Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lake Sarasota's Fantasy Beginnings

Lake Sarasota began as Sunshine Springs and Gardens, a kind of fairie world complete with water-skiing aqua-belles and aqua-beaux, and, yes, an aqua-elephant. There were swan boats, exotic plants, arching bridges, water-curtains and picnics. Here's a slide-show from that time, with thanks to Laura Blackman (better known to many as Laura Mathis), the former president of the Lake Sarasota Community Group:

More about the attraction from the 50's and "Florida's largest man-made lake" here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Update on Signs and Meetings

Several Lake Sarasota residents met with county road managers and zoning and real estate specialists Tuesday to discuss the design, placement, costs, and maintenance of new Mauna Loa entrance signs.

The meeting was preliminary. In outline, Lake Sarasota folks indicated that the community would be agreeable to the removal of old walls and signage at Westminster and possibly at Wake (the wall there is apparently on a private easement), if some signage can be placed either at the Aberdeen Roundabout, or at the eastern end of Lake Sarasota to inform drivers coming from the East that they within the precincts of the Lake Sarasota community.

Those present from the County agreed in principal to pay for a monument-style sign at Mauna Loa and Bee Ridge Road, so long as Lake Sarasota assumes responsibility for maintenance of it, and to explore what kind of signage might be suitable, and where, for those approaching from the East.

Details all remain to be worked out as the planning for the widening of Bee Ridge reaches the final stages. We might wish to consider what sort of design will meet the ends of:
1. Style (stone, wrought iron, etc.)
2. Ease of Maintenance (i.e., little or no vegetation)
3. Protective curbing - (to keep the sign free of damage from cars, etc.)
Lake Sarasota reps shared images of signs that the community seems to feel would be worth considering. We noted that currently the preference is for a sign something like this:

The county folks agreed to do some research, look at costs and see what's possible. They indicated they'll come back with options, and said they would agree to meet either with representatives, or to come to a general meeting if people so wished.

Lake Sarasota also noted concerns about the super-sized RaceTrac and proposal to expand commercial development opposite the Mauna Loa entrance. Depending on what sort of approvals the developers receive, we noted that we might wish to look for richer buffering on our side of the road to screen noise, glare, etc.

At the time we meet to choose a sign design, it might also be appropriate to look at plans for the buffering along Lake Sarasota on Bee Ridge. The road managers said any vegetation along Bee Ridge would have its own drip irrigation. They also indicated a desire to vary the sorts of fencing or buffer, rather than have long monotonous stretches of the same thing.

No meetings are scheduled at this time. When the county road managers are ready to discuss signs and landscaping in detail, it will be announced via email and the blog.

We have had no further word regarding a "Neighborhood Workshop" about the Terracap proposal to expand commerce at Bee Ridge and North Mauna Loa. As soon as we hear anything, we'll be posting it and emailing. To get on the email list, send a note to

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Styles of Entrance Signs

A few sample entrance signs found via a Google search:

A - Overlook

B - Covered Bridge

C - Fields

D - Highgate

E - Brownsboro

There's no assurance any of these will be affordable, feasible, or what we want. But if you did want to express a preference, the poll to the upper right will afford that opportunity for a few days.


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

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.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Neighborhood Meeting to Address Front Entrance, Development, SCAT

The upcoming Lake Sarasota neighborhood meeting this Thursday, Dec. 13, is set to discuss these items:

  • The style of entrance we'd like after Bee Ridge Road is widened.
  • A possible expansion of SCAT routes through the neighorhood
  • A recent proposal to make the real estate development directly opposite our entrance on Bee Ridge Road larger and more intense.

On this last item, I attended the development review meeting this past Thursday about enlarging the commercial development. Here's a very brief recap:

TERRACAP’s Proposed Rezoning

A private group of Canadian investors (Terracap, a Canadian group that bought the land from Horton in 2011) is now asking the county to expand their original agreement, which was made in 1997, and which allowed for four (4) acres of commercial space on the Bee Ridge Park of Commerce (zoned PCD), opposite the front entrance to Lake Sarasota at Mauna Loa and Bee Ridge.They wish to rezone it to Commercial Neighborhood (CN) and develop a full  ten (10) acres.

