ENGLEWOOD — The only fellowship evident in the New Hope Baptist Church fellowship hall Tuesday evening was among those who oppose a 7-Eleven gas station at Manasota Beach Road.
The idea of a zoning change for the 3-acre parcel didn’t go over well with the more than 200 — possibly closer to 300 — people who turned out to voice their opposition at a required neighborhood meeting involving the developer proposing the change and the property owners and residents who live nearby.
Notifying residents and holding the neighborhood meeting are part of Sarasota County’s zoning change process for a project like this.
Robert “Bo” Medred of Genesis Planning and Development — representing his client, Mike Metcalf of MHM Development — presented the plans to build on a 3-acre, triangular property at State Road 776 and Manasota Beach Road. The plan would require a zoning change from residential to commercial. The owner also wants to install 16 gas pumps, which would require a special exception from the county, in addition to the zoning change. Without the special exception, only eight pumps would be allowed.
The crowd’s reaction to the plan went over much like it did in 2008 when a similar request to build a convenience store and gas station saw public opposition and was ultimately rejected by county commissioners.
Many pointed out how it would change the feel of the neighborhood in a detrimental manner. Others pointed to the increased traffic a convenience store would bring, and the fact that there are RaceTrac and Wawa stores in the area.
Several pointed out that the parcel is directly across the street from the 145-acre county-owned Manasota Scrub Preserve, a popular spot for hiking and viewing wildlife.
Medred fielded questions about how the plans will deal with traffic, drainage, environmental protections and other worries of the residents. However, the details of those plans have yet to be ironed out.
“No comment,” Metcalf said afterwards about the strength of the public opposition. His purchasing of the property is contingent upon the property securing the rezoning and a special exception needed to for the additional gas pumps.
But Metcalf did say, “There are a lot of passionate (homeowners) here, and I respect that.”
The next step for the property owners will be a Development Review Coordination meeting where count staff will review the project. The plans will then go before the advisory Planning Commission for its recommendation before the Sarasota County Commission will be asked for its final approval. None of those meetings are scheduled yet.