Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Store Plan in North Port Riles Residents

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Store Plan in North Port Riles Residents

Article excerpt

NORTH PORT

City attorney Rob Robinson says the City Commission is in "a sticky wicket."

That may be putting it mildly.

To be blunt, the commissioners are facing a damned-if-they-do or damned-if-they don't dilemma that could have political, legal or financial repercussions no matter how they try to resolve it.

Hanlex Development wants to build a retail complex on a four- acre site at the southwest corner of Price and Cranberry boulevards that would include a Dollar General and other tenants.

For decades, all four corners of that intersection have been zoned commercial but have remained undeveloped.

Hanlex's plan calls for a 12,480-square-foot building Dollar General intends to rent for 15 years and, later, two more phases totaling another 15,800 square feet of retail space for tenants yet to be determined. It complies with the city's comprehensive plan and land development codes.

Hanlex bought the property presuming it had the clear legal right to build stores there.

If the commissioners deny its project, Hanlex could file a lawsuit against the city in which it could win substantial damages.

If the commissioners approve the project, however, they will incur the wrath of more than 450 residents who signed petitions saying they do not want a corner store -- any corner store -- in that neighborhood.

During a public hearing last week, commissioners wrestled with the issue for hours before eventually deciding to postpone a decision.

They told Hanlex they considered its application to be incomplete because they want a more detailed study about the potential traffic impacts on the boulevards, both of which are two lanes, when all phases of the project are built and occupied.

Hanlex has six months to get that traffic study done.

If that study does not show traffic counts high enough to indicate the complex will cause an unacceptable level of service on those two roads, the commissioners will face the same dilemma again.

"We've kicked the can down the road," said Commissioner Jim Blucher, even though he joined in the unanimous decision to continue the matter.

Benefit or disruption?

Hanlex contends that the Dollar General alone would create 31 jobs and contribute about $2. …

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