They don't seem to have lined up commitments other than from RaceTrac, but are talking about a drug store, 100,000 square feet of retail/residential, the quite large RaceTrac gas station (more on that here), and two restaurants, and wish to alter access to enable cars to enter the restaurant area from Bee Ridge Road.

Here's an image of the site they propose to rezone to "Commercial Neighborhood":

Terracap Site Mauna Loa & Bee Ridge

Note that their plan does not include all the developable sites on the full Park of Commerce -- other adjacent parcels are already approved for a bank and for other uses, including a hotel.

County planners said the CN designation comes with a ceiling of 90,000 square feet. Terracap is seeking substantially more.

One consideration for Lake S residents is that all this traffic will have no Northern outlet - it will all have to flow in from Bee Ridge and back out onto Bee Ridge through North Mauna Loa, which will considerably impact traffic at that intersection. There could be pressure to extend North Mauna Loa to connect to Palmer Rd on the north end - which could also pose serious issues for our neighborhood - something to discuss.

The developer is required to hold a "Neighborhood Workshop" at which the developers will show their plans to the community. Some will recall we’ve been to previous meetings for other proposals for this property which never came to fruition. This workshop could come at any time, and word is they want to do it relatively soon.


The Terracap development and the traffic it generates are likely to impact the entrance intersection and quality of life for all 1,600 homes in Lake Sarasota, but only those homes within 750 feet of the site will be notified by mail. The County has promised to notify us by email as soon as they have word about the workshop, and I will let you know as soon as I know.

At the Lake Sarasota meeting, we'll need to look at the proposal and find some shared community sense of how we feel about it, and consider options. So if you can, please come to our Dec. 13th meeting. If you can't, please share your thoughts with the Board or reply to this email.

The Lake Sarasota Community Group Board:
Sandy Allen

Ellie Himes

Tisha Farrington

Lewin Edwards

Lake Sarasota Media
The Lake Sarasota meeting is Thursday Dec. 13 at 7 pm at Sarasota Alliance Church - 7221 Bee Ridge Rd., in the office space behind the church, which is directly opposite Chaucer.

Note that Lake Sarasota Community Group (LSCG) is a volunteer organization - no dues, assessments, or deed restrictions. Some history here. Please share your thoughts. That's what the meeting is for.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Speculators buying up homes for rentals

According to one of our resident real estate folks, this group of speculators has purchased the home at the entrance of Lake Sarasota - on the right on Mauna Loa as one is exiting Lake Sarasota onto Bee Ridge:

The Blackstone Group and its partners have bought another 39 rental homes in Sarasota and Manatee counties. (Shutterstock photo)
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.
During the past three weeks, the Blackstone Group and its partners have bought another 39 rental homes in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The company and its subsidiaries paid $3.5 million, or an average of $117,300 per house, for 31 houses in Sarasota. Blackstone and its partners paid another $1.65 million, or an average of $207,000 per house, for eight properties in Manatee, records show.
That brings the total number of houses purchased in the two counties by Blackstone and its partners to 76 since the beginning of October.
All the buying has been done through THR Florida LLC, a subsidiary of a Dallas-based apartment rental management company Riverstone Residential Group, records show.
People who have talked to principals at Riverstone said buying was about to start in Charlotte County, too.
So far no sales have turned up in the court records, at least not through THR Florida LLC.
All the deals in this region are part of an $80 million buying spree in 11 Florida counties.
Brokers who have worked with the company say that Blackstone wants to "a couple hundred" homes in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
Blackstone -- the world's largest real estate private equity firm, managing $54 billion -- intends to convert the single-family homes it acquires into income-producing rentals, then reportedly package them into real estate investment trusts to sell to investors.
The New York company is frustrating some Realtors who have been seeking additional inventory or who have been competing with Blackstone for distressed properties that are being auctioned.
Blackstone's sudden presence in Southwest Florida represents the latest in a bullish push nationwide into real estate of all kinds. For years now, market observers have wondered when the so-called "smart money" would move into a region battered by the Great Recession. The downturn pushed properties of nearly every variety down as much as 50 percent in value.