County Commission agrees to staff recommendation, with part of North Extension open
In unanimously approving their July 13 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the Sarasota County commissioners agreed to a process that allows owners of commercial property adjacent to The Legacy Trail to request direct access to the Trail.
A staff memo provided to the board members in their July 13 agenda packet notes that, in December 2004, the county “acquired its first rails-to-trails corridor commencing at Culverhouse Nature Park in Sarasota and extending south to Center Road in Venice for a total of 12.5 miles. The trail was constructed and then opened in 2008,” the memo added. “It has proven to be a vital community asset,” the memo continued of the Trail.
In 2020, the Trail attracted more than 400,000 users, as documented by the nonprofit Friends of the Legacy Trail.
Then the county memo explained that, on Feb. 21, 2012, the County Commission approved a resolution that allowed businesses to access The Legacy Trail, so it would be easier for Trail users to attain goods and services, “improving the experience of [Trail] users,” along with providing economic benefits for local business owners.
Work is underway to create the North Extension of the Trail from Culverhouse Nature Park, which is on Palmer Ranch, to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota, the memo pointed out. Connections also will be created from Venice to the city of North Port, the memo added.
Already, Segment 1 of The Legacy Trail — from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota — is open. A section of Segment 2 is available as well, from Culverhouse Nature Park to Sawyer Loop Road.
Additionally, a July 16 county update said work is well underway at the Ashton Trailhead site, with the facilities expected to open in the late fall.
Located at 4301 Ashton Road in Sarasota, that trailhead will include a restroom structure. Three picnic shelters are in place, and preliminary grading has been completed. A playground also will be installed, the county update noted.
Therefore, with the North Extension and the paved North Port Connector both scheduled to be completed in late 2022, the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department staff proposed amendments to the 2012 resolution to allow commercial access to the Trail from the Venice Train Depot, which stands at 303 E. Venice Ave., north to Fruitville Road in Sarasota, the July 13 staff memo indicated.
Under Next Steps in that memo, staff noted that if the commissioners adopted the proposed, revised resolution, then staff would “communicate with community stakeholders [to] provide information on the process for applying for commercial access to The Legacy Trail.”
The resolution went into effect upon its adoption on July 13.
The document explains that a business may submit to the County Land Development Services staff a request for direct access to the Trail from a property zoned for commercial or industrial purposes. “Such request shall be presented at a presubmittal meeting with the Development Review Committee, including County Parks and Recreation staff,” the resolution adds.
The Development Review Committee includes representatives of all county departments and divisions that deal with land-use issues. They have the opportunity to ask questions regarding facets of applications for new development in the county. The staff members also must sign off on the applications before those are presented to the county’s Planning Commission and then the County Commission.
The reason for the Development Review Committee sessions with representatives of applicants, or applicants themselves, who are seeking access to the Trail, the resolution indicates, is to facilitate the process.
Further, the resolution explains, an application must include the following:
- “Statement of interest in the construction of a Trail connection segment for private commercial property/business access, a description of the proposed improvements, and intended plan for perpetual maintenance of the facilities.”
- A drawing of the proposed Trail connection segment and key site features.
- All applicable review fees.
Moreover, the resolution says, if the applicant or the representative of the applicant decides to formally submit an application, county staff “shall present the applicant’s conceptual plan to [the County Commission] for consideration, requesting a determination as to whether the proposed access would be permitted …”
If the commissioners grant their approval, the resolution adds, then the applicant may file a formal document with the county for site and development work in accord with county regulations in the Unified Development Code, which contains all of the land-use and zoning regulations.
The resolution also points out that design and construction of access from commercial properties to the Trail must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Additionally, the resolution says, “Each new access to The Legacy Trail, [including] requests for multiple access points located on the same property, must contain a County Parks and Recreation Legacy Trail sign which identifies the rules, regulations, and hours of use for The Legacy Trail. The applicant shall obtain the County standard sign, at the applicant’s expense, and shall be responsible for the costs associated with installation and maintenance of said sign.
This sign shall be placed on the applicant’s property, with the location to be mutually agreed upon by the applicant and County Parks and Recreation staff in accordance with applicable zoning regulations.”
Further, the applicant will be responsible for construction and maintenance of access improvements, at the applicant’s expense, the resolution notes.
The resolution also points out that no access points will be allowed to “cross or adversely affect an environmentally sensitive area on The Legacy Trail.”