Some Manatee County residents unhappy with population growth

kirby@bradenton.comMay 23, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Census estimates show significant growth in population between 2011-12 and 2012-13 in Manatee County, and some residents aren't happy about it.

Overall, Manatee saw a 1.99 percent growth from 2011-12 and a 2.49 percent growth from 2012-13, with

a total population of 342,106 in July 2013. The city of Bradenton had 1.45 percent growth from 2011-12 and 2.26 percent from 2012-13, with a total population of 51,763 in July 2013.

Mayor Wayne Poston believes it's a sign the city is getting back to pre-recession levels of growth.

"We're getting closer to our boom levels (of growth) from 2006 and 2007," Poston said. "2006 and 2007 levels were actually even higher."

Residents such as Leonard Succar, a lawyer who has lived in Bradenton for about six years, have noticed the population increase.

"I've noticed an increase in traffic. I have a law office right on Main Street, and there's certainly a lot more people in the courthouse and in the restaurants," Succar said. "And the beaches seem to be more crowded than ever."

Some residents say the city hadn't handled the growth well so far. Debbie Bacon, who has lived in Bradenton for 30 years and is a registered nurse and the discharge planner at Manatee County jail, said she's noticed the city getting more crowded, and local officials aren't doing enough to update the city.

"I think the county is backwards. We need to realize we're not a small town anymore," Bacon said. "You can't get out to the islands and you can't do anything on the weekends."

Amos Hayes, a bus driver who has lived in the area for 55 years, and Bacon both say a change in snowbirds' habits might have something to do with the increase -- it seems like fewer of them have been going home for the summer in recent years.

Mary Knight and Sue Gulch, who have lived in the area for 25 years and 38 years, respectively, noted that the area has been growing for years.

"It's been over the course of the last 15 to 17 years, when it used to be very rural," Knight said.

Poston credits some of the growth to the city council's strategy started during the recession to bring more people to the city. That plan included several new developments in the area, including the Riverwalk's major renovations. There are other developments, especially around Manatee Avenue, that Poston hopes will bring even more people to the city.

"We're going in the right direction," he said.

Here are the population figures for other cities in Manatee County:

• Palmetto had a 0.83 percent increase between 2011-12 and 1.21 percent increase between 2012-13, with a population of 12,964 in July 2013.

• City of Anna Maria had a 1.77 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 2.77 percent increase from 2012-2013, with a population of 1,597 in July 2013.

• Holmes Beach had a 1.9 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 2.09 percent increase from 2012-13, with a population of 4,053 in July 2013.

• Bradenton Beach had a 1.19 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 1.6 percent increase from 2012-13, with a population of 1,210 in July 2013.

• Longboat Key had a 1.1 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 1.14 percent increase from 2012-13, with a population of 7,082 in July 2013.

• The city of Sarasota saw a 0.98 percent population growth in 2011-12 and a 0.79 percent growth in 2012-13, with a population of 53,326 in July 2013, according to Census estimates.

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