May 24 the date for final public hearing on expanding Sarasota County seat to incorporate site of new North County Administration Center on Fruitville Road

County staff says state law allows a County Commission to achieve such initiative through adoption of formal resolution

This map shows the expanded County Seat. It was included in the May 10 agenda packet. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Sarasota County commissioners this week took their initial, formal step to expand the boundaries of the County Seat to include the Fruitville Road property where the new North County Administration Center will be constructed.

On May 10, they held the first of two public hearings on a resolution that details the process. The second hearing has been scheduled for May 24.

The item was listed on the May 10 agenda as Presentation Upon Request, but no commissioner asked for a presentation.

When Chair Alan Maio asked Chief Deputy County Attorney Karl Senkow whether a vote was even needed that day, Senkow replied that it was. Therefore, Commissioner Nancy Detert made a motion, authorizing the second public hearing for May 24, and Commissioner Christian Ziegler seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.

A staff memo in the May 10 agenda packet pointed out that, on April 26, the board members approved a formal resolution explaining the transfer of a portion of county property at Nathan Benderson Park (located at 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle) to an affiliate of Benderson Development Co. in exchange for land the company owned at 6700 Fruitville Road.

The memo pointed out that Section 138.12 of the Florida Statutes gives a county commission the authority to “expand the geographical area of the county seat of its county beyond the corporate limits of the municipality [named] as the county seat by adopting a resolution” after the board has held no fewer than two public hearings “at intervals not less than 10 or more than 20 days after notice has been published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county.”

The May 10 hearing was advertised in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on April 28, the memo noted.

Further, the resolution that the board members are scheduled to approve on May 24 says the commission has determined, “pursuant to Section 270.11(3) [of the Florida Statutes],” that it will waive its right “to reserve an interest in and title to an undivided three-fourths interest in all phosphate, minerals, and metals and an undivided one-half interest in all petroleum that are or may be in, on, or under [the Benderson Park property].”

The resolution adds that reserving those rights “would create a title exception and would restrict the ability of the buyer” to develop the property.

This is Section 270.11 of the Florida Statutes. Image courtesy State of Florida

On Feb. 23, the County Commission voted unanimously to approve the land swap with Benderson Development affiliate Coburn Road LLC. Staff called the site at Benderson Park the “half-moon parcel”; which comprises 6.8 acres. The Coburn Road property encompasses slightly more than 9 acres, near the Fruitville Public Library.

The Fruitville Road site is about 1.7 miles from the 1301 Cattlemen Road location where the new County Administration Center had been planned as of last spring, Deputy County Administrator Steve Botelho noted during that February discussion.

The Cattlemen Road site is close to the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

This graphic shows the site at 1301 Cattlemen Road, bounded by the dotted yellow lines, that had been the focus of planning for a new county administration center. Image courtesy Sarasota County

No financial considerations would be part of the Benderson deal, Botelho pointed out.

In November 2021, the commissioners also approved selling to Benderson Development the Ringling Boulevard and Morrill Street parcels that comprise the Administration Center complex and parking lots in downtown Sarasota. Benderson agreed to pay $25 million for all of the property and allow the county to continue using the site for $1 million per year in rent, while the new facility was constructed on Cattlemen Road.

A staff memo in the board’s April 26 meeting packet said that the Fruitville Road site “is a viable location to accommodate the construction of a new County Administration Center.” Staff of the Public Utilities; Planning and Development Services; Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources; and Public Works departments had reviewed the plans and had no objections, the memo added.

The April 26 staff memo further noted that Coburn Road LLC “will pay for all applicable local, state, and federal stormwater permitting, including associated engineering services, during the development [of the 6700 Fruitville Road site].”

Additionally, the memo said, Coburn Road “will design and construct a portion of Apex Road and certain dividing road segments … within the interconnectivity plan as required by the Fruitville Initiative …”

The roads required by the land swap agreement “are to be built by January 1, 2024,” the memo noted.

This map of the Fruitville Initiative Area — Special Planning Area 3 — shows Benderson Development/Coburn Road LLC property north and south of Fruitville Road, shaded in purple and marked ‘PED’ for a rezoning request that the company and its affiliate made of the county in December 2021. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Fruitville Road parcel is located within the Fruitville Initiative Special Planning Area. As a 2012 county document explained, the Fruitville Initiative was designed to encompass land designated for major employment centers and moderate-density residential development east of Interstate 75 on the north and south sides of Fruitville Road. “The site is intended to be an employment-anchored, mixed-use place to serve as a bridge between urban and rural portions of the eastern Fruitville/I-75 interchange area,” the document added.

The focus would be on “interconnectivity, walkability, mixed-use development and environmental protection,” the document pointed out.