Home construction heating up Moccasin Wallow area in northern Manatee

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 28, 2014 

MANATEE -- Spurred by demand for new homes and a strong job market in Hillsborough County, developers are planning the construction of nearly 7,000 residences along Moccasin Wallow Road north of Parrish and Palmetto.

Some projects have sat idle for years due to the Great Recession, while others are newer, prompted in part by online retailer Amazon's plans to build a 1-million-square-foot distribution center in Ruskin.

Among projects either under way or pending approvals from Manatee County are Homes by Towne's Eagle Pointe, with 1,600 residential units; Pat Neal's The Villages of Amazon South with 1,999 residential units and 60,000 square feet of commercial or office space; and John and Michael Neal's Summer Woods with 562 single family homes.

Homes by Towne is seeking to reduce the number of single family homes and increase the number of multifamily homes approved by Manatee County in 2006 for Eagle Pointe.

Requested for Eagle Pointe are 740 single family homes, 270 single family attached homes and 600 multifamily units, according to an application filed with the county.

Largest of the projects along Moccasin Wallow Road is Taylor Morrison's Esplanade at Artisan Lakes active lifestyle community. Esplanade is approved for 2,802 homes, including 1,685 detached single family homes, 395 single family attached homes and 722 multifamily units.

Esplanade is the only one of the four developments where construction has commenced.

"What seems to be happening is a lot of activity, particularly with family housing and access to the Hillsborough County job market," Pat Neal said.

An estimated 1,000 jobs could be created at the Ruskin facility, plus another 1,000 at a proposed Amazon facility in Lakeland. The Ruskin and Lakeland facilities, the first in Florida, would also cause Sunshine State residents to begin paying state sales tax on any purchases from the online retailer.

Neal doesn't anticipate construction starting at Summer Woods before January, but said he was hoping to start The Villages of Amazon South much sooner.

Neal, who has agreed to pay to extend sanitary sewer to The Villages of Amazon South, is in a disagreement with Manatee County government over the project.

Manatee is asking for a 24-inch sewer line to be constructed next to an existing 16-inch line, Neal said.

"They are asking us to build capacity to the future that is out of proportion to our needs. We are baffled," Neal said.

Sia Mollanazar, deputy director of Manatee County public works engineering services, said local government must look at all the communities and developments feeding into area treatment plants.

That's particularly important in an area of intense development, such as the Moccasin Wallow-Buckeye Road area.

A 24-inch line is required on the master plan for the northern Manatee County area where The Villages would be located, Mollanazar said.

"If you jump from one transmission line to another, you throw away your entire master plan," Mollanazar said.

In five years, the county doesn't want to have to come up with $5 million to correct a problem that could have been prevented by following its plan, he said.

"We are getting very close to an amicable solution," Mollanazar said.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053.

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