BRADENTON -- Local church members went home happy while neighboring Braden River residents went home upset at the approval of a convenience store and gas station at the entrance to their community.
Bradenton City Council approved a preliminary project proposal to allow Thornton's to open on the southeast corner of State Road 64 and 48th Street Court East on property now owned by financially struggling Faith United Church.
"These are difficult decisions. We are a changing community," Councilman Bemis Smith said. "People want to live here. We have to address the issue of 55,000 cars on the road."
The decision would allow the church to sell part of its property to Thorntons and eliminate the threat of foreclosure.
"This is our church home, It has been for many, many people," M.R. Lembright said. "If we can remain on those three acres this would be a win-win situation since our building would remain between the ever-changing State Road 64 and Braden River Lakes community."
Lembright of Parrish, among others, urged the council to save the church from being forced to sell the entire property and keep its home at 4850 SR 64.
Faith United officials placed the corner parcel on the market and received one offer. The sale would pay off the more than $4,000 monthly mortgage, which the church could no longer afford.
Council members approved the preliminary plans unanimously despite opposition from the neighboring Braden River Lakes community.
"We have rights," Braden River Lakes resident Tim Calpin said. "The right to protect our safety and safety of our children."
Calpin also spoke to the council about environment, property value and quality of life.
"How many gas stations do we need?" Calpin asked.
"The reality is it would be difficult for us as a council to deny because there are too many gas stations," Smith said.
Calpin had concerns over safety for children with a 24-hour convenience store selling alcohol so close. Smith reminded him of the possibilities.
"The reality is, if the church gives up all the property you could have a bar there with people drinking," Smith said.
The council expressed sympathy for both sides.
"The human in me wants to deny this," Councilman Patrick Roff said. "My fear is if this were denied, then there is no telling what is going to come in."
In other news, council approved two ordinances designating responsibility for maintenance of private roads and enabling the cleanup of city public health hazards.
Councilman Harold Bryd Jr. was not in attendance.
Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049.