MANATEE -- Land once destined to become a subdivision of luxury homes and a golf course now will start a journey toward restoration to a lush coastal habitat.
The Manatee County Commission Thursday OK'd a rezone of 149.18 acres that will set in motion an expansion of the county's popular Robinson Preserve.
The expansion will increase the preserve's acreage to a total 637 acres.
The board voted 7-0 in favor of a resolution to rezone from "Planned Development Residential" to "Conservation District" for the tract of land at 1704 99th St. N.W.
It also approved an environmental preserve management plan, which will help to guide restoration work that will be going on there.
"We're moving forward with expansion plans," said Commissioner John Chappie after a land-use meeting Thursday.
"It's continuing the direction, the policies, the goals of Manatee County we have been following for decades with regards to protecting, preserving and enhancing our community, our environmentally sensitive areas, our estuaries."
The board granted special approval for the project, which is adjacent to a perennial stream and in a coastal evacuation area and a coastal high hazard area.
"It was a formality, but we had to do it to be able to do
what we want, because it was zoned for development, and we had to cross the T's and dot the I's," said Commissioner Carol Whitmore after the meeting.
The proposed conservation zoning district "is intended to preserve and protect large areas of open space, vegetative habitat, natural drainage systems, aquifer recharge areas, soils and wildlife habitats ..." according to county documents.
Plans call for a variety of nature trails, a "canopy walk" through old-growth trees, playgrounds, another kayak launch and storage area, and an education center that will mimic the leafy grace of a treehouse, and a lake, shorebird nesting areas and low-level marshes, the Herald has reported.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.