VENICE, Fla. - A local developer is looking to build more than 260 homes on little more than 150 acres in a rural area of Venice. But neighbors in the area say it will ruin the quality of life for them and for wildlife.
The land in question is on the corner of Border and Jackson roads, just west of the Myakka River and Sleeping Turtles North Preserve.
Many of the nearby residents ABC 7 talked to say they moved to the area to get away from development and be closer to nature. Well now that development in knocking on their door.
Venice resident Kevin Barton and many of his neighbors are banning together to fight the development. "I don't think it fits at all. I think this is the community that moved out here to get away from development. I grew up in South Venice. I came out here to get away from growth."
Kevin also just happens to run the Wildlife Center of Venice, which is just 500 feet away from the proposed site. “We see the impact it has. We are the ones that clean up the mess. We stay out of these issues usually to focus on rescue and rehabilitation, but as this is knocking on our door, we are going to be very outspoken."
The subdivision would be called the Woods of Venice. It’s the latest building plan by local developer Pat Neal and Neal Communities. "We completely understand how the neighbors feel. It feels a little rural at this time. The comprehensive plan though for Venice has been residential," says Neal.
Currently the land is zoned for one home per five acres. However, it was annexed into the City of Venice, and a comprehensive plan approved by the city a few years ago now says there can be five dwelling units per acre. Neal says they plan to actually use much less. "About 50% of the land will be preserved. All of the wetlands."
He says he's heard about all the concerns from neighbors and hopes to communicate more. "Our intent is to reach out to the neighbors and make sure they understand our environmental preservation efforts. I want to make sure they understand our proposal and how much less intensity it is compared to what could be allowed."
Barton says the area is simply too close to sensitive lands near the Myakka River and Carlton Reserve. "This is the line we would like to hold to protect the wildlife corridor and private investments."
He says the area should keep the zoning it has now. "In this rich wildlife environment, which is why the Wildlife Center is here, is worth fighting for."
The project will be going before the city’s planning board a few times. The zoning change will ultimately have to be approved by the city commission.
In the meantime, residents have started a petition and a Facebook page called the Venice Area Citizens for Responsible Development. The Friends of the Carlton Preserve and the Audubon Society are also speaking out.