A large development project on North River Road in Venice moves forward.

It plans to have a public, a shopping center, and over 300 residential homes.

“I myself am very excited for this project. Driving Venice Avenue and River Road every day I think this property is underutilized and will be a fantastic addition to our community,” said Justin Taylor, Chair of the Sarasota County Planning Committee. 

Sarasota County planning commission passed a rezone petition for North River Marketplace last Thursday. It changes future land use from Moderate Density Residential to Village II Commercial Center for 50 acres at the intersection of East Venice Avenue and N River Road.

“The expected use for the commercial area is for there to be a commercial anchor store as a grocery to serve the existing surrounding communities,” said Phillip DiMaria, Certified Planner for Kimley Horn.

The planner, Kelly Horn, says they envision "high quality apartment units" with walking trails and an amenity center.

“We see this as an opportunity for folks to walk and get a carton of eggs at the grocery store rather than needing to get in their car and drive down the street,” said DiMaria. 

One existing resident expressed concerns for the project’s proximity to the Myakka River.

“We don’t need to have another Publix, we don’t need any more commercial, especially close to our wild and scenic river,” said Ray Westbrook, Sarasota County Resident.

Construction is already underway to widen North River Road from two to four lanes.

“I’m a neighbor to it I’ve seen the turtles moving, the birds aren’t there anymore, and I’m not a tree hugger but we’re doing some significant damage to the eco system around the Myakka River,” said Westbrook. 

Sarasota County planner Everett Ferril says the property is not within the Myakka River protection zone so environmental staff is not concerned.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that has spent more time on the Myakka River than myself. I grew up North River Road address for 20 plus years. I don’t see this project having any effect on the Myakka River at this point," said Taylor. 

The re-zoning discussed at the meeting applied to 51 acres, but the scope of the entire project is nearly 200 acres.

From the Sarasota County Planning Commission, the proposed North River Marketplace moves to the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners.

Board members will vote on the re-zoning at Tuesday’s meeting.