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Sarasota City Commission reviews first draft of new engineering plan

Sarasota city commissioners are considering updates to how the city will regulate development and construction in the coming years.

The Sarasota Engineering Design Criteria Manual (EDCM), which has not been revised since 2002, is a “comprehensive guide to right-of-way construction and reconstruction and land development” within Sarasota, according to a presentation to commissioners at a workshop Monday.

The new 534-page draft of a new manual was created after city officials consulted with developers, planners, engineers and local public employees for the design of new roads, infrastructure improvements or property redevelopment. It focuses on subdivision regulation, street and drainage design, utility engineering and solid waste.

The manual does not address issues such as public transportation, parks and open spaces, land use and zoning, or building facades and structural requirements.

Revisions to Sarasota’s Construction and Development Manual are in the works

City Manager Marlon Brown stressed that revisions to the manual are not complete and a future public hearing is planned.

City staff began meeting with focus groups in September 2022 about the reviews, including people working on the development, such as architects and environmental engineers; agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation and Sarasota County government; and with various neighborhood associations and community groups such as the Citywide Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.

Three public meetings were held between November 2022 and July 2023, and City staff received 260 responses to their resident surveys.

Staff members also told the commission that following a recommendation from the city attorney, the planning process — the subdivision of property for official records — will be removed from the manual and left to the zoning code.

The new manual divides Sarasota into seven “context classification” zones to provide “high-level planning guidance for the application of engineering principles”:

  • City center – The most developed areas of the city; with tall, mixed-use buildings.
  • Urban village – Smaller urban centers like St. Armands Circle.
  • General urban commercial/mixed use – Areas with a diverse mix of housing that often connect urban residential areas, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Way
  • General urban residential – Active streets with single-family and multi-family homes that are close to Sarasota’s major shopping centers.
  • Suburban commercial or industrial – Low-density areas with large lots and railroad tracks that are used primarily by businesses.
  • Suburban residential – Residential areas that mostly consist of single-family homes.
  • Special Districts – It is difficult to define areas with a variety of functions and characteristics.

Sarasota City Commissioners React

City commissioners did not raise major concerns about the plan.

Commissioner Debbie Trice asked city staff about traffic prioritization on streets in the draft. Pedestrians and bicyclists were considered the most vulnerable users, followed by public transit and commercial trucks, while passenger vehicles came in last.

Corinne Arriaga, a senior transportation planner, responded that the classification is a guide for designing streets.

In response to Commissioner Kyle Battie’s questions about how the manual would affect ongoing developments, City Engineer Nikesh Patel said any projects currently in the pipeline would not be affected by the revisions.

“To ensure that affected parties have sufficient time to catch up with the new standards, we will be doing that implementation in the fall of 2026,” Patel said. “Therefore, they will have sufficient transition time to comply with the new standards.”

Patel added that when the new manual is implemented, developers will have to adhere to the new rules.

Christian Casale covers local government for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @vanityhack