Sarasota GOP County Commission Ignores Miakka Residents

With their 4-0 vote Aug. 31st to approve the building of a new Lakewood Ranch-style development on more than 4,000 acres of rural land in the eastern part of the county, Sarasota’s Republican county commissioners have once again turned a blind eye and deaf ears to county taxpayers and outraged the residents of the neighboring Old Miakka community.

The development, to be built by longtime developer Patrick Neal and SMR Communities, the parent company of Lakewood Ranch, would change the rural character of the last remaining open land in the county by adding 5,000 large houses on postage-stamp-sized lots in gated subdivisions. In order to approve this high-density development, the commissioners voted to grant an amendment to Sarasota’s 2050 Comprehensive Plan, created in 2002 to prevent urban sprawl and protect historic areas like the historic Old Miakka community.

“It’s outrageous that these commissioners would pay no attention to their constituents’ concerns about the development,” said JoAnne DeVries, chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party. “It demonstrates, yet again, the arrogance and disdain for ordinary citizens that characterizes the County Commission after decades of Republican control.”

Commissioners Alan Maio, Christian Ziegler, Nancy C. Detert and Ron Cutsinger all voted to amend the comprehensive plan to accommodate the new development. Commissioner Michael A. Moran, in whose district the development would be built, did not show up for the meeting.

The four commissioners voted for the project despite receiving not a single favorable comment from residents and other experts during almost four hours of testimony beforehand. Dozens of speakers denounced the proposed development and the effective dismantling of the comprehensive plan. Only the developer spoke in favor of the project.

“These Republican commissioners have yet to find a development they don’t like,” DeVries said. “This is why Sarasota desperately needs new leadership, the kind that our Democratic candidates, Fredd Atkins and Daniel Kuether, will bring to the commission when they get elected in November.”