Will Sarasota County Commissioners Let Lakewood Ranch Developers Kill Rural Life and Agriculture in the County?

SARASOTA — On August 31st, the all-Republican Sarasota County Commission will weigh whether to let the owners and developers of the 33,000-acre Lakewood Ranch development in Sarasota and Manatee counties pave over 4,000 more acres in Sarasota’s rural east.

Longtime developer Pat Neal and SMR Communities, the parent company of Lakewood Ranch, seek to build 5,000 large homes on postage-stamp lots in gated subdivisions. This is not allowed under the county’s comprehensive plan, so they are asking the commissioners to grant an amendment that would be specific to this area. Neal is well-known as one of the largest local donors to Republican campaigns. If the commissioners approve this request, they will:

  • gravely threaten the Old Miakka Community, the last rural heritage area in the county;
  • signal the beginning of the end for agriculture in Sarasota County, at a time when the need and demand for local food is rising;
  • increase automobile trips on Fruitville Road, a hurricane evacuation route, by more than 45,000 daily;
  • leave taxpayers with huge unfunded infrastructure needs; and
  • increase the density of the area by nearly 600 per cent, which is clearly incompatible with the rural character of the community.

All of this is inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and must be rejected. The Sarasota County Democratic Party endorses the good fight of the community activists to “Keep the Country Country,” save Old Miakka, and protect and promote agriculture in Sarasota County.

Please join “Keep the Country Country” on Aug. 31, 9 a.m., in the Commission chambers at the County Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. Fill out a speaker’s card and let your opposition be known! Be sure to sign a yellow postcard outside the chambers requesting denial. For more details and to register, go to https://www.mobilize.us/sarasotacountydec/event/497378/. For more background, see https://keepthecountry.org

JoAnne DeVries, Chair
Sarasota County Democratic Party