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Polo Club, Waterside residents concerned about possible rezoning on Lorraine Road

Sarasota County seeks to allow light industrial and office uses on Lorraine Road corridors.

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Polo Club and Waterside at Lakewood Ranch residents are worried the makeup of their peaceful, rural area is about to be challenged as the county explores a zoning change for the Lorraine Road corridor.

In an Aug. 30 meeting, Sarasota County commissioners will decide whether to send a county-initiated amendment to designate Lorraine Road from University Parkway to Fruitville Road and Lorraine Road from Clark Road to State Road 681 as a Business Corridor overlay. Such an amendment would allow office space, light industrial and some business and service uses along Lorraine Road.

On April 26, the Sarasota County Commission adopted a new Business Park zoning district. The intention was to provide economic development and employment opportunities by allowing light industrial, office space and limited business and service uses in areas not previously zoned for such uses. Four original corridors — Fruitville Road east of Interstate 75, Bee Ridge Road east of I-75, the S.R. 681 and I-75 interchange and South River Road — were created.

Property owners with a minimum of 10 acres and access from an adjacent arterial roadway could request a zoning change that would allow them to host the above uses.  

On May 24, the two Lorraine Road corridors were added as potential Business Park Corridors.

Although virtual public workshops have been held, those living along Lorraine Road have received no written notice of the amendments.

"It's almost like Sarasota County is trying to do this in secret," said Polo Club resident Tim Hornung, who has been trying to notify all his neighbors about the significance of the Aug. 30 meeting.

Although on July 21 the Sarasota County Planning Commission voted 6-1 not to recommend such a change for Lorraine Road, the possibility still exists that Sarasota County commissioners could send the zoning change to the state for review, then vote in favor of it during a meeting in October.

Sarasota County Planner Steve Kirk stressed that even if commissioners approved such a change in zoning for the two Lorraine Road corridors, land owners would then have to request a rezone from the commission and another process to approve the project would begin.

That doesn't appease those who are afraid their rural lifestyle will be disrupted.

"Total shock is the best description about how I feel about this," Hornung said. "I have lived in this area for 10 years and I mainly am worried about traffic and safety (if the zoning is changed to allow light industrial and office space). "We are going to have trucks coming in and out and that draws more people. This is going to bring traffic and pollution."

He also is worried that semi trucks will use "jake" brakes or air brakes that are tremendously loud. Many of the polo club residents own and ride horses and Hornung is worried that sound will scare the horses and "throw you on the ground."

Hornung said he is emailing his neighbors and friends to get them to tell commissioners how they feel, and to attend the Aug. 30 meeting.

"Everything out here is a residential community," he said. "People are blown away."

Kirk said the action of adding the Lorraine corridors as a Business Corridor overlay doesn't qualify as the type of action where everyone in the vicinity would be contacted about the meetings.

"We provide different types of notice," Kirk said. "Some of those (notice) requirements come from the state. We did advertise all the hearings in the newspaper. Most Comprehensive Plan amendments are directly related to specific properties. This is not. This does not identify any specific properties."

Kirk said it is impossible at this point to identify who would be directly affected. He said the Lorraine Road corridor is identified by the roadway, not by depth (of property). A property owner who has a minimum 10-acre parcel and direct access to the roadway can ask for a rezone for office and light industrial uses.

Sarasota's Chris Bales is hoping the Lorraine Road corridors can remain rural, and beautiful.

"Traffic is the No. 1 concern," she said. "Then incompatibility. Residential homes could be 50 feet from a business park right off their property line. Then you think of the environment, and these diesel trucks. Putting this next to residential communities? There is no rhyme or reason. Think about clean air, and safety, and impervious surfaces. And you can't buffer out the noise."

Like Hornung, Bales said she is shocked that Lorraine Road has the potential of turning into a hodgepodge of business parks.

"And those semi trailers that will be coming into these residential areas don't go well with bicycles and pedestrians," he said. "You are going to uglify Lorraine Road, which was built as a beautiful road. The citizens deserve a nice, open thoroughfare. They are trying to throw the planning book out the window. Everyone needs to email their commissioners. Lorraine Road should not be a strip corridor."

While Sarasota County's pitch for the move involves the creation of more jobs, Bales objects. She said Sarasota currently has a glut of available jobs it can't fill.

The Polo Club's Jeremy Whatmough is among the concerned residents.

"We don't want warehouse usage in the middle of residential neighborhoods," he said. "This is not good planning. Hopefully we can prevail as we did with the Planning Commission, but it's been hard to get the word out.

"We have enough commercial areas already. You look across the street (from the Polo Club), you've got a bank, Aldi's, CVS, perhaps medical buildings. We don't need anymore cars, light industrial, strip malls, restaurants. Of course, I worry about the wildlife, which has been here for centuries."

Kirk offered some potentially good news for those who live on the northern stretch of Lorraine Road between Fruitville Road and University Parkway. He said Schroeder-Manatee Ranch owns about 75% of the land on the east side of Lorraine Road from University Parkway south. Kirk said SMR CEO and President Rex Jensen is on record with Sarasota County saying he is against any kind of rezone.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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