VENICE — Watercrest subdivision residents near the Jacaranda Roundabout may be sleeping easier after a recent decision.
A “big box store” concept has been removed by the Sarasota County Planning Commission. The board approved an update to a development plan that removes the potential store next to Watercrest.
An envisioned Walmart never materialized and two parcels have since been sold off to build a car wash and a tractor supply business.
Planning staff provided documentation in October, confirming an assisted living facility could be allowed under existing rules.
On Feb. 6, the commission unanimously adopted an updated commercial-general rezone application with modified plans.
A neighborhood meeting in November answered concerns of Watercrest residents, mostly about the anticipated increase in traffic.
Joe Medred, of Genesis Planning and Development Inc., said at the Nov. 12 meeting the new concept plan shows traffic will be considerably less than what was originally envisioned. That’s about 2,400 additional car trips per day, down from more than 5,000 trips under a Walmart scenario.
Medred said the property owner also agreed to additional shade trees for more buffering between the residences and the assisted living facility, which will be built further away from Watercrest homes than the former plan envisioned.
A car dealership recently broke ground on the corner of what’s known as Jacaranda Junction II, just south of the 14.7 acres of vacant land in question.
The new as-yet unnamed facility will consist of a two story and three story building attached to a single story building. The previous rezone application already established a maximum height of 45 feet.
A total of 66 units are planned, with up to 264 beds. Service entrances will be at the front of the facility, away from Watercrest homes.
Total commercial footage will also be reduced from 200,000 square feet to 59,000 square feet.
Commissioners were largely pleased with the new plans, with only minor trepidation.
Bo Medred, principal with Genesis, said it’s a much better plan.
“Buildings are further away from the Watercrest homes,” he said. “What was going to be a mass of block up against (Watercrest) is now a massive stormwater retention pond already in place where the big box would have been. It has created much better separation from Watercrest.
“This is a no brainer — reduction in intensive (use), reduction of trips, excellent submarket for an ALF,” said Commissioner Colin Pember.
“The only thing I am sad about is we are actually losing commercial space,” Commissioner Teresa Mast said. “We’re always looking for that, although I still think it’s an excellent project. I think it’s an appropriate use of that space, and I think it will be welcomed in that community.”
“I struggled initially, too,” said Commission Chair Laura Benson. “This is a commercial space and we need commercial, and it’s on a commercial busy road. But it will be a nice buffer to the folks in Watercrest. They have been very vocal in the past and the fact they are not here at this meeting is a testament to your work Mr. (Bo) Medred … for working with them so thoughtfully.”
It was the very first meeting for two new commissioners who were sworn in minutes earlier: Neil Reinford and Justin Taylor.
“Sarasota County continues to evolve and transition,” said Commissioner Andrew Stultz, in welcoming the new members. “I’m truly excited to see new younger faces getting involved in local government. Although experience is great, it’s also great to have new perspectives in what the future of Sarasota County is going to look like.”