neighbors together into a group called the Fruitville 210 Community Alliance, uniting smaller residential communities along the Fruitville 210 Exit of Interstate 75, to give them all a stronger voice.
“There is strength in numbers. One neighborhood with 20 homes isn’t as strong as 10 neighborhoods with 20 homes,” said Krotec, the first chairman of the group.
The group’s original fight began in 2005 when a department store initiated plans to build in Krotec’s neighborhood, between Richardson Road and 17th Street. By banning together, attending meetings and staying informed, Fruitville 210 was able to stop that effort.
Following that victory, the group asked the county to make improvements to Richardson Road and 17th Street. The two-lane roads with no bike lanes weren’t built for high volume traffic. Both streets have gained traffic as the 210 exit area has developed.
The county agreed to do it, but couldn’t accomplish the project before the recession in 2007. Sidewalks and street lights had to take a step back with the county budget.
Gary Heffner, Fruitville 210’s current chairman, said the group started meeting again with the county in 2012 to get the sidewalks constructed.
“If you ban together and do it civilly, you can make it happen,” Krotec said. “The stance we took wasn’t one of defiance, it was one of collaboration.”
Krotec and Heffner, along with other members of the group, worked with the Neighborhood Services department to communicate their needs for the community. They also enrolled in the county’s Civics 101 class, which educates residents about their local government operations and its processes.
“It’s encouraging for the neighbors to see, if you keep at it, you can get things funded by the county and make the neighborhoods nicer,” Heffner said.
Getting the road improvements won’t dissolve Fruitville 210. Krotec said the group plans to stay involved in issues affecting its area and keep an open mind.
“We all have a seat at the table,” he said.