MANATEE -- The Manatee County Planning Commission Thursday OK'd preliminary plans for 246 multi-family units to be built along Bowlees Creek in southern Manatee County.
The development on a 19-acre site is near 69th Avenue West and U.S. 41, overlooking the creek, which drains into the Gulf of Mexico.
Plans called for two possible options: One entailing 246 multi-family units, including a 126-bed assisted living facility; and the other, the same arrangement without assisted living. Both envision 53 existing boat slips.
Neighbors testifying during a public hearing questioned whether the project would create traffic tie-ups in their area, especially for those attempting to turn north on busy U.S. 41 at 69th Avenue West.
"I believe traffic congestion should be considered," said John Martell, a neighbor. "A lot of senior citizens enjoy Anna Maria Oyster Bar, and if you go between 11 and 7, you drive at your own risk."
If the assisted living facility were approved, 600-700 people easily could be living there, he said.
A complete traffic analysis has already been done, including reviews on the capacity of road networks, safety, and elements of transportation planning, said Edward Vogler II, representing the developer, Gulfside Homes/Bowlees Creek, LLP.
"It's very safe and good," he told the commission during its meeting at County Administrative Center.
At U.S. 41 and 69th Avenue West, the Florida Department of Transportation is planning intersection improvements, including replacing signal equipment and better accommodating pedestrians and the handicapped, an FDOT official said.
The intersection update is related to a $6.1 million project to add streetlights and sidewalks along the busy highway after officials became alarmed at a high number of traffic crashes and deaths there.
A positive of the Bowlees Creek development is that it could be considered "infill," since it is located in an already-developed area with county water and sewer already available, according to county planners.
A negative of the project is that the design proposes a higher density than was previously approved on property partially in a coastal high hazard area, county planners said.
The project required special approval because it was in a coastal evacuation area, and partially in a coastal high hazard overlay, officials said.
Planning commission recommendations now go to the Manatee County Commission for final approval.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.com.