SARASOTA COUNTY –– Despite allegations of pandering to developers, Sarasota County commissioners unanimously approved a realignment of Lorraine Road as depicted on the county’s future thoroughfare map.
The action was an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan.
For years, Lorraine Road was planned to “hug” I-75 and intersect with S.R. 681 county planner Brett Harrington told commissioners. The new alignment swings the road further south and east to intersect with Knights Trail Road at the county landfill.
That new alignment would provide drivers with a new future north-south alternative to I-75.
Dan Lobeck, an attorney and president of Control Growth Now, accused commissioners of bowing to the interests of developers who contributed to their political campaigns.
“This is not the sort of major policy decision with controversial elements that ought to be pushed through during a pandemic,” Lobeck argued.
Then turning to the county’s staff report, Lobeck said it pointed out that the realignment was meant “to open up new areas for development without any idea of cost and who’s going to pay for it. This violatesyour comprehensive plan.”
However, Pat Neal, a former state senator and developer of Neal Communities, while noting the importance of having another north-south route told commissioners that he and other developers would be contributing almost $20 million in mobility fees as their plans were approved.
In February commissioners had approved the transmittal of the amendment to the state for its review. During the May 20 meeting, Harrington reported that none of the reviewing agencies had submitted negative comments on the amendment.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler was quick to latch on to the need for a north-south alternative, a concept endorsed by various county commissioners for years.
“It seems like almost every day the interstate is shut down,” Ziegler said. “We don’t have that grid system built out, out east.”
Approval of the amendment to the thoroughfare map doesn’t mean the realignment is scheduled for construction. Rather, the amendment serves as a guide to the county’s future plans.