Bradenton council to decide if school board can close off Manatee High street

City to rule on ceding street by Manatee High to district

mvalverde@bradenton.comAugust 14, 2012 

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council will decide Wednesday if it will cede a street adjacent to Manatee High School to the School Board of Manatee County.

"We would control that area," said Michael Pendley, executive planner for the School District of Manatee County. "It would not be open to the public, it would be just like any other portion of the school."

The street in question is a portion of 32nd Street West, from Ninth Avenue West to 11th Avenue West. The street separates the school building from its athletic field. The school district is currently allowed to block access to the street during school hours through the use of swing gates on 11th and Ninth avenues.

"The gates are generally closed during the school day right now and for a while after school, so it's not going to be significantly different than what it is now," said Pendley.

Tim Polk, Bradenton's director of planning and community development, said there's no other school in Manatee County that is exposed "with a public road with through traffic" in the middle.

"We want to work with them," Polk said. "Residents would have to make some changes, but I think we have not had anyone protest against this vacation."

The planning commission and city staff are recommending the council approve the request but with two stipulations: an easement for emergency access and an easement for installation, operation, and maintenance of public utilities.

Ronnie Wingate, 70, who lives along 11th Avenue West, said he hoped the council would not vacate the street since it provides convenient access to neighbors trying to get to Manatee Avenue West. He said he favored the street being closed during school hours, games, and special events.

"But what happens the other eight hours of the night?" Wingate said. "A lot of people come this way, they would have to go around the blocks. It belongs to the people, not to the county. That's the way I feel about it, taxpayers pay money for that road."

Pendley said that eliminating the street as a public right of way "would prevent people from coming right into the heart of campus."

The primary reason for the request is to ensure the safety of students, he said.

Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, who represents the Manatee High School neighborhood, said she has received phone calls and comments in person from residents who say they want the street open after school hours and on weekends.

"The city council can readily understand the advantage to the school system should the street be vacated, but how does closing the street benefit the citizens in that area?" Barnebey said.

Barnebey will not be voting Wednesday due to a conflict of interest. Her husband works for the law firm representing the school board.

"These are high school students. They ought to be able to look both ways when they cross the street," Barnebey said.

In 1999, the school board had asked the city to vacate the street but that request was denied due to concerns from the public works department and the fire department for utilities and emergency access, city documents show. This time around, the school board is presenting letters from seven different service providers who present no objection to the vacation request.

The Bradenton City Council is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at 101 Old Main St.

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