Manatee's younger generations prefer more urban lifestyles, county planner says

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 8, 2013 

MANATEE -- The preferences of those who are teens now are part of what Manatee County officials are considering as they contemplate long-term growth.

Youngsters have a different set of perceptions than older generations, and the county should take into account their wishes, said John Osborne, county planning/zoning official at a meeting Thursday of the Tiger Bay Club.

"My son is a 16-year-old kid," he told the group, meeting at Pier 22 restaurant. "Lots of his friends don't have a driver's license yet. They would rather have a new smart phone than a driver's license."

He predicted trends for the future will involve a more urban lifestyle. More rental housing; smaller housing, and mixed-use developments are what younger people will be seeking.

One good bet is that housing will be very different than it is now. Demand for a single-family residential home on an acre of land near a golf course may be waning, for instance, he said.

That's why the county is considering three alternatives, part of "How Will We Grow?" a report designed to update county planning efforts through 2035.

The Manatee County Commission might want to reconsider the area's past emphasis on "low-rise, low-density," he said.

"From a planning perspective, it actually means you're into urban sprawl," Osborne said.

"Why not build up, rather than out?"

County planners are also in the process of rethinking the comprehensive plan itself, and re-writing the Land Development Code, which implements the plan.

Commissioners will be asked to select one of three options

in growth planning:

n Stay the course: Limited changes consistent with current suburban-oriented growth planning.

n Urban in-fill and redevelopment: Concentrating more future population growth south of the Manatee River and west of Interstate 75.

n Four activity centers: Development focused in four special unincorporated areas, which would provide more certainty in delivering services to residents.

Commissioners also will be asked to answer the question: "How Will We Pay?"

That question was posed by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, who said 60 percent of the cost of government currently is borne by property owners.

"We must diversify our revenues. This is not a ploy to increase the size of government," he told the group.

The county is considering reducing property taxes, and adding a utility franchise fee that would generate roughly $15 million, he said.

"In the long run, property tax relief will more than offset any fee we put into play," he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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