Final hearing set for Feb. 28
With plenty of compliments for Pinecraft leaders and Sarasota County staff, the County Commission is poised to approve a new set of zoning regulations for the predominantly Amish and Mennonite community in Sarasota, at residents’ request.
Because the Pinecraft Neighborhood Overlay District encompasses changes to the county’s Code of Ordinances, a second public hearing on the regulations has been scheduled for Feb. 28. That date was set in a unanimous motion on Jan. 17, at the conclusion of the first County Commission hearing.
As county Planner Steve Kirk explained on Jan. 17, after Pinecraft residents in 2014 paid for a consultant to research the community and offer recommendations, the County Commission in 2016 directed staff to work on facets of an overlay district.
Among the proposed changes are the following:
- A provision for bicycle rental businesses on residentially zoned property.
- The prohibition of incompatible and auto-oriented uses in commercial districts — package or liquor stores, bars or taverns, drive-through restaurants, drive-through retail sales or service operations, convenience stores, gas pumps, and vehicle sales or service operations.
- Reduced parking requirements.
- Modified development standards for the “Old Pinecraft” subdivision that was platted with substandard streets and lots.
Representing the Pinecraft Steering Committee, David Swartzentruber thanked the commission and county staff for working with Pinecraft leaders to craft the proposals. “It’s been easy; it’s been fun,” he said of the process.
As Kirk pointed out during his presentation, “Pinecraft’s a walking/biking community with some unique characteristics and needs.”
Showing the board a 1947 aerial map, he noted that Pinecraft “was well outside of the urban area of Sarasota County.” The earliest residents settled there around the turn of the 20th century, he said.
Today, two major roads bisect it: Bahia Vista Street and Beneva Road.
The area of the community known as “Old Pinecraft” was platted in 1925, Kirk continued, with lots measuring 40 feet by 40 feet. “Most of the houses in this area are very small.”
Many of the parcels have been combined through the succeeding years, he added, leading to 40 feet by 80 feet being the most common size. Nonetheless, he said of the lots in Old Pinecraft, “They always stretch from street to street regardless of the size. … You end up with unusable building footprints or very, very small building footprints.”
Proposed setback changes in the overlay district, Kirk said, “will help with the development and redevelopment of these lots.”
Of the 166 residential parcels in Old Pinecraft, Kirk pointed out, 104 are smaller than 4,000 square feet. As a result they do not conform to the RSF-4 (residential single-family) county zoning standards that apply to the area.
He further noted that building heights would be limited to 24 feet at the highest point of a hip or gable or to 20 feet to the deck of a flat roof.
When Commissioner Charles Hines asked whether the proposed height standards originated with staff, Kirk replied that the community leaders had requested them. Staff supports them, Kirk added.
Along with Swartzentruber, Nathan Beachy and Ervin Raber addressed the board during the hearing.
Beachy commended county leaders for “trying to preserve the heritage and uniqueness of the community,” but he also suggested they consider increasing Pinecraft’s residential density in the future. “It is almost common knowledge,” Beachy said, “that there are already more dwelling units per acre … than the current zoning permits.”
Raber told the board members how much he appreciated all the county staff assistance on the overlay district. “Keep up the good work!”
“That’s what we like to hear,” Chair Nancy Detert responded.
“I would like to compliment the staff,” Detert added at the conclusion of the public comments. “People think of government as picky bureaucracy. … To think that we deliberately recognize cultural differences and try to accommodate them … this is all very creative stuff, and I’m glad that our staff is not locked into just nitpicking everybody to death.”
“I took a lot of these gentlemen’s phone calls,” Commissioner Alan Maio said of the Pinecraft Steering Committee members, and he met with the committee twice. Even though the issues “were very complicated” and the work on the overlay district was not moving as quickly as they and board members would have liked at times, Maio continued, there was “never a cross word; never a bad word.” He noted the “calm, persistent [attitudes] and great social skills” of the Pinecraft leaders.
“This is a really big deal to this community.”
Commissioner Michael Moran made the motion to continue the hearing to Feb. 28, and Hines seconded it.