New Villages planned for Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota County

Posted by Adam Robinson on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 7:16pm.

The Schroeder-Manatee Ranch property southeast of I-75 and University Parkway will soon see a very different type of housing development. Sarasota County has acquired all essential approvals to begin the construction of the Villages of Lakewood Ranch. The concept behind this so called "village" development is based upon the style of neighborhoods present before suburban life was adopted.

The Sarasota 2050 growth plan that was created several years ago describes villages as clusters of houses that preserve at least half their land as open space. Sarasota County designated the area east of I-75 as the primary properties on which to build these village style developments, instead of the traditional estate-lot subdivisions that have become very common for the area.

The SMR property is the first of these village developments, and despite a long journey of redesigns, criticism, and over $2 million spent on preparations, this enormous project has finally been approved. Construction of the 5,144-home project is set to begin in 2012, after several SMR shell mines have been converted into lakes. The project is set to have several parks, a school, and even 400,000 square feet of land for commercial use.

After arduous debate, the project was finally approved in a 4-1 vote on Wednesday. A large reason for opposition to the plan is the incredible cost that will be assumed by Sarasota County. Council members have promised that Sarasota taxpayers will not be picking up the debt. However, Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who cast the only vote of opposition, has stated that he does not understand how this project will be cost-free to taxpayers. Although the construction may be paid for, there is concern that public services extending to the village will not be covered by the developers’ and villagers’ tax dollars. An estimated $43 million dollars will be transferred to Sarasota taxpayers as a result of roadwork costs, according to Thaxton.

Although this property development is a progressive and intuitive idea, it will undoubtedly burden taxpayers in one way or another. There are public hearings scheduled for each phase of this project, at which SMR must provide financial analysis of the project. Expect to hear more about this project in months and years to come.


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