MANATEE -- A 600-home community, Del Tierra, was tentatively approved Thursday in a 4-3 vote by the Manatee County Planning Commission.
The development, spearheaded by Texas-based developer D.R. Horton, would occupy 233 acres at 15156 and 16000 Upper Manatee River Road.
Residents of Country Meadows, a community just west of the proposed development, are concerned Del Tierra's high density would overwhelm the lower-density neighborhoods surrounding it. Del Tierra has a net density of about three homes per acre, while Country Meadows has about one home per acre.
The site plan also shows Del Tierra would use a secondary entrance-exit through Country Meadows to Upper Manatee River Road.
Tim Law, president of Country Meadows Homeowners Association, said the dense community doesn't belong next to more spread-out communities. He said Del Tierra would cause a traffic increase and impair the safety of residents and their children.
Commissioner Tim Rhoades also complained about the density and the possibility of additional traffic in Country Meadows.
"It's a second major entrance and exit for a 600-home community. The owners of Country Meadows didn't buy into that," he said. "Those are half-acre lots, and I don't think they ever figured this amount of traffic would be going through their neighborhood."
Caleb Grimes, the attorney representing D.R. Horton, said a traffic impact analysis done by the county anticipates only a 7 percent traffic increase in Country Meadows. He also said Country Meadows homeowners were made aware of the future inter-neighborhood tie in a notice to buyers after the community was approved in 2001.
"When you go to Lakewood Ranch and you have different neighborhoods, you don't have all lots the same size. You don't want all lots the same size," Grimes said. "People become neighbors, they become friends."
Commissioner Albert Horrigan Jr. also expressed concern about increased density after planner Stephanie Moreland pointed out Rye Road subdivision, a 152-home community established last year next to Del Tierra, also has a density of about three homes per acre.
"That is 152 lots and now we're talking about 610 lots. We're talking about a major change of character in the area," Horrigan said.
Moreland said county staff members recommend the project with stipulations.
Those voting in favor: Chairman Richard Bedford and Commissioners Bill Conerly, Tanya Lukowiak and Matt Bower; opposed: Rhoades, Horrigan and John DeLesline.
If approved by the Manatee County Commission Jan. 9, construction on the four-phase development will begin in 2014, with an estimated completion date of 2017.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.