Scope Creep

Lakewood Ranch Is Set to Expand East, With Up to 4,500 New Residences in Manatee County

SMR Taylor Ranch gained approval from county commissioners and is set to develop just over 2,300 acres of previously rural lands.

By Kim Doleatto March 28, 2023

Sweetwater, a Lakewood Ranch development, is located to the west of the where Taylor Ranch is headed.

Lakewood Ranch's developers will be able to now add 2,307 acres to the master-planned community's eastward footprint—an expansion that will bring up to 4,500 new homes to Manatee County. 

The change to the comprehensive plan and urban boundary line came thanks to a 5-2 vote by Manatee County commissioners last Thursday. The acreage, which is owned by SMR Taylor Ranch LLC, is located south of S.R. 64 and east of Bourneside Boulevard. (SMR, which stands for Shroeder-Manatee Ranch, is Lakewood Ranch's parent company.) Sweetwater, Star Farms, Lakewood National and Solera are located to the west of the future development.

On Nov. 18, the Manatee County Commission unanimously approved crossing the county’s Future Development Area Boundary (FDAB) line in east Manatee County, which ends at Bourneside Boulevard, to accommodate Taylor Ranch. The line was part of the county’s 1989 comprehensive plan and delineated the easternmost point to which Manatee County provides water and sewer services. It was also the cutoff between most of the county's agricultural lands and zoning.

At the commission meeting, residents and speakers who were all opposed to the changes cited concerns about increased traffic, water quality and a change in country living that attracted them there in the first place.

One email from Mary Terrell, a resident of Panther Ridge, which is located south of the future development, read, “The developers of Taylor Ranch and East River Ranch [a development that also benefits from the commissioners' approval] have plans for 12 new entry points into Panther Ridge [...] They plan to destroy important horse trails. These proposals are an existential threat to us as the core of Manatee County’s equestrian community.” 

In what sounded like a compromise, agenda documents presented by SMR Taylor Ranch indicated that the “density maximum potential of 4,500 residential units (1.95 dwelling units per acre) is a logical transition from the MU-C/AC-1 and MU-C/R FLUC designations of properties to the west, which allow the potential for up to nine and three dwelling units/acre, respectively.”

Map of Taylor Ranch and the Lakewood Ranch developments next door.

It went on, “Growth has been occurring from west to east in the general area around the subject property and is consistent with the availability of services, as they are extended eastward with each new development.” 

Plans also call for 20 acres dedicated to a future school and communications tower.

The move sets a precedent for other big-name master-planned community developers to pursue similar future approvals.

In fact, developers have pursued similar approvals to build 5,000 homes on over 4,000 acres of land in Lakewood Ranch Southeast in northeast Sarasota County. That decision is being challenged in a lawsuit filed against Sarasota County by nearby residents Mike Hutchinson and Eileen Fitzgerald. The next trial date is set for the week of July 17.

Map of Taylor Ranch and East River Ranch.

Carlos Beruff, a local developer, proposed another master-planned community named East River Ranch, directly to the east of Taylor Ranch, which could bring up to 4,144 residential homes, or 12,434 dwelling units if affordable housing is included. Since it, too, relies on the approval to push the FDAB eastward, speakers at the commission meeting highlighted the idea that the approvals seemed pre-ordained. 

Lisa Barnott, Lakewood Ranch's director of marketing and communications, wrote in an email that it was too early in the process for anyone to comment on the approval.

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