Outdoor recreation to be allowed within two areas of University Town Center, per County Commission vote

Benderson Development had sought change to 2015 county provisions for the site

This graphic shows the affected areas of the University Town Center site, outlined in yellow. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Benderson Development Co. has won unanimous Sarasota County Commission approval to include outdoor recreation within two zoning districts of the 281-acre University Town Center.

That commercial center is located in the southwest quadrant of the intersection of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

The county board technically agreed to amend provisions that the company won in 2015 for uses on the property. A July 13 county staff memo explained that the “outdoor recreation uses may include circus ground, drive-in theater, batting cage, golf driving range, mini-amusement park, miniature golf facility, swimming pool, tennis court, water park, stadium or arena, motor vehicle racing track or facility, commercial amphitheater, ballfield, commercial tourist attraction, and winter quarters or training quarters.”

The staff memo also noted that 12 stipulations were included in the resolution the County Commission adopted. Several of them apply to the section of the UTC property zoned Residential Multi-Family 3/Planned Unit Development (RMF-3/PUD). The County Code explains, “The PUD Overlay District allows more flexibility in use and site design than is permitted in the base zoning district. This flexibility is intended to encourage creativity and allow innovative projects that do not fit the pattern of the other zoning districts. The PUD Overlay District allows for the effective utilization of land, addresses impacts on nearby uses, and protects the environment.” Additionally a PUD overlay district provides “flexibility in placement and clustering of residential units, while providing amenities for residents and preservation of open space. The overlay will also encourage the preservation and best use of natural and/or historical site features; and provide for efficient use of public services and improved levels of amenities. The district may also include internal civic and commercial uses as well as other nonresidential uses that support and enhance the livability of the neighborhoods and promote mixed use opportunities.”

This graphic shows the University Town Center plans approved in 2015. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Stipulations that apply to the RMF-3/PUD zone follow:

  • Outdoor dining will be permitted only between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday through Saturday and only within areas east of Cattlemen Road.
  • Indoor entertainment will be allowed after 10 p.m. only within areas east of Cattlemen Road.
  • Outdoor entertainment and outdoor recreation will be permitted until midnight only within areas east of Cattlemen Road.

In the area of the site zoned Commercial General, a hotel or motel will be allowed, but it cannot include more than 500 rooms “with or without kitchen facilities,” county documents say. “Transient accommodations,” which is the term county staff uses for hotel and motel rooms, can have up to 13 dwelling units per acre in a Commercial General zone. If hotel rooms are proposed without kitchens, the count can double to 26 units per acre.

Yet other stipulations say outdoor dining will be allowed between 10 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, “except within 150 feet of the west property line”; and indoor entertainment will be permitted after 10 p.m., “except within 200 feet of the west property line.”

Further, outdoor entertainment and outdoor recreation will be permitted until midnight except within 200 feet of the western property line.

Additionally, an increase in height of structures will be permitted up to 85 feet. The Commercial General (CG) zoning district height standard is 35 feet.

Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson, had petitioned for the new series of Special Exceptions to the provisions the County Commission approved in 2015 for University Town Center, the county staff memo said.

This graphic shows the county’s Future Land Use Map designations for the affected portion of the University Town Center site. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The public hearing, which was conducted on July 13, was listed as “Presentation Upon Request” on the agenda. That is a designation county staff uses when it expects a matter to be non-controversial. In this case, no one showed up to address the request, and no commissioner asked for even a partial presentation.

No correspondence from the public was included in the backup agenda material, either.

Commissioner Michael Moran made the motion to approve the Benderson Development request for the amendment, and Commissioner Ron Cutsinger seconded it. None of the board members offered comments on it.