MANATEE -- The Manatee County Planning Commission approved a preliminary site plan Thursday for University Groves West, a 133-home development proposed by builder D.R. Horton off Circus Road, east of U.S. 301 and north of University Parkway.
The commission also approved changes to plans for a neighboring mixed-use development called University Groves, allowing a hotel, rehabilitation center and office building 10 feet higher than originally planned.
The proposal must now be approved by the Manatee County Commission.
Neighboring residents objected to the requests.
"My house is one lot over from the north border of this development," said Roger Arnholt of Oak Grove subdivision. "What we got in the mail tells nothing about what is being done."
Arnholt said the density is excessive, especially for a primarily family residential area. "Commercial and group residential is totally undefined," Arnholt told commissioners.
Attorney Mark Barnebey spoke for the developer, University Parkway Properties. He said plans already allow for a hotel, office buildings and a rehabilitation facility.
"I'm concerned about traffic and what it will do to the neighborhood and the character of the neighborhood," Arnholt said. "I'm concerned about the height of the buildings, the quality of life I now enjoy, and how that will be changed by this development."
Arnholt's concerns were echoed by University Groves Estates resident Ron Gottlieb.
"My main concern is that there has been a switch. The businesses that are going in are not really defined," said Gottlieb.
Considering University Groves West, Gottlieb said, "Because the homes are near water, we could potentially be flooded if we do have a disaster or a hurricane."
Richard Hayworth, whose 12-acre homestead ends about 100 feet before the planned subdivision, showed photos of his flooded property in 1992 and of the 30-foot wide Circus Road bordered by trees and utility poles.
"A lot of fill has been put in and they're putting in gate houses, I'm told," Hayworth said. "I hope you can get an appreciation for the amount of water that can occur there."
Tom Gerstenberger, stormwater engineering division manager for the county, said drainage is now designed to handle 8 inches of water in a 24-hour period.
Caleb Grimes, attorney for Duke Investments, which owns University Groves West, tried to assure the residents no flooding would occur.
"We, of course, are always concerned with water and making sure our homes are properly constructed," Grimes said. "Many homes are built in the 100-year flood area. We are sure, if any fill is brought in, that it is compensated for so we would not possibly push any more water on someone else than they would already get."
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7024, or tweetnote>