SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) — Last fall, commissioners in Sarasota County approved changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. The land use changes will pave the way for development out east, including a project that many view as an extension of Lakewood Ranch.

Lakewood Ranch Southeast could bring up to 5,000 new homes to a 4,100 acre property that sits between Fruitville Road and University Parkway. The plot of land wraps around existing rural neighborhoods such as Bern Creek Ranches.

Opponents of the land use change argue the proposed development isn’t compatible with the existing community and will “damage the quality of life and rural lifestyle for existing and future residents” out east.

Residents decided to take legal action against the county’s decision last year. The appeal hearing began this Monday at Sarasota County’s Administration Building in Downtown Sarasota.

“The comprehensive plan and planning in general were developed for the good of the community as a whole, and this proposed amendment is really only for the good of one developer, it is not good for the community as a whole in anyway that I can see,” said one of the resident’s attorneys Monday.

County officials told us they couldn’t comment due to the active litigation.

Residents understand they’re up against the county, but are staying hopeful the judge will see their side.

“Why do it? Because it is the right thing to do. Somebody has got to do it, somebody has got to step up, and we are impacted. Like our lawyer said, we are less than 1300 feet from it, and we will be impacted,” said resident Michael Hutchinson.

The hearing is expected to last four days and will feature testimony from several people before wrapping up Thursday.