North Port leaders OK Wellen Park details


Map changes locate school, hotel sites for West Villages

By Earle Kimel

NORTH PORT — As the West Villages evolves into Wellen Park, the development should officially include a hotel adjacent to CoolToday Park and 130 acres reserved for the Sarasota County School Board to eventually build new campuses for a high school and possibly a K-8 facility.

Those are some of several features given tentative approval by the North Port City Commission in the first reading of ordinances amending the city’s unified land development code to provide for amendments to the Village Index Map and village pattern plans for Villages F and G.

Officially noting that the site beyond the left field wall at CoolToday will be developed as a hotel was a major change.

The two proposed school sites — located on the south side of a yet-to-be-built Manasota Beach Road, just west of an equally aspirational commercial development that would be located at the intersection of Manasota Beach Road with River Road — has not been finalized.

The developer hopes to swap that for an existing 60-acre school site, now located between State College of Florida-Venice and CoolToday Park.

John Luczynski, senior vice president of development for the West Villages, said that a school may no longer be the best use of that initial 60-acre site, while creating enough campus space for a high school in the development — which will be officially referred to as Wellen Park, starting June 8.

“We see it as a positive to put a quality school in the neighborhood,” Luczynski said. “Our demographics are a lot more mixed.”

Luczynski said the proposed land swap is expected to be presented to the Sarasota County School Board for approval as soon as its June meeting.

Land swaps are nothing new for Mattamy Homes and the master developer, since it acquired the former Thomas Ranch six years ago.

In 2017, it purchased 20 acres from the Diocese of Venice off of U.S. 41, between West Villages Parkway and River Road, in part of a transaction that gave the diocese 46 acres along River Road, just south of the intersection with U.S. 41.

The pattern book and map changes included modifications in the rights of way for roads inside the development. Most notably, that impacted Manasota Beach Road, which the developer plans to build from River Road west until the end of the property it owns, which is roughly 800-feet west of Preto Boulevard.

Luczynski stressed that there are no plans to connect Manasota Beach Road with State Road 776, since the right of way was owned by other entities.

As part of the approvals North Port Mayor Debbie McDowell asked that a stipulation be added that the city of North Port would not be responsible to extend the road either.

Theoretically, Manasota Beach Road would one day extend south of Island Walk and Sarasota National, and link up with State Road 776 south of Sarasota National and north of the planned DiVosta development, Beach Walk.

A spokeswoman for DiVosta said current plans for Manasota Beach Road to be improved east from State Road 776 only as far as a planned second entrance to the proposed 1,675-home gated community. That would have the road end west of Sarasota National and several hundred yards short of Preto Boulevard.

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