Thursday, December 13, 2012

Large turnout says "NO" to Developers


An unusually large number of Lake Sarasotans turned out Thursday evening to the quarterly Community Group meeting, and they made their feelings regarding a proposal for intensified development loud and clear: A straw vote was unanimously opposed to any enlargement of the "Park of Commerce" directly across from the main entrance to the neighborhood.

The group was also largely supportive of focusing on working with county planners to create a well-designed front entrance as Bee Ridge Road is widened. On a third topic, there was vocal opposition to expanding SCAT bus routes through Lake Sarasota, but some supported the idea. Most said they'd want to see clear evidence that buses would be needed and used by the community before agreeing to an expansion.

The meeting drew so many people that it was moved to a larger hall offered by Sarasota Alliance Church in the same building to accommodate everyone. 

The proposed enlargement of the commercial plan at the Park of Commerce site from four acres to 10 acres met with clear, unanimous opposition. That proposal was made last week by Terracap, a Canadian investment group that bought the property in 2011 and is seeking to maximize commercial use. It 's in early stages of review by the County.

But one piece of the Park of Commerce is on track to proceed, and that's the RaceTrac plan to put in one of its new 6,000-square-foot, 24-hour gas stations and convenience stores at the northeast corner of North Mauna Loa and Bee Ridge. 

“My concern is the noise and the lights," said one resident. Others spoke of loud PA systems, or blaring music - the general sense was that a less intrusive, more neighborhood-friendly service station would be preferred.

Many also spoke about traffic -- how the combined flow of cars and trucks from all the proposed commerce -- a drugstore, two restaurants, other retail stores along with the RaceTrac -- could seriously impact the quality and safety of the Bee Ridge/Mauna Loa intersection, which is the main outlet for much of the 1,600-home community.

RaceTrac could begin work on its station virtually any time, unless complications from the 10-acre rezoning petition put it on hold. For the rezoning request, a "neighborhood workshop" will be required at which time Terracap will present their plan to the communities of Bee Ridge and Lake Sarasota, and receive our comments.

A small group of residents will meet next week with Sarasota County road project managers to discuss in some detail the community's preferences for its main entrance, and for possibly having identifying signage along the neighborhood on Bee Ridge. One suggestion: have a consistent, well-designed series of signs at roads saying something like "Wake Avenue at Lake Sarasota." This would take care of the concern voiced by one resident that otherwise folks coming from East County would not know they were at Lake Sarasota until they reached the west end of it at Mauna Loa.

Another point on the signs: should we have one monument sign at the Mauna Loa entrance, or two, with one on either side of the entrance as we have now? As for the design, color, choice of font and lettering, it was suggested that perhaps an interested group could meet with the project managers to discuss these in more detail. Next Tuesday's meeting is just a first round to get some basic sense of what the likely parameters for an entrance are.

The SCAT discussion indicated that as of now, many need to see more proof that folks living in the community actually need and would use buses if the route were expanded beyond current limits.

If you couldn't make the meeting, feel free to comment below, or on Facebook, or to email your thoughts to LakeSarasota@gmail.com.

Other actions:
  • The Treasury stood at $285 at the start of the meeting.
  • November saw only 7 reported crimes - four acts of vandalism, one car theft, and three burglaries, according to Ted. Much of the activity tends to center on Middlesex, as that road offers quite direct ingress and egress to Bee Ridge, he said, adding that people need to remember to keep their garage doors and cars locked at all times.
  • The next scheduled meeting is not until March, however, in the event of important developments, the LSCG could meet earlier. This will be announced via the blog, via email, and on Facebook.

Stay tuned.

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