Bradenton's big chiller clears first planning commission hurdle

myoung@bradenton.comJuly 10, 2014 

BRADENTON -- A proposed $12.5 million water-chilled electrical substation that will initially serve the Manatee County administration building and two other county buildings was approved Wednesday by the Bradenton Planning Commission.

The project has been in discussion for about three years and the county approved it in May. Since the proposed location sits within city limits, the county needed a special use permit from the city.

The location, a county-owned parking lot at 323 Ninth St. W., is used primarily by county employees.

The parcel will now accommodate a two-story 7,000-square-foot structure surrounding three water-chilling machines that operate more efficiently and more quietly than air-cooled systems.

Noise was the primary concern, said planners, with a residential neighborhood east of the property.

Jason "J.B." Taylor, architect for Fawley/Bryant of Bradenton, said the chillers operate under decibel levels set for the most restricted times of night.

"Between vibration insulation pads, heavy jackets around the machines, screening and landscaping, you are looking at between 72 and 75 decibels at 25 feet from the property line," said Taylor, during maximum operational periods.

He also said the closest residential housing was more than 80 feet away from the machines.

"But we won't know that for sure until it's up," said Taylor. "I'm not going to say it's going to be completely silent, but we'll do what we can to mitigate this."

The permit application states the project "will become an economic incentive to surrounding properties as chilled water for cooling will be readily available to surrounding properties. This should increase the value of the surrounