Resident opposition to proposed River Road shopping center forms
As developers continue to seek approvals for a shopping center and other commercial and residential buildings in south Sarasota County, residents are joining to oppose to what they say is too much growth too close to the wild and scenic Myakka River.
Ray A. Westbrook, founder of the Facebook group “Save the Myakka River – Stop Commercial Development Near the Myakka”, says the proposed North River Marketplace is too big to be within a half-mile of the unique Myakka River.
The 51.5-acre mixed-use site would include 285 multi-family homes and up to 110,000 square feet of commercial office space fronting both East Venice Avenue and River Road on land that now is mostly occupied by Hazeltine Nurseries.
Related:Developer could bring shopping center and 285 homes to River Road and East Venice Ave.
“I’ve got two concerns,” Westbrook said. “One, of the overall health of the Myakka River and two, I see it as completely irresponsible for long-term impact for having such a significant commercial development less than a half a mile from the Myakka River.”
The Legislature designated the Myakka as the state’s only “Florida Wild and Scenic River” in 1985 in an act that provided for preservation and management of the river's 34-mile stretch through Sarasota County.
The only commercial development on the five-plus mile stretch of River Road between Interstate 75 and U.S. 41 is a 7-Eleven convenience store/gas station, while developers have carved several subdivisions out of the woodlands on the road's west side.
Westbrook lives off of the stretch of East Venice Ave between River Road and Snook Haven, along with five other neighbors who call themselves part of an unofficial subdivision of Snook Haven Estates.
He wants Sarasota County to respect the current future land-use map created to help guide the county's growth and follow development guidelines established in its long-range plan, called the 2050 plan.
A local Realtor, Westbrook has no issues with the blossoming residential development along River Road but says the buffers and stormwater drainage that accompany residential development lead to better stormwater management than those used to control commercial center parking lot runoff.
“I think if you look at what has been developed up and down River Road, for the protection of the ecosystem, residential is the order of the day,” Westbrook said. “We can drive west to get to the Publixes to keep that stuff away from the river.
“I respect property owners rights, I truly do – I’m a Realtor -- but I also support responsible development,” he added.
Earlier:Neighborhood Workshop to cover mixed housing development at E. Venice Ave and River Road
He made that point Jan. 24, during an online neighborhood workshop hosted by Kimley-Horn on a 5.85-acre parcel north of East Venice Avenue, adjacent to Caribbean Village, owned by JEM Florida LLC that is being eyed as the location of a self–storage facility.
To do that, the owner has filed a growth plan amendment application to change the future land-use designation and other technical changes required for the shopping center to be built.
A zoning change would also be needed.
Westbrook hopes to raise awareness for Jan. 31 public hearings before the Sarasota County Commission to send the growth plan amendment for the site to the state, as well as a rezoning petition and a public hearing on what's called the North River Marketplace Critical Area Plan.
Westbrook added that his message then will be, “This needs to stop now.”
The County Commission will meet at 9 a.m. in chambers at 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Residents oppose shopping center on North River Road near Myakka River