Manatee planners OK proposed University Village

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 14, 2013 

MANATEE -- University Village, a proposed 51-acre development in an area evolving from agricultural and light industrial to residential, won initial approval Thursday.

The plan calls for 208 single-family units in a gated community on the north side of Tallevast Road in central Bradenton, just east of U.S. 301. Carlos Beruff, owner and president of Medallion Home, is the developer.

The Manatee County Planning Commission unanimously gave preliminary approval to his proposal, even as it came under criticism for its lack of recreational space. Only one-quarter of an acre is set aside for two "pocket parks," which the planning staff considers too small to serve so many units, according to county documents.

"Not everybody wants to be an amenitized community," Beruff told the commission.

Beruff and his team noted the project is near Kinnan Elementary and a 17-acre site designated for a county park.

Although the planning commission OK'd the project, its staff has been asked to seek a compromise on better recreational amenities with the developer. But the county Comprehensive

Plan, which governs future growth, does not require a specific amount of acreage for recreational uses.

Some buyers prefer affordability over amenities, real estate observers note.

Real estate agent Michael Holderness said he frequently meets buyers who prefer to pass on fancy amenities like pools, tennis courts and hiking trails.

"If I was going to keep the cost down, I would do a community pool and nice wide sidewalks, where people can walk," said Holderness of SaraBay Real Estate Inc.

The county has not appropriated money to develop the nearby acreage into a park, and may never do it, said Deputy County Attorney Sarah Schenk.

The possibility that nearby school grounds could be opened for recreational use during off-hours is still under study, the commission noted.

One man who has spent his life in the neighborhood came to voice his concerns about flooding from the project.

Harold Richard Hayworth told the commission he was born on the property just south of the proposed development site.

He recalled that a neighbor, Frank Pearce, had had a big drain dug across it many years ago to open swampy land for farming celery.

"I've seen when celery field trucks get stuck in the mud," Hayworth said. "I don't think people here understand how much water can accumulate in that area, especially since the canal has not been cleaned out for many years."

He implored the commission to be cautious before approving the project.

The matter will go before the Manatee County Commission for final approval, planner Lisa Barrett said.

"We'll probably tell the board what we're proposing, and let them decide, as well," she said.

The area is characterized by a mix of agricultural, light industrial and residential uses, but it has been evolving to mainly residential and residential support uses, according to the planning staff's project summary.

"There are numerous residential subdivisions existing within a half-mile of the proposed site," it said. "Residential expansion is a logical step in this area."

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

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