Gulf Gate project was modified as part of compromise agreement
By Roger Drouin
Publisher’s Note: Returning snowbirds have asked what happened to the Gulf Gate golf course. The following article addresses this frequently asked question.
Medallion Homes plans to build 106 new homes on the Gulf Gate golf course. The development, at 2550 Bispham Road, would join the Esplanade by Siesta, a 247-home subdivision, and the proposed mixed-use Siesta Promenade as mainland residential projects built or proposed in close proximity to Siesta.
In a sudden turn of events this spring, the proposed Gulf Gate development went from drawing the ire of a neighborhood to earning the approval of some neighborhood leaders and residents.
Back in May, Sarasota County Planning Commission members asked representatives with Medallion Homes to meet with members of the Gulf Gate Community Association on the project, which had proved controversial and highly scrutinized. Then a meeting on May 24, at the Gulf Gate library, between the developer and residents, led to an unanticipated agreement between the two parties. The agreement centered on the elimination of the six planned gates that would have separated the new development and an agreement that current Gulf Gate residents will be able to openly drive and walk through the new neighborhoods.
That compromise was pivotal in County Commissioner’s decision on July 13 to approve a rezone, clearing the way for the new homes, to be built by Medallion Homes, the company owned by developer and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff.
The new homes in Gulf Gate could rise up soon, but despite the county’s approval, some residents said they still had concerns about the plan’s effect on traffic, stormwater, and neighborhood compatibility.
“I realize concessions have been made, but I don’t think the community wants this development to happen,” Janet Darmon, a Gulf Gate Woods resident, said at the July 13 County Commission meeting. “Mr. Beruff please go home to Manatee County and leave us alone, I’m sure there are other tracts that can be developed that are not as contentious.”
Medallion Homes did not respond to several requests by Siesta Sand for comment on the development. According to civil plans submitted to the county, the single-family subdivision will be constructed in one phase.
“I am very, very pleased to say the applicant and GGCA came to a final agreement on this,” Bo Medred, a planner representing the developer, told county commissioners at the July 13 meeting. Before the meeting, the Gulf Gate neighborhood association’s board and membership also voted to approve the compromise agreement.
Down with the gates
In May, the project still faced strong opposition from the neighborhood that had organized against a development that they said was an isolated subdivision gated-off from the existing community. It had only mixed support from the county’s Planning Commission.
On May 5, a split 4-3 Sarasota County Planning Commission narrowly approved a controversial rezoning of the Gulf Gate golf course to clear the way for 106 new homes.
More than 30 residents were signed up to speak during the to-be-heard public section of the Planning Commission meeting, and many, including the neighborhood association’s president, spoke in opposition to the project. A crowd of more than 200 opponents led by the Gulf Gate Community Association, all wearing red, filled the planning commission meeting and criticized the project as incompatible with the existing Gulf Gate area of single-family homes.
But over the following weeks, the unanticipated occurred. Planning Commission members asked representatives with the developer, Medallion Homes, to meet with members of the Gulf Gate Community Association.
Richard Smith, a lawyer representing the Gulf Gate Community Association told county commissioners on July 13 that the neighborhood had earlier launched a spirited defense of a development they felt was not compatible with their neighborhood. But the two sides had reached a settlement amenable to both parties, Smith said. “The parties and their counsels sat down and I am pleased to report to you that a settlement has been reached,” he said.
Darrell Cox, president of the Gulf Gate Community Association, which represents more than 1,500 residents, said the association had strongly opposed the project because it was an isolated development behind six gates with private streets.
As outlined in previous plans, the gates would have encouraged cut-through traffic on other, existing streets, Cox told county commissioners. The compromise, however, would create a more harmonious impact on the existing neighborhood.
“This new development in the Gulf Gate community will be the only Medallion Home development in either Sarasota, or Manatee county, which does not have gates and which will allow members of the surrounding community to have free and open pedestrian and vehicular access,” Cox said.
“We believe these agreements will allow this development to be part of the larger Gulf Gate community,” Cox added.
The neighborhood association president also told commissioners that the neighborhood was supportive of the developer’s additional stormwater plans that addressed concerns about stormwater runoff.
Some residents, however, still voiced opposition at the July 13 County Commission meeting or said they still had unanswered questions on issues from traffic to stormwater. Like Darmon, Joan Hanna, voiced opposition. She said while the project sounds wonderful, and despite the compromise to keep the gates open, there were still too many “unanswered things.” Hanna also said she was upset when the developer installed barbed wire fencing around the property.