East County residents protest plans for 100-home John Cannon development near Old Miakka community

Neighborhood Workshop hosts note profane-laced comments they received in writing

This graphic, included in the Neighborhood Workshop application, shows the project site in green and the surrounding road network. The numbers within the green spaces are used to identify the five parcels assembled for Hidden Hammocks. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During an April 29 Neighborhood Workshop, residents of surrounding communities emphasized their opposition to a proposal for a 100-home development in the easternmost portion of the county.

In fact, Sarasota attorney Charles D. Bailey III, of the Williams Parker firm, said that a number of the written comments he and the other project team members had received had “R-rated language or worse, which I’ve never experienced before.”

Bailey has been practicing land-use law for many years. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in September 1994.

Early on during the event, planner Kelley Klepper, a vice president of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota who also is on the project team, noted that a couple of the emails he had seen “are a little bit more of a personal nature. I don’t believe they’re appropriate, considering some of the tone. We will not allow personal attacks on the team of John Cannon Homes,” the developer of the proposed new community, Klepper added.

With Sarasota County Planner Keaton Osborn listening in on the Zoom session, Bailey said he hoped that he was not violating county policy by refraining from reading the profane comments, as more than a few, he indicated, included words that began with “s” and “f.” Nonetheless, he added, they would become part of the record turned over to the county with other materials, and the Zoom recording, of the workshop.

The workshop is a county requirement for any land-use proposal. It precedes the filing of a formal project application.

One of the workshop attendees, Jane Grandbouche, told Klepper and Bailey that she has lived in the nearby Old Miakka community for almost 40 years. “This [project] is unlike anything that has ever gone in our neighborhood. … It is almost unfathomable to me to actually look at this,” she stressed.

Among the other neighboring communities are Deer Hammock, Bern Creek, Oak Ford, Hampton Lakes and Shallow Run, as shown on a graphic presented to the workshop attendees.

Referring to the development site, Grandbouche emphasized, “It’s incredibly beautiful, native property.”

The new homes would displace more of the wildlife, she also pointed out, noting that East County residents already have seen that happening, given the development that has been taking place in that part of the county.

“I wonder why anybody would do this to this piece of property,” Grandbouche told Bailey and Klepper.

She further cited the anticipated increase in noise for the residents who long have lived in the area, and the prospect that insufficient steps will be taken to preserve the “dark skies” atmosphere that the residents appreciate.

At one point, in response to a question from resident Tom Matrullo, Klepper reported that the workshop had drawn 124 participants.

The project would be built on five parcels comprising approximately 511 acres south of Fruitville Road and south of Bel-Air Estates, according to the form that Klepper submitted to county staff to provide details about the workshop.

Two interior parcels, Klepper noted, will not be part of the community.

This graphic shows the communities neighboring the Hidden Hammocks site, which is shaded in dark blue with ‘John Cannon Homes’ imposed on the block. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Formally, Hidden Hammocks LLC, whose principal is John Cannon Homes of Sarasota — as noted by the Florida Division of Corporations — will file an application with the county Planning Division staff, seeking to rezone five parcels from Open Use Agriculture (OUA) and Open Use Rural (OUR) to Open Use Estate-1/Conservation Subdivision, which allows one dwelling unit per 5 acres, Bailey said. The plans call for no more than 100 single-family homes, with a minimum lot size of 1 acre. None of the dwellings will be priced as attainable housing, Bailey said. John Cannon Homes, he noted, is “used to building in luxury, high-end neighborhoods.” The dwellings will be sold at market rates, Bailey added.

A buffer with landscaping at least 20 feet wide will wrap around the site, he continued. Moreover, a 100-foot setback from the property’s boundary is required for the homes. At least 50% of the development will be open space, exclusive of the lots themselves, Bailey added.

Further, he pointed out, county regulations require the community design to set aside “vast swaths of native habitat that are on the site.”

Klepper explained that the project team will be required to walk the land with members of the county’s Environmental Protection and Permitting staffs, partly to identify the Grand Trees that will have to be preserved.

The primary access to the development will be Lena Lane, to the east, Bailey said. A second ingress/egress may be added through Bel-Air Estates, he added, via Joshua Drive. However, Bailey explained, that is subject to a 20-year-old agreement that says only 32 new homesites may use that access. The project team will work with leaders of Bel-Air Estates, he noted, “to see if there is something … that can be modified” in that agreement to allow residents of all 100 homes in Hidden Hammocks to use that Bel-Air Estates route.

