Enclave at Bee Ridge Park of Commerce proposed by Canadian company
A proposed new development with 270 dwelling units, a two-story clubhouse and three single-story commercial buildings, which would be built east of Interstate 75 and north of Bee Ridge Road, has won the unanimous endorsement of the Sarasota Planning Commission.
Among the new homes in three, five-story multi-family structures would be a number of the 750-square-foot dwellings that the County Commission has approved in an effort to promote affordable housing communities, Brian Lichterman, president of Vision Planning & Design in Sarasota, told the planning commissioners on June 17.
The total site, which comprises 26.05 acres, is west of Mauna Loa Boulevard, he added. To the south of the property is the 1,600-home community of Lake Sarasota.
The development is called Enclave at Bee Ridge Park of Commerce. The county staff report on the proposal explained that the northeast quadrant of I-75 and Bee Ridge Road is designated a Major Employment Center “and is generally referred to as Bee Ridge Park of Commerce. This area has developed through numerous [county] Comprehensive Plan amendments, rezones, and critical area plans.”
The Enclave’s developer is Larry Krauss, president and CEO of Terracap BR Partners LP, Lichterman pointed out during the public hearing. The company has owned the property since March 2012, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office’s records, The Sarasota News Leader learned.
Terracap held four informal meetings with members of the Lake Sarasota Homeowners Association, Lichterman said, in an effort to assure the residents of that community that Terracap would be a good neighbor.
“They’re a very topnotch company,” Lichterman noted of Terracap, adding that the management is “very experienced” in creating “high-end properties” in both Canada, where the company is based, and in the United States.
“We believe that, based upon the safeguards and the high standards that we’re proposing, that the proposed infill development will be a compatible use on this property as well as a compatible use with the nearby residents,” Lichterman told the planning commissioners.
Tom Matrullo, a resident of Lake Sarasota, was the only member of the public to address the Planning Commission during its June 17 hearing. The homeowners, he said, became acquainted with Terracap in 2013. “I’ve come to have a lot of respect for them,” Matrullo added of Terracap’s leaders.
He would leave it to the planning commissioners, Matrullo continued, to decide whether the intensity of the plans is right for the location.
One issue he did want to raise, Matrullo said, regards Mauna Loa Boulevard, which he called Lake Sarasota’s “central neighborhood artery road.” It connects Bee Ridge Road to Proctor Road, he pointed out. “It is already a pretty busy road, particularly during school hours.”
Following the construction of the Enclave at Bee Ridge Park of Commerce, Matrullo noted, Mauna Loa Boulevard likely would see increased traffic, as Proctor Road residents would use Mauna Loa to reach the businesses in the new development.
Matrullo suggested that traffic calming devices might be appropriate on Mauna Loa, if the County Commission ultimately approves the project.
(No date had been set for the County Commission hearing as of this writing, based on county Planning and Development Services documents.)
Already, Matrullo told the Planning Commission, people drive large trucks at high speeds on Mauna Loa. “It becomes a little dangerous at times.”
Lichterman noted that traffic-calming requests go to the county’s Traffic Advisory Council, which makes its recommendations for final action by the County Commission. “But we would certainly be happy” to support an effort to win approval for traffic-calming measures on Mauna Loa Boulevard, Lichterman said.
The area north of Bee Ridge Road “is a completely closed system,” he pointed out. A rehabilitation hospital, a manufacturing facility “that produces high-quality medical devices,” a six-story Hilton hotel, an apartment complex and a RaceTrac service station (located at 6601 Bee Ridge Road) also are in the immediate area, he explained. “This is already an excellent example of a true mixed-use development” that has grown, he said, as a combination of a Major Employment Center (MEC) and medium-density residential uses.
During his presentation, Lichterman noted that the Enclave would be “wrapped around” an existing wetlands area to the north. Approximately 40% of the site would remain open space, he said.
Therefore, most of the traffic will be flowing within the development, he indicated. “I don’t think that there’s going to be a tremendous increase in traffic,” he added, based on the study the project team had conducted. Lichterman added that the study found, for example, that only six extra vehicles would be headed south from the Enclave during the peak afternoon drive time.
Lichterman also pointed out during his presentation that the tenants of the commercial structures had not been determined as of that time.
As for other infrastructure to serve the development: He noted, “There’s more than adequate water and sewer available.” Further, the site is part of a master stormwater management system, he said.
A summary and board comments
Formally, Lichterman explained, the proposal for the Planning Commission’s consideration that evening encompassed three facets: a small-scale Comprehensive Plan amendment to change the designation of 8.94 acres of the property from Commercial Center to Major Employment Center; a petition to rezone 13.86 acres from Planned Commerce Development (PCD) and Commercial, Neighborhood (CN) to a PCD with amended stipulations; and a Special Exception petition so Terracap could exceed the 5% limitation of gross land area devoted to retail sales and services, restaurants, and vehicle sales and services in a PCD zoning district within an MEC, plus the 10% limitation on gross land devoted to all commercial uses in a PCD zoning district within an MEC.
In making the motion to recommend that the County Commission approve the project, Planning Commissioner Laura Benson said, “I like the compactness of this,” even though the project represents an increase in residential capacity in the specific area. “It does maintain so much of the natural element,” she added.
Referencing Matrullo’s comments, Benson continued, “Traffic calming is important,” even if that is not part of the Planning Commission’s purview. She added that she felt collaboration between Terracap and the Lake Sarasota Homeowners Association would be necessary for such an initiative to prove successful.
“Lake Sarasota is a very strong family neighborhood,” she added, “and people do use that road quite a bit.”
“Other than that,” Benson said, “I think this is certainly nailing the head of mixed-use development in a compact fashion with a good neighbor for a developer.”
Planning Commissioner Andrew Stultz seconded the motion, voicing agreement with Benson’s comments and noting the proximity of the development to I-75. “Residents and patrons of the commercial establishments, he added, will “not [be] traveling miles and miles and miles down Bee Ridge Road to connect to the north/south corridors.”
Planning Commissioner Kevin Cooper did ask for a bit of clarification about the 750-square-foot units planned for the development, as he did not see them shown on any of the documents submitted to the board.
“The project qualifies for 223 dwelling units,” Lichterman replied. Including the smaller homes within the residential buildings allowed the team to increase the total number of units to 270, Lichterman added.
When the County Commission approved what staff termed “half dwelling units,” commissioners pointed out that including such homes in a project would allow for doubled residential density.
Lichterman also told the Planning Commission that the project team had worked with the Lake Sarasota Homeowners Association on updating restrictive covenants and agreements already in place for the Bee Ridge Park of Commerce.
However, Matrullo of Lake Sarasota raised one concern: Would music or other entertainment be allowed outside the commercial buildings on the south side of the development, facing Bee Ridge Road?
Planning Commissioner Benson asked county Planner Josh Law, “Is the limitation on outdoor music restrictive within the zoning code or does it require a stipulation?”
The provisions for property zoned Planned Commerce Development do not allow outdoor entertainment, Law told her. Moreover, he said, a Special Exception would have to be granted for music indoors after 10 p.m.
Planning Commissioner Neil Rainford asked whether that restriction would apply to the RaceTrac business, as well.
Law said it would.
Then Planning Commissioner Cooper asked Law, “Has Mauna Loa or Lago [Street] or Hand [Road] ever been looked at for traffic calming?”
Law responded that he was not certain. However, he said he would check with the county’s Transportation Planning staff before the County Commission hearing on the project took place.
In response to a question about the potential future extension of Mauna Loa, Lichterman of Vision Planning & Design told Planning Commission Chair Colin Pember that the county’s Future Land Use Maps showed that Mauna Loa ultimately could be extended to the north, though he was uncertain that that would ever happen.
Lichterman then reiterated Terracap’s plans to work with Lake Sarasota residents. The company, Lichterman stressed, wants “to be a good neighbor.”