Local survey says more concern about growth and traffic

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SARASOTA - A recent survey of Sarasota County residents found some big changes on how many feel about where they live, with less concern for the economy and jobs and more for things like traffic and growth.

More development means the potential for more traffic, impacts on the environment, and crowding at places like schools. According to the survey, those appear to be growing concerns once again.

The summary of the survey of 801 Sarasota County residents, conducted by the University of South Florida, indicates the biggest concern locally is still the economy and jobs.

"Anxiety still exists over the economy, which has improved but less so." That anxiety has been cut in half from the previous year; from 36% of those interviewed in 2012 to 18% now. County Commissioner Nora Patterson says she sees that other concerns are growing. "Thoughts are starting to become important now about growth management and traffic, that sort of thing.”

Traffic and development are actually separated on the survey, with each getting 10% of the biggest concern for residents.

Control Growth Now president Dan Lobeck say growth is really the biggest issue. "Traffic and growth has tripled in the survey as a concern. When you put the traffic issue and the growth issue together, it's above the economy issue."

Lobeck says he hopes county officials are listening, citing recent moves by some to relax things like impact fees and tinkering with long range plans to make it easier for development. "They are now talking about opening up the eastern county to massive urban sprawl; allowing more intense traffic from developers on our roads, not making growth pay its own way."

Patterson says they have to find balance. "I think we need to be reasonable; allow people to develop their land, grow our county's tax base. But I think we need to be careful on what we do."

She says she understands that people like it here for a reason. "Bottom line is, people want to protect their quality of life. It's a great place to live."

In 2011, 38% of those surveyed trusted county officials to do what is right for residents. Last year that number fell to 35%. This year, that number sits at 32%.

Overall, of those who were surveyed, 91% say Sarasota County is a good place to live, describing the quality of life here as good or excellent.