When Kathleen Peters built her home in the Palmer Ranch neighborhood of Wellington Chase in 1998, nearby Honore Avenue was only a two-lane road.
Today, the section of Honore bordering Wellington Chase is four lanes, and the road has become a major north-south thoroughfare for Sarasota County. Plans are in the works to further expand the road to alleviate traffic congestion along U.S. 41.
“It doesn’t appear that the county ever factored in the noise level and air quality from all the vehicles that currently race down Honore,” wrote Peters, who is president of the Wellington Chase Homeowners Association, in a Feb. 27 email to Palmer Ranch Master Property Owners Association President Rick Barth. “Homeowners purchased lots and homes without realizing that Honore was to be expanded … or realizing that years later it would become a major thoroughfare.”
The Wellington Chase Homeowners Association wants the County Commission to fund a series of sound walls or traffic-calming roundabouts along Honore Avenue to ease the effects of increased noise and deteriorated air quality due to the road’s expansion. Wellington Chase falls within the Palmer Ranch master plan, and Barth serves as the neighborhood’s representative to the Sarasota County Commission. Barth forwarded an email from Peters, which outlines the concerns of Wellington Chase homeowners, to the County Commission March 6.
Peters said 29 Wellington Chase homes have backyards bordering Honore Avenue along the approximately half-mile stretch of the road south of the intersection with Clark Road.
“But the noise level penetrates to homes across the street,” Peters said Tuesday. “The noise level is unbearable at times. It’s becoming a very big concern for homeowners.”
Plans to expand Honore to four lanes date back to 1985, when the Palmer Ranch master development plan went before state authorities for approval.
County planners recognized the potential noise nuisance that increased traffic might create. Instead of sound walls, an earth berm, which is about 10 feet tall and topped with foliage, currently lines the half-mile section of Honore bordering Wellington Chase. The berm was constructed in 1996, prior to the widening of Honore to four lanes.
“It’s really not enough to alleviate the noise,” Peters said. “I can sit on my back patio and hear the noise — especially at night, everything echoes.”
Responding to Barth’s email, County Commissioner Nora Patterson said the request for sound walls and roundabouts was “a hard argument to win,” due to costs.
Peters acknowledged that less-costly alternatives, such as banning trucks on the road or lowering the speed limit below 45 mph, could also help with the noise.
Patterson forwarded Barth’s email with Peters’ suggestions to County Public Works Director Jim Harriott, who is currently reviewing the proposal.
“At the time of this expansion, the homeowners were advised that Honore would be used for the expanding developments in Palmer Ranch and that no truck traffic would be allowed, except for local deliveries,” Peters said. “Well, as with many things, these parameters changed ... there is constant truck traffic using Honore as an alternate route to avoid using the trail.”
Patterson said the expansion of Honore was part of the county’s larger plan to alleviate traffic congestion on U.S. 41.
“The purpose of Honore was to complete more of a north-south grid system, which has both advantages and disadvantages but certainly will help traffic flow in general,” Patterson wrote to Barth in a March 6 email.
Patterson also doubted the likelihood of a ban on trucks using the road, citing a failed proposal last year to ban trucks on the section of Honore passing by The Meadows neighborhood.
Honore Avenue stretches from Manatee County to Osprey and Nokomis. The County Commission shot down a move in the early 1990s to turn the road into a six-lane highway. Asked if the impact to abutting homeowners was overlooked in the county’s push to expand the flow of traffic on Honore, Peters responded, “Oh, of course. It wasn’t thought through the right way. I don’t know why they wouldn’t put the sound barriers all the way through.”
Patterson said the prospect of sound barriers along the entire length of Honore was not realistic. Sound barriers, she explained, are typically constructed when noise levels increase due to unexpected circumstances. The expansion of Honore, however, has always been in the Palmer Ranch plans, Patterson explained.
“It is a major artery and has been planned as such,” Patterson said. “But it is worth considering lowering the speed limit.”
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected]