3,000 homes planned on about 2,070 acres
In early September 2021, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously to approve a Comprehensive Plan amendment to facilitate the development of Hi Hat Ranch in the eastern part of the county.
In spite of the fact that a multitude of nearby residents and property owners protested the proposal, Commissioner Ron Cutsinger said at the time, “This is the definition of long-term planning. … This is essentially how planning should take place. Urban sprawl is unplanned encroachment into rural areas.”
With their Sept. 8, 2021 vote, the commissioners approved the modification of the designation of approximately 1,258 acres located in the northeastern section of Hi Hat Ranch from “Hamlet” to “Village.” As The Sarasota News Leader pointed out, the maximum density for a Village, as governed by the county’s 2050 Plan, is five dwelling units per acre, or six, if the additional units will be sold as affordable homes. The maximum density for a Hamlet is one dwelling unit per acre.
At a minimum, 60% of a Hamlet must remain open space, the 2050 Plan zoning regulations say. For a Village, the minimum open space requirement is 50%, the County Code notes.
During the public hearing, Jim Turner, whose family owns the approximately 9,960 acres of the ranch, emphasized that the change from Hamlet to Village would allow the preservation of 5,400 acres of the property.
When the Turner family is ready for development to begin, Cutsinger explained that day to the audience members, county staff and then the county’s Planning Commission and the County Commission will consider all of the facets of the necessary rezoning petitions. The development proposals will be “very thoroughly vetted, and, yes, [the Turners] have to pay for the infrastructure,” Cutsinger stressed. “They have to pay for the roads.”
All 16 of the affected roads will be considered, he added.
That build-out of the development is anticipated to take 30 or 40 years, Turner said that day. He did not offer a timeline on when the first project might be anticipated.
Not quite two years later — on July 6 — the county’s Planning Division staff received a preliminary application from James A. Paulmann, vice president of community development for Stantec Consulting Services in Sarasota, regarding the rezoning of land for Hi Hat Village 1.
It will not be in the ranch section addressed in 2021 — though it will be affected by the Master Development Order that the County Commission also approved during that public hearing nearly two years ago. It will be “located generally south of Fruitville Road, east of Lorraine Road, and north of Clark Road,” Paulmann wrote.
The anticipated start of construction is 2025, he noted, with the build-out expected to be completed in 2034.
“The Hi Hat Village 1 property is within the Village and Greenway Resource Management Areas,” Paulmann continued.
The applicants are Pulte Home Co. LLC and Lennar Homes LLC, he noted. They are requesting the rezoning of the property from Open
Use Rural (OUR) and Open Use Estate (OUE-1) to Village Planned Development (VPD) “in order to develop 3,000 dwelling units, located within six (6) neighborhoods,” Paulmann added.
“The requested rezone will support the implementation of a Village Planned Development in an area of the County experiencing high residential demand and growth,” he continued. “The proposed Hi Hat Village 1 is compatible with adjacent existing and proposed development, including several [Village Planned Developments], parks and recreational areas, and schools and will work together to create an efficient, well-rounded area of the County.”
Bee Ridge Road will provide direct access to the development, the preliminary application says.
The total area to be rezoned is approximately 2,070 acres, the preliminary application says. The property either is vacant or used for agricultural purposes, Paulmann indicated.
Of the affected land, the document continues, about 1,929 acres is zoned OUR, with approximately 141.95 acres zoned OUE.
The greenway required by the county’s 2050 Plan regulations will encompass approximately 773.7 acres, the preliminary application says.
The requested residential density with the rezoning will be about 1.45 units per acre, the preliminary application adds. Both single-family detached and attached homes are planned, the document says.
The application line asking for the anticipated price range of the units, at market rate, shows that that information — for sale and rental purposes — is to be determined.
Further, the document says that 5% of the planned dwelling units — 150 — would be priced at or below 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) releases the AMI figures for every Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the United States. This year, the North Port Port-Sarasota-Bradenton MSA has an Area Median Income of $98,700 for a family of four, HUD reported.
Another 10% — or 300 — of the dwelling units would be priced at or below 120% of the AMI, the preliminary application adds.
Development Review Coordination comments
Preliminary applications to the county’s Planning Division staff are presented to representatives of the various county departments that handle land-use issues. Their analysis of the documents is referred to as development review coordination (DRC).
In the case of the Hi Hat Ranch proposal, which underwent a review in late July, those staff members offered a number of remarks that the project team was asked to address.
Among the comments were the following:
- Mallory Lutz, Air and Water Quality — “Many of these parcels have been used for agriculture; cattle, citrus or sod fields. Please review the requirements of Article 9, Section 124‐174(a)(1‐2) of the Unified Development Code [which contains all of the county’s land-use and zoning regulations] regarding historic uses of the site for agricultural reasons. … This project area is part of the Hi Hat Master Development Order which has a Water Quality Monitoring Program. Please provide the Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Reports. Once construction has begun the On‐going Surface Water Quality Monitoring Program shall commence.”
- Bryan Beard, Environmental Protection Division — “The formal application will need to include an environmental report prepared by an appropriate professional. The report should contain the following: “a. a complete color native habitat map based on Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System nomenclature (FLUCFCS) and overlaid on a recent aerial photograph; b. Preliminary listed species information; c. Information on how the proposed petition will be consistent with native habitat protection policies, ENV Policy 1.1.1 and ENV Policy 1.2.1 of the Comprehensive Plan.” [The plan guides growth in the county.]
Beard further noted that the Environmental Protection staff would inspect the site “for the presence of Grand Trees,” as county regulations require development applications to be “designed to protect Grand Trees.”
- Marquis Bing, representing Transportation Planning — In accord with county regulations, “each VPD rezone application shall provide a second fully functional access for each subphase, unit, or pod with 100 dwelling units or more. The VPD [has] 3,000 [proposed] dwelling units and only identifies a single access through Bee Ridge Road Extension. Please provide a 2nd fully functional access to the proposed VPD.” Further, “[P]lease provide a Transportation Plan, Access Management Plan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Network Plan, and a Transit Plan for the proposed VPD rezone.”
- Jason M. Smith, representing the Sarasota County Fire Department — “Please submit Site Development plans for the North neighborhood separately from the South neighborhood as these are two distinct builders and neighborhoods that will be on different construction schedules.” Further, multiple means of access must be provided as “[e]ach neighborhood [with more than] 600 homes shall have a minimum of 3 separate access points that connect to a major roadway (Bee Ridge Extension for Village 1).”
- Ghada Tuncaci, representing Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources — “The county has an interest in negotiating an agreement with the Master Developer” to construct a regional park on Hi Hat Ranch that would encompass about 100 acres. That “shall be discussed in connection with the first VPD rezone application.” Further, a “Parks and Recreation Plan, showing location, type and size of recreation areas, interconnectivity networks, walking radius within neighborhoods, shall be submitted by the Applicant in conjunction with each VPD rezone application within the Hi Hat Ranch property. The Parks and Recreation Plan shall describe how and when the required park acreage will be provided and shall be in compliance with the conditions described in the Master Development Order ….” The Master Developer “shall provide 64 acres of park land throughout this [first] Project Area … from the total required [approximately 297.47] acres of park land.”