With growth at Lakewood Ranch comes new firefighting responsibilities

jajones1@bradenton.comJanuary 2, 2014 

An application was recently submitted to Manatee County to build 120 homes on 40 acres off Pope Road.JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- As developments go, the 120 single-family homes Pat Neal has proposed to build on the Loraine Riker Revocable Living Trust property at 4215 Pope Road ranks on the small side at Lakewood Ranch.

It's just a fraction of the size of Neal's 826-home Central Park neighborhood, located just to the west of Loraine Riker, or the massive Lakewood Centre planned to the south, or the 1,500 homes proposed for Del Webb at Lakewood Ranch planed several miles to the east.

But each development, regardless of size, gets the full attention of not only the Manatee County planning staff, who make their recommendations before forwarding the project on to the planning commission and county commission, but East Manatee Fire Rescue as well.

East Manatee Fire Marshal George Ellington, who has already had a look at plans for Riker, says his only concern is the lack of a second entrance for the neighborhood.

Otherwise, Riker looks to be in good shape for fire protection, located about a mile from a fire station, Ellington said.

Don O'Leary, an East Manatee fire commissioner, says that the district now has six fire stations that are completed and staffed, and has plans for two more.

One of the proposed stations would be near the Concession

and Panther Ridge neighborhoods, helping to cut response time on State Road 70. The other would be at Dam Road and State Road 64.

In addition, East Manatee Fire Rescue has recently purchased a fire truck with a 100-foot ladder for $1 million in preparation for higher rise buildings now being built at Lakewood Ranch.

Thirteen four-story buildings are now being built or are planned at Lakewood Ranch, including three across from Lakewood Ranch Main Street, O'Leary said.

East Manatee Fire Rescue is in the enviable position of having no debt.

"Everything we own is paid for," O'Leary said.

Also watching growth is the volunteer Lakewood Ranch Community Emergency Response Team, which organizes and trains citizens to respond to disasters such as hurricanes in their own neighborhoods.

Lakewood Ranch CERT has about 240 volunteer members, said former president John O'Brien.

CERT would like to reach out to the new neighborhoods to help them develop their own corps of citizen volunteers, O'Brien said.

Manatee County planners have until Jan. 8 to prepare their comments on the Riker development, which is proposed for 40 acres of raw land. The neighborhood would include passive recreational open space and a community amenity center with pool, said planner Debbie Perron.

Neal Communities has a contract to purchase the Riker property if it can win county approvals for the project.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.

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