It’s still undecided whether a future primary school will be built in West Villages near Tamiami Trail, or on the west side of the development, on an extension of Manasota Beach Road.
Currently, the district owns a property in West Villages across from Cool Today Park. However, district officials are in talks with developer Manasota Beach Ranchlands to possibly sell that property and purchase two adjacent properties off Manasota Beach Road.
The proposal was on the Sarasota County School Board agenda for Tuesday, but after discussion, board members decided to move it to their July 14 meeting.
One big question is when Manasota Beach Road will be extended from its current end near State Road 776 in Englewood, to the interior of the West Villages development.
“My recommendation would be not to move forward, until we can become satisfied that that road is either built, or there is a pot of money available so the road will be built,” said the school board’s attorney Art Hardy said during the meeting
Assistant superintendent Jody Dumas told the board that if they were to move forward with the agreement, either side could pull out of the deal for any reason within 180 days.
However, Hardy reiterated, “It is not my recommendation for you all to proceed to a closing, unless we’re comfortable that there will be a road by the time we need it.”
The North Port City Commissioners originally had a second reading of an ordinance that changes the Village Index Map on their commission meeting agenda for June 9. After hearing concerns from residents, commissioners pulled the second reading and re-scheduled it for their July 2 meeting.
The board also had questions whether or not the potential new site has the correct zoning for a school.
Board member Bridget Ziegler questioned why the board would vote, if there was still some level of questioning surrounding the deal.
Hardy said the only potential downside on waiting, would be if the land went to someone else, which he didn’t expect would happen, but is always a possibility.
“I don’t think there’s an urgency, like we’re ready to build the school tomorrow,” he said.
The board ultimately voted 4-1 to hold the agreement until July 14, and until remaining questions can be worked out.
Board chair Caroline Zucker was in favor of the agreement. She stated she believes there was pushback on the land swap, not because of the site, but because “a group of people who thought they were going to have a school in the area.”
She believed the board should move forward with approval, because they have 180 days to pull out of the deal, if something were to go wrong.