Palmetto commissioners vote 5-0 for Manatee River powerboat festival

rdymond@bradenton.comMarch 4, 2014 

PALMETTO -- Palmetto city commissioners like the idea of a powerboat festival bringing spectators and business to their side of the Manatee River.

On Monday, they gave conceptual approval by a 5-0 vote to the races, which would be Jan. 30-31, 2015.

"I think it would be a real good event for Palmetto, Bradenton and Manatee County," said Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant.

Event organizers broached the idea with commissioners of either closing the Green Bridge during the races so spectators could watch the boats blast by below or closing just the east side.

The race would be designed around the Green, DeSoto and railroad bridges, said Executive Director Elliott Falcione of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at the afternoon workshop.

"Closing half of the Green Bridge is more likely if anything like that is considered," Groover Bryant said. "We will just wait and see. This is all just conceptual talk right now. Nothing is finalized."

The Bradenton City Council granted its unanimous approval last Wednesday to Integrated Strategic Marketing USA's festival, which would be modeled after Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Regatta

and include powerboat races, dog show, major concert, children's zone and extreme sport competition in jet skiing and water skiing.

Palmetto Commissioner Tamara Cornwell said she will pay close attention to how the events are divided up.

"Both sides of the river must have the opportunity to host some of the events," Cornwell said.

Executive Director David Gustafson of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority said an approval Monday night, which came after Groover Bryant added the speedboat race item to the evening agenda, would allow festival organizers to "initiate the approval process through state agencies...which is a major step."

Falcione said the two-day event could attract 75,000 powerboat fans and bring $8 million to $10 million into Manatee County.

In other commission action:

• Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance requiring all Palmetto drop boxes be placed on private property as of July 1 or public property if owned by a not-for-profit.

"They have been literally put everywhere by for-profit companies selling clothes by the pound," Groover Bryant said of the boxes. "They have created blight."

Commissioners Cornwell and Charles Smith voted against the ordinance. Commissioners Jonathan Davis, Tambra Varnadore and Brian Williams voted in favor.

"Does the potential for harm override the good it brings the community?" Cornwell asked. "It gives you a convenient place to drop off unwanted clothing."

• Commissioners unanimously approved spending $14,564 so Palmetto can be a part of Manatee County's Traffic Management Center with Manatee County, Bradenton, Sarasota and Sarasota County.

The system will allow officials to view traffic accidents in real time in Palmetto and make traffic light adjustments, said Allen Tusing, public works director.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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