County Commissioners Delay Decision for Proposed Venice Regional Hospital

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VENICE, FL (WWSB) - The fate of a proposed Venice Regional Hospital remains unknown after Sarasota County Commissioners put off making the decision yet again.

Two public hearings haven't helped county commissioners come to an agreement about whether it should be built. This time, the holdup is about whether to widen Venice Avenue from two lanes to four. Venice Avenue is one of the main entrances into the hospital. The county says it needs to happen, but the money just isn't there right now.

"We estimate that there is a $3 million per lane cost to widen the road. It's a two mile stretch, so the math ends up coming out to about $24 million to do the entire stretch from Jacaranda to River Road,” Spencer Anderson, the Sarasota County Public Works Director, said at the hearing.

Which County Commissioners say they cannot fund entirely, so that's when Venice Regional chimed in and said they would help fund their part of the project.

"We would obviously need to work that out with the county, but obviously the hospital would have to contribute a significant portion to that effort, and if indeed it would be better if the hospital did the construction of the road while they are building the hospital, the hospital is willing to commit to that as well,” Jeff Boone, the lawyer for Venice Regional, said.

Why does this road need to be widened first? Well, Venice Regional is hoping to build a brand new hospital on this big piece of land right off of Venice Avenue, east of Jacaranda Boulevard.

This area already has a heavy amount of traffic, and the county – as well as residents – are concerned that adding a hospital in such a congested area will only make matters worse.

"The tremendous impact of this hospital, or anything of that nature, on traffic – especially at the roundabout – is like 6,000 extra trips of cars. That's a lot of traffic and a lot more accidents," Irene Pinsky, a Blue Heron Resident, said.

Because of that, commissioners decided to postpone the decision. A lot would need to happen at the next hearing for the project to move forward. County Commissioners would need to sign off on the funding proposal to widen Venice Avenue -- plus, approve rezoning the land from residential to commercial, and also grant a special exception for the hospital to be built 85 feet tall. Many residents worry that making exceptions now, is opening Pandora's box in the future.

"And therefore, the next parcel down can say 'You can't deny me from rezoning from residential to commercial because you already allowed it next door'. Then it's a domino effect. That is what we are very fearful of. Hospital, yes. Location, no. In a nutshell," explained Pinsky.

The next public hearing will be held on November 7th, and Commissioners hope to make a final decision on whether or not to allow Venice Regional to be built here.

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