IMG Academies seek to rezone campus in order to expand

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 4, 2012 

MANATEE Officials representing IMG Academies will ask county planners this week to rezone 221.36 acres and approve a master plan that would guide expansion at IMG’s Bradenton-area campus.

Under terms of the plan, the company could ask for building heights up to 84 feet in some areas, and it also is seeking permission to install lights for night activities on its athletic fields, said Katie LaBarr, a county planner.

The existing campus maximum height limit is set at 35 feet.

“Under the new zoning, they can ask for a height of up to 84 feet that could be seven stories so it’s pretty significant,” LaBarr said Friday.

“But the idea is the intent

to create a campus setting internally focused, with larger open spaces along the edges,” she added.

The county planning staff is recommending approval.

A meeting about the expansion for those who live near the IMG campus has also been slated for Tuesday at the IMG Golf & Country Club, LaBarr said.

Other items mentioned in plans affecting the campus include vacating Bollettieri Boulevard, and extending 51st Street West, south from where it dead-ends at 53rd Avenue West, according to county documents.

One set of plans mentions an “indoor football arena,” and student residence halls of three to five stories.

And along with development of the property comes the question of how to protect wetlands, since the Palma Sola Slough, a meandering stream and wetlands, wanders through the middle of the property.

IMG Academies offers specialized training in a variety of sports, and operates a number of other facilities from its sprawling campus at 5500 34th St. W.

The company employs more than 600, and wields an economic impact of more than $200 million a year, the Herald has reported.

The Academies’ parent company is IMG, a global sports, fashion and media business.

“We are not ready to speak publicly about our expansion plans,” Kim Berard, the company’s head of public relations, said Friday.

If the Manatee Planning Commission approves, the rezoning would re-classify IMG’s property into a single zoning category called “Master Planned-Institutional,” which was newly adopted by the county earlier this year.

The company asked for the new zoning district to be adopted as part of the county’s Land Development Code to accommodate long-term expansion that could entail many different types of projects, officials said in January when it was approved.

Current company plans note: “IMG Academies is requesting a rezone to MP-I with an institutional master plan approval to facilitate a proposed expansion of sports training and academic programs presently offered.”

“This request is to rezone three separate, but contiguous campuses, which all have existing zoning designations, and combine them into a single ‘Master Planned-Institutional’ (MP-I) zoning district,” company documents said.

The new designation would “more appropriately serve” expansion of academic and sports training uses over time, they said.

Last fall, IMG bought 110 acres adjacent to its campus from its neighbor, Manatee Fruit Co. The county has historically distinguished between a straight rezoning and “planned development,” said Bill Clague, deputy county attorney, during a land-use meeting at County Administrative Center earlier this year. But IMG did not feel the “planned development” category could give it the flexibility it needed for long-term expansion that could entail many different types of projects, from a primary mission as a sports training center to such diverse uses as housing or research, officials said.

Listed in county documents as a permitted accessory use should the rezoning be approved are: dormitories; personal service establishment; research & development; retail sales, neighborhood general; high, middle and elementary schools; clinic; office/professional; office; recreational low- and medium-intensity use; eating establishment, and residential.

The public hearing is slated for 9 a.m. Thursday at 1112 Manatee Ave. W., first floor; for information, call 748-4501, ext. 6828.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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