By GREG GILES
To annex? Or not to annex another 532 acres into the city of Venice?
That was the burning question facing the Venice City Council on Tuesday.
With growing angst about the current housing boom and traffic congestion in the city, adding potentially 1,000 or more homes into the mix at first doesn’t appear desirable.
But Council took a more pragmatic approach to the matter. Consider the alternative? they asked.
“If this was developed in the county, these residents, especially in an abutting property next to the city, would be using our roads, our parks, our beaches, the cultural campus and Downtown Venice area, just to name a few,” said Vice Mayor Rich Cautero. “And we would be denied any revenue. I think that would be potentially undesirable.
“You saw … the additional $1.5 million of (annual) ad valorem fees, and $10 million in total impact fees that wouldn’t accrue to us if it’s developed and remained in the county. Not to mention the higher density level (allowable under the Joint Planning Agreement with Sarasota County). I would feel very uneasy with that happening.”
Council Member Mitzie Fiedler said she agreed with those comments, and was “comforted” with the knowledge the developer, not taxpayers, would be paying for all the infrastructure.
Fiedler said she was also glad to hear the developer’s representative, land-use attorney Jeff Boone, reiterate the developer would provide certain road improvements joining Rustic Road and Ranch Roads. Such a connection would allow someone to travel from Knights Trail Road east of I-75 to Honore Avenue west of I-75.
“That has to be a welcome feature to relieve an already stressed Laurel Road,” Cautero added. “It’s not going to hurt; it’s only going to help. I look at what’s happening here … as an advantage. It has to relieve pressure on that Knights Road-Laurel Road intersection.”
“Without a doubt it will be developed,” said Council Member Helen Moore. “It’s tough to think about, all those additional houses and properties, but it’s inevitable. And we should be in control of it.”
“And get the revenue from it,” added Council Member Bob Daniels.
It had already been a long Council meeting and members, having read the background material, weren’t in the mood for staff presentations. They didn’t request any, although they did take the time to ask questions on various petitions for two major annexation projects — one for 318 acres, called the Rustic Road Annexation, and one for 214 acres called the Hurt Annexation.
There were no members of the public present to speak for or against any of the five land-use petitions under consideration, which all passed unanimously on first reading. Final reading will take place in August when Council returns from its summer break.