County’s revised ‘road-map for the future’ to undergo board review

Draft of the latest version of the Comprehensive Plan on the County Commission agenda for June 8 and June 10

The draft Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan is available on the county website. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The draft Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan is available on the county website. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During its regular meetings on June 8 and June 10, the Sarasota County Commission will hold public hearings on the elements of the latest draft of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which has been undergoing a revision since March 2015.

With the community outreach and county Planning Commission aspects of the undertaking having been completed, the County Commission will consider the changes this month with an eye toward submitting the document to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in July. The timeline then calls for the commission to address any issues raised by state staff and adopt the new Comprehensive Plan in October.

As the county’s webpage for the “Comp” Plan revision puts it, the document “ is a vision and road-map for the county’s future. It is the framework for big-picture decisions on how to grow, while preserving, restoring and improving our communities.”

During the board’s May 18 workshop, Allen Parsons, the county’s Planning Division manager, explained that the Planning Commission members reviewed sections of the draft plan during seven meetings. “They were vey detailed in going through [all the chapters],” he added.

Although the members “really felt like the plan, in some way, needs some very specific types of targets and measures,” Parsons continued, “our plan tends to be more policy-oriented.” Details are dealt with through implementation of those policies, he pointed out.

During the meetings next week, Parsons said, staff will provide a 20- to 30-minute overview of each element of the plan in what he characterized as “mini public hearings.”

On June 8, the board is scheduled to address the Environmental Systems, Quality of Life and Implementation elements; on June 10, the Land Use, Mobility, Economic Development and Public Utilities sections.

County Planning and Development Department Director Tom Polk noted that if the commission moves more quickly through the elements on the June 8 agenda, staff will be ready to address other sections that day.

Both the June 8 and the June 10 hearings will be conducted at the County Administration Center located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota. The session on June 8 will begin at 1:30 p.m.; on June 10, at 9 a.m.

A variety of changes

The Environmental Systems element has a number of revisions. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The Environmental Systems element has a number of revisions. Image courtesy Sarasota County

A Sarasota News Leader review of the Comp Plan found multiple changes, including notations about their sources. For example, in the Environmental Systems section, Policy 1.2.3 says, “Utilize the county’s regulatory authority consistent with the Code of Ordinances during permitting and compliance processes to restore damaged wetlands to their natural state.” A note at the end of that segment points out that the previous policy was numbered 2.2.4, and this section was “revised per Planning Commission Recommendation.”

Environmental Policy 2.2.4 in the existing Comp Plan says, “Utilize the County’s regulatory authority to restore damaged wetlands to their natural state.”

The following is a sampling of other changes the News Leader found:

  • Another revision in the Environmental Systems section says, “Encourage the clustering of residential developments or the implementation of other measures to first avoid, then minimize and then mitigate adverse environmental impacts, whenever areas of significant native habitats are involved.” The first word, “Encourage,” is not in the existing Comp Plan. The draft notes that the previous policy was 4.5.11, and it was “revised per public comment.”
  • A new policy in the Environmental Systems element — 1.7.5 — reads, “Incorporate efficiency strategies into the design and operation of all county owned buildings and infrastructure, reducing energy and water conservation and waste production to minimize operational costs and environmental impact.”
  • A revision of Environmental Policy 3.3.1, thanks to a Planning Commission motion, says, “Extraction of minerals or ore from the earth (excluding fill materials and shell), oil and gas exploration, and extraction activities are prohibited.”
A graphic provided in the introduction about the county features residential growth data. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic provided in the introduction about the county features residential growth data. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The current Environmental Policy 4.2.4 says, “Mining activities (as defined by County Ordinance) are not permitted or permissible under the County zoning regulations within designated areas of special environmental significance and/or sensitivity. The watersheds of Cow Pen Slough and the Myakka River, including the tributaries of the Myakka River, are designated areas of special environmental significance.”

  • In the Quality of Life element of the draft, the new Parks Policy 1.9.7, created through a Planning Commission motion, reads, “Increase the areas designated as Recreational Sports Areas on Sarasota Bay by identifying potential areas and working with other Sarasota County agencies and local municipalities, to apply for that designation with the state and/or federal agencies.”
  • In the Libraries and Government Facilities element, another Planning Commission revision modified Public Policy 1.1.2 to read, “The County shall design, construct and operate County facilities to minimize negative environmental impacts and meet carbon neutral goals by 2030, as pledged in Resolution 2006-157 by incorporating the use of resource and energy efficient materials, renewable resources, alternative energy resources, water conservation, waste reduction and pollution prevention.”
  • In the Future Land Use chapter, two sections of the introduction show changes made as a result of public comments. Those refer to ways the county will try to ensure that the distribution of land uses will meet the future needs. Among them are the following: “To encourage economic development by providing an adequate supply of land and public facilities and services to accommodate major employers and job-generating land uses; [and] To provide for development at a time when existing or planned concurrency related public facility and service capacity is or will be available.”

• Yet another change in the Future Land Use chapter current revises Policy 1.2.2 — which has become Policy 2.3.7 — as a result of public comment: “In established residential areas, incompatible land uses shall be discouraged if traffic generated on abutting local streets in amounts that would substantially and adversely affect traffic flow, traffic control and public safety.”