E-mails opposing development again flood Manatee County Commission

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 5, 2013 

MANATEE -- Reminiscent of the uproar surrounding the Long Bar Pointe project, Manatee County commissioners have once again been inundated with e-mail opposing a proposed development, this time in East Manatee.

Commissioners received nearly 40 e-mail messages Tuesday, many from residents who live miles away on the beaches, opposing the Martin/Hillwood project to be considered Thursday during a land-use meeting at 9 a.m. at County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

The property at 17145 Waterline Road, is owned by Mary Jane Martin Smith and Richard Martin. They are seeking a rezoning of 77.9 acres from general agriculture to planned development residential to develop 195 lots for single-family detached residences.

"As a concerned citizen of Manatee County, I urge you to vote NO on Waterline Road," wrote Melissa Snyder of Holmes Beach. "This is another example of an unnecessary removal of habitat and agricultural areas in Manatee County. While not on the same scale as Long Bar, it will impact nature, agriculture, open space and cause further pollution of the environment."

Waterline Road resident Jan Borden also sought a "no" vote on the project.

"The only thing that's changed during the summer is that I now live in fear because Terry Jones is 100 yards away," she wrote, referring to the Rev. Terry Jones, a pastor who is moving from the Gainesville area to property along Waterline Road. Jones is best known for burning copies of the Koran.

Efforts to reach Caleb Grimes, an attorney representing the property owners, were unsuccessful late

Wednesday.

However, in a previous hearing about the project, Grimes 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."

The county's professional planning staff has recommended approval of the rezoning, the general development plan and granting a special approval, since the project exceeds one dwelling unit per acre, according to county documents.

A previous proposal called for 119 residential lots.

The heavily forested site boasts native upland habitats, xeric oak and pine flatwoods, 15 acres of which will be preserved, according to county documents.

The site is near two bald eagle nests, has several endangered gopher tortoise burrows, and could also host other endangered species such as the scrub jay and the eastern indigo snake, according to county documents.

The property has no wetlands.

Planners reported the project's "small lot sizes create opportunities for open space preservation," but increased traffic on Waterline Road is "perceived by many neighborhood residents as a rural local road."

Many residents testified in previous hearings that the project is incompatible with the neighborhood, since other lots are 5 acres. There was also plenty of discussion about Waterline Road's proclivity for flooding.

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

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