Privately initiated county Comprehensive Plan amendment seeks up to six-fold increase in density for development of part of Hi Hat Ranch

Neighborhood Workshop set for evening of June 4

A map submitted to the county shows the area where the density change is being sought. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Sarasota County Commission has authorized staff to proceed outside the normal cycle with a proposed, privately initiated revision of the Sarasota 2050 Plan that could lead to a significant increase in the number of new homes planned near the intersection of Fruitville Road and Utopia Road.

The property is close to the Mote Aquaculture Park, based on documents filed with the county.

Owned by Hi Hat Ranch LLLP of Sarasota, the approximately 1,000-acre parcel is designated for a 2050 Plan Hamlet, which, the County Code says, is “entitled to a base residential density of 0.29 dwelling units per acre of Developed Area.” The maximum density allowed within the Developed Area is one dwelling unit per acre.

The owners of Hi Hat Ranch are seeking to change the designation of the property to Village Land Use, which has a maximum density of five dwelling units per gross developable area, or six, if the additional units are planned for affordable housing.

The property is in what has been classified as the Central Village Area of the county’s 2050 Resource Management Area, according to a May 21 county staff memo. The owners wanted staff to process the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment at the same time staff works on a Development of Critical Concern (DOCC) for Hi-Hat Ranch, the memo said.

“The balance of the Hi-Hat Ranch lands are designated Village Land Use and Greenway,” the memo pointed out.

County staff has scheduled a Neighborhood Workshop on the proposed amendment on Tuesday, June 4. The session will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at St. Margaret Episcopal Church, which is located at 8700 State Road 72 (Clark Road).

A graphic included with the May 21 county staff memo shows more details of the affected portion of the Sarasota 2050 Resource Management Area. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As part of their May 21 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the county commissioners — without any comment — agreed unanimously that staff could work on the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment outside the annual cycle approved for such staff undertakings.

The County Code that covers the Sarasota 2050 Plan explains that the Hamlet Planned Development District “provides for detached residential uses, protected open space, Public/Civic uses and limited neighborhood type commercial. The district is not commercial in character.” The Code adds, “Hamlets are collections of rural homes and lots clustered together around a crossroads that may include small-scale commercial, Public/Civic buildings or shared amenities.”

The maximum number of dwelling units is 400, the County Code notes, but the “Preferred Size” is 50 to 150 dwelling units

At least 60% of the area must remain open space, the County Code points out.

An aerial map shows most of the property where the modification is being sought. Utopia Road is the north-south road west of the Mote Aquaculture Park. Image from Google Maps

On the other hand, the Code says, “A Village is a collection of Neighborhoods that have been designed so that a majority of the housing units are within a walking distance or one-quarter mile radius of a Neighborhood Center. A Village shall be supported by a mixed-use Village Center (designed specifically to serve the daily and weekly retail, office, and Public/Civic use and services needs of Village residents), and the Village shall generally be surrounded by large expanses of Open Space that are designed to protect the character of the rural landscape and provide separation between the Village and existing low density rural development.”

A minimum of 50% of the space must remain open, except for Villages in the Clark Road Properties area of the county, which is south of Clark Road and east of Interstate 75.

A Sarasota News Leader review of Hi Hat Ranch parcels on the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s website found several out of which the designated Hamlet area appears to have been carved. One of them, which comprises 378 acres, had a value of $3,006,700 in 2018, county records show. A portion of that parcel has been deeded to the City of Sarasota, which has a water reclamation distribution system in that area.

This is one of the Hi Hat Ranch LLLP parcels affected by the Comprehensive Plan amendment that is being sought. Its 2018 value is more than $3 million, the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show. Image from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office

A second parcel, which contains about 388 acres, had a 2018 value of $3,319,700, according to Property Appraiser William Furst’s office’s records.

Hi Hat Ranch LLLP lists its address as 11708 Fruitville Road in the documents it has filed with the Florida Division of Corporations. Its registered agent is Richard E. Turner Jr. of the same address.

A News Leader check of the Property Appraiser’s Office records found 22 parcels in the county belonging to Hi Hat Ranch LLLP. All but five of them came under ownership of the company in August 1988, the records show.