Emergency, gated access will be provided from Murphy Road, Bailey said. Typically, only the Sarasota County Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Office would use that road to enter the community, he indicated; it is not planned as a residents’ access point.

This aerial map show Lena Lane, Rawls Road and Myakka Road. Image from Google Maps

The formal application for the Hidden Hammocks project likely will be filed with county staff in June, Bailey said.

In response to one workshop question, Klepper explained that the typical timeline for a rezoning process would find the County Commission conducting its public hearing on the proposal about 10 months after the application had been filed. Before the first public hearing is conducted — by the Planning Commission — the county’s Planning Division staff must deem the application complete.

If the project is approved, Klepper continued, it likely would take another six to nine months of work with county staff before the project team could achieve staff’s sign-off on the construction plans.

“Best case,” he said, “we’re talking 18 months before we could even start to turn any dirt.”

A ‘significant’ traffic impact

Among the first questions that Bailey and Klepper fielded during the workshop, Susan Schoettle-Gumm, a former member of the Office of the County Attorney, noted the current zoning of the property and asked what the maximum residential density could be on the land.

Bailey told her he did not know, though he acknowledged that the current OUR zoning allows one dwelling unit per 10 acres, while the OUA zoning permits one home per 160 acres.

Klepper added that the OUA zoning is on “a very small portion of the property,” in the southwest corner.

Mike Hutchinson, a Bern Creek resident, asked Bailey and Klepper how the 1-acre lots of Hidden Hammocks could be considered compatible with the neighboring communities, which have lots ranging from 5 acres to 160 acres.

This is the proposed Binding Development Concept Plan for Hidden Hammocks. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“The density is the key,” Bailey responded. “We’re making our lots smaller to accommodate the environmental systems, the wetlands and so forth [on the site],” Bailey said and then maintained that Hidden Hammocks “will be compatible with the surrounding land uses.”

Bailey also pointed out, “None of our lots will be backing up to the adjoining properties.” He was referring to the 100-foot setback and the landscape buffer.

Transportation issues factored into a number of questions. Schoettle-Gumm told Bailey and Klepper that the development would lead to a doubling of the number of vehicles on the roads in the area, “and these are very small local roads, not designed for heavy traffic.”

Another participant, Elaine Kennell, said she had lived in Old Miakka for 35 years, on Rawls Road, which is between Lena Lane and her community. “We already have people that cut through our private road that we have to maintain,” she said. “My biggest concern is traffic.”

The development likely would add 200 to 400 vehicles a day on the surrounding roads, Kennel added.

Not only will the new residents use the existing road network, Kennell pointed out, but so will people servicing pools in Hidden Hammocks, for example, as well as Amazon, UPS and FedEx drivers.

She and her neighbors like to walk on Lena Lane and Wilson Road with their children and grandchildren, she continued. “Basically, we won’t be able to do that anymore.”

Additionally, Grandbouche and others emphasized the increasing number of vehicles that use Fruitville Road each day, which is the primary east-west route in that part of the county. “The traffic on Fruitville is horrendous,” Grandbouche stressed. “It’s ridiculous, it’s so bad.”

Moreover, Schoettle-Gumm noted, someone driving from Lena Lane to Murphy Road would be traveling “through existing, low-density neighborhoods, where people ride their horses up and down the roads, and cows get out. I see this [development] as having a significant impact in this area.”

A traffic analysis will be required, Klepper said.

In response to a question from Jeff Cook regarding the sufficiency of potable water in the area to serve Hidden Hammocks, Klepper responded that a hydrology study also will have to be pursued.

“Is there any concern that [the project] may have a negative impact on the water table out here?” Cook asked. “I’m kind of baffled as to why that [study] wouldn’t have been done before we get to this point.”

This is the banner on the Keep the Country Country website.

Another participant, Neraj Tuli, referred to what he called “a loosely organized group of folks” who established a nonprofit called Keep the Country Country. “Those folks,” Tuli said, “are kind of aggregating a lot of the feelings of the … people that live around where this development will be. … What sort of interaction do you plan, going forward, with the community?” Tuli asked.

“We do not plan for this to be a ‘one and done’ event,” Klepper responded, referring to the workshop. “We’ve talked about this.” Representatives of John Cannon Homes “are willing to be very transparent with this [process],” Klepper continued.

“We do intend to reach out to them,” Bailey added of the leaders of Keep the Country Country.

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