Venice City Council Member Mitzie Fielder sees need for a wider Laurel Road as trumping the need to improve Venice Avenue-Pinebrook Road intersection

VENICE — Concern over the deteriorating condition of Laurel Road east of Interstate 75 is promoting Venice City Council Member Mitzie Fiedler to ask her fellow board members Tuesday whether they want to scrap plans to improve the intersection of East Venice Avenue and Pinebrook Road, road impact fees can be spent on Laurel Road instead.

In her memo requesting that the topic be placed on the agenda, Fiedler pointed to a traffic study conducted by the city Development Services Department as part of the land development code process that indicated that Laurel Road would be rated “F” for level of service by 2030.

“Our Comp Plan dictates a minimum LOS of ‘D,’” Fiedler wrote.

She also noted that Pinebrook Road would likely remain at a “D” level of service for the foreseeable future, even with planned growth in Northeast Venice.

Fiedler, a Venetian Golf & River Club resident, is one of three city council members — along with Vice Mayor Rich Cautero and Council Member Bob Daniels — who live off of that stretch of Laurel Road.

Pinebrook Road is the main access road for Wellfield and Pinebrook parks, while Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is building its new Venice hospital campus at the southeast intersection of Laurel and Pinebrook roads.

The same city study cited by Fiedler lists the level of service of Laurel Road between I-75 and Pinebrook Road as “C,” in 2030.

The city of Venice has about $6.25 million in road impact and mobility fees set aside for improvements to the East Venice Avenue intersection with Pinebrook Road, extending north to Ridgewood Avenue.

The project is slated in the city of Venice Capital Improvement Plan to start in October 2021.

Sarasota County Transportation Planning Manager Paula Wiggins, in an August email to Venetian Golf and River Club resident Jerry Jasper, noted that while the county CIP has $2.3 million set aside for right-of-way acquisition, it is not in the county’s 2020-24 CIP.

The $2.3 million, according to the County CIP is actually Venice road impact fees.

Wiggins added that Sarasota County submitted a grant to the state’s County Incentive Grant Program to fund a preliminary design and engineering study as part of the state’s five-year work program.

Going that route, Wiggins wrote, would delay the start of the project but it would then become eligible for federal funding.

An interlocal agreement authorizing the Pinebrook Road-East Venice Avenue intersection improvement was signed in May 2014, though the Venice City Council agreed to allocate the $2.3 million in road impact fees to the project at its May, 22, 2012 meeting.

City officials have been contemplating a variety of methods to fast-track the widening of that section of Laurel Road.

At the June 11 meeting this year, Fiedler made a motion for the city to ask developer Pat Neal if he would enter into a city, state, county and private partnership to widen Laurel Road from Knights Trail Road to Jacaranda Boulevard.

On June 25, during a public hearing on a zoning map change for the 300-acre GCCF-PUD, Neal responded that the partnership was possible and in July, when that hearing concluded, projected it could cost about $7.8 million to widen the road to four lanes, including bike lanes on both sides, and a multi-use recreational trail along the south side of the road.