East Manatee development proposal inspires stout opposition

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 3, 2013 

MANATEE -- After 28 speakers objected to a East Manatee housing development proposal, the Manatee County Commission voted Thursday to continue a public hearing on the issue until next month.

Citing concerns about increased traffic along Waterline Road, wildlife living amid the wooded, 77.9-acre site, and what they called incompatibility with a rural lifestyle, one speaker after the next who lived in the East Manatee area asked the board to nix the Martin-Hillwood project.

Jamie Davison, a veterinarian who recently purchased a home on Waterline Road, said she loved the neighborhood character, its history and the lush surrounding environment with its many wildlife varieties.

"We thought we'd died and gone to heaven," Davison said. "We're concerned that our kids will lose the country living experience."

Caleb Grimes, an attorney representing the property owners, said many nearby tracts have already been developed and the area has been designated "urban fringe."

"We are in an area that has been planned since 1989 to have this type of development," Grimes told the board. "There's nothing in it that suggests this is not compatible with your comprehensive plan."

Development plans call for a "low-impact" arrangement of 195 residences on the wooded property located on the north side of Waterline Road 1.8 miles east of Rye Road.

"The plan employs smaller lots...to preserve more of the native upland land cover," county staff said in a report, which recommended approval. "The applicant has indicated that 15 acres of native upland habitat will be preserved in order to comply with the Comp Plan policy."

County Commissioner John Chappie said several developments built elsewhere in the county are "low impact" to the environment with narrow streets and preserved trees.

"They're compact, unique

communities," he said. Buildings were clustered in such a way as to preserve "the natural forest some of us hate to lose."

Commissioner Robin DiSabatino objected to so many home sites in a mostly rural area.

"I personally do not think 195 units are compatible with five- and 10-acre lots," she said.

The board voted to continue the public hearing June 6 and directed staff to devise a more palatable arrangement with neighboring homeowners.

"We certainly are willing to work with you, and are OK with the continuance," said Grimes.

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

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