- April 15, 2021
During their land use meeting Nov. 18, Manatee County commissioners unanimously approved an amendment that will allow development beyond the county’s Future Development Area Boundary line under limited circumstances.
The amendment was initially proposed in April, where it passed by a 4-3 margin for transmittal to the state. Caleb Grimes, an attorney representing LWR Communities and land owner Jay Taylor, said Lakewood Ranch is approaching its buildout but still has a lot of infrastructure that would allow future residential development.
“Frankly, it seems a shame to let that go to waste,” said Grimes, who noted the infrastructure is in place to support more development.
Commissioners had been concerned about “leapfrogging,” meaning a developer could continuously purchase smaller plots of land outside of the Future Development Boundary, which was established in 1989 and moved a handful of times over the years before it reached its current location in 2006. It is designed to limit urban sprawl and preserve agriculture as the primary land use east of the line through 2040, according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
In East County, the line is located at Bourneside Boulevard from University Parkway north to State Road 64. It veers slightly westward north of S.R. 64 until it reaches the county’s northern border.
Grimes said any development plans would be an extension of current development in the northeast corner of Lakewood Ranch.
“We're saying where we have a development in place of a suburban type nature, that's where you might want to extend."
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she supported the measure because the property is already hooked into Lakewood Ranch’s infrastructure. Moving the boundary line would have forced Manatee County to extend and pay for infrastructure to the new line.
“This amendment creates no risk to the public at large,” Commissioner Misty Servia said. “It's not going to interfere with anything else and it's not going to burn any of the other taxpayers in Manatee County. This is smart and sustainable growth and that's why I'm going to support it.”
Any future movement of the future development allowance boundary would be considered an amendment to Manatee County’s comprehensive plan. Commissioner George Kruse, who along with fellow commissioners Vanessa Baugh and James Satcher voted against the transmittal of the amendment in April, said that Thursday’s vote did not impact the line.
“This is the first step of a multi-step process,” Kruse said “There’s no shovel going into the ground yet. Somebody can come back, run through the process for a comp plan to get it changed potentially, too. There’s a couple of other steps to make sure they’re not swooping in there and putting in a five-story apartment complex or a Walmart. There’s a number of checks and balances you’d see before a shovel hits the ground. I’d be shocked if you saw a person living in a house in there 3 to 5 years from now.”
Residents in the area were strongly opposed to the expansion, with many saying they moved east to get away from development. East County resident Elizabeth Arnold brought in a petition that she said had nearly 3,000 signatures from residents against the amendment.
“Exactly how is this compatible with a rural environment,” Arnold said. “It looks like Lakewood Ranch Main Street will be heading for County Road 675 and beyond.”
Myakka City resident Kathleen Strong said she liked Lakewood Ranch but wanted to keep the development from edging eastward.
“We do not just wish to keep the country country. We wish to make the country more country,” Strong said. “I'm a country mouse. I like being 20 miles from the nearest shopping area.”
Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge borrowed a line from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz while making the motion to approve the amendment, saying the status quo is paper thin and a community is either growing or dying.
“There is very little room for the status quo in Manatee County,” he said. You have a very conservative, pro capitalism, pro free market group up here governing Manatee County. And as long as that continues, then we're going to grow. You can either be Manatee County or you can be Flint, Michigan. Those are your choices. And I would prefer to be Manatee County every time.”
Baugh, who represents the Lakewood Ranch and the Myakka City area, said that she proudly stands by the Myakka City lifestyle because it mirrors what she grew up with in Virginia. She went on to say that growth is happening everywhere in Florida and the commission has to be fair to everyone.
“Manatee County is open for business,” she said. “We're not going to have a moratorium on growth in this county. It's not going to happen. We want people to come here. We want people to open businesses. We want people to come here and be successful.”
Seconds after the unanimous vote for approval, Baugh asked Grimes and Taylor, a tomato farmer who said he has owned the land adjacent to Schroder-Manatee Ranch since the late 1980s, to work with citizens around the land before they bring back any future development plans to the commission. No plans were announced during or after the meeting.
“I think this is a wise way to give us a relief valve in certain areas, with certain specific attributes that the market is demanding,” Taylor said. “I’m here to help in any way that I can with the things that will be put in their area of the county.”