Growth Debated in Sarasota County Contest



As candidates vie for an up-for-grabs Sarasota County Commission seat, the subtleties of what constitutes planned, controlled growth loom large in the contest. Mike Moran, a sitting Sarasota County Planning Commissioner, has argued problems like a lack of affordable housing can only be solved as developers are allowed to develop land based on market demand. Frank DiCicco, president of the Myakka Valley Ranches Homeowners Association, said largely unfettered growth has led to infrastructure that lags behind construction rates. One of these candidates will carry their philosophy forward as the Republican nominee for Sarasota County Commission District 1.

Moran argues regulations have stifled the sort of creative development necessary to deal with housing issues in the region today. Affordable and attainable housing, which Moran calls a “drum I’ve been beating for a long time,” has been missing in this market for some time because of the difficult pressures here, many created by government. High impact fees and certain density restrictions can make it hard to bring cheap housing on-line. “While the intentions are honorable, it shows how the government can try and alter free market principles and the results can hurt the very people you are trying to help,” he says. He would like to see the creation of a special district, one where creating housing somewhere growth is desired would stimulate development by incentivizing it rather than restricting or financially penalizing it. He believes his experience working with governments—he also serves on the Southwest Florida Water Management District Board—would help in crafting the right governing rules and in working with other jurisdictions in partnership on the issue.

DiCicco, in contrast, got involved in public discourse in large part because of housing he did not think the community could yet handle. He was surprised when a 1,700-acre development with 3,400 homes was approved off of State Road 72 before infrastructure to handle the boost in traffic was approved. He said the approval of developments in and of themselves isn’t the problem so much as the timing, and that citizens ultimately get burdened when new growth comes before proper roadways and other services come to fruition. “A project should be based on what makes sense for an area,” he says. That also requires a process that brings neighbors into a discussion before a project comes online, but often affected homeowners, particularly in low density regions of the county, don’t get notified of zoning hearings because their properties aren’t in extremely close proximity to affected land. He’d like to see a greater expectation that developers contribute to the cost growth brings to community, and said additional cost should be borne by those who want to build or buy a new home in the region as opposed to buying an existing home that doesn’t require new infrastructure.

DiCicco and Moran face off in a county-wide Republican primary on Aug. 30. The winner will face Democrat Fredd Atkins, a former Sarasota mayor, in the November general election. 

Pictured: Frank DiCicco and Mike Moran

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