Manatee residents worry land development code changes don't aid public

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 6, 2014 

A page of the county Land Development Code showing proposed revisions.SARA KENNEDY/skennedy@bradenton.com

MANATEE -- It was another slow stroll through the Manatee County Land Development Code Wednesday, with county officials laboriously reviewing the massive text line by line during a rewrite.

They considered:

• Land-use rules to govern places such as Robinson Preserve.

• Digital possibilities for notifying the public about hearings via the Internet.

• Who should review minor changes for historic preservation projects.

The document, spanning more than 1,000 pages, governs all development and use of land in unincorporated Manatee County.

Only three citizens attended the workshop at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, and they were outnumbered by county officials at the joint meeting of the Manatee County Commission and its advisory body, the county Planning Commission.

The group has been reviewing the first phase of revisions -- mostly reorganizational details, style changes and updates -- while more substantive fixes such as decisions about environmental

matters, await in the second phase, officials said.

Retired planner Larry Grossman of Longboat Key told officials he hopes phase II brings a more informal setup with more opportunity for conversation.

"A lot of stuff is going through before we can say anything," he said.

Environmentalist Sandra Ripberger sought more detailed documents from developers seeking project approvals from commissioners.

One possibility called a "conceptual development plan," she said, would not be sufficient.

"We felt this did not give good details to the public," she said.

The goal of the rewrite is to render the huge tome more user-friendly and easier to navigate, said John Barnott, director of Manatee County Building and Development Services.

"It's gotten very convoluted over time," said Barnott.

Recently appointed planning commissioner Albert Horrigan Jr. said the work session has been a welcome learning experience.

"For me, as a newbie, this has been a really beneficial the last few days," he said.

The workshop session is open to the public and reconvenes at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the convention center, One Haben Blvd, Palmetto.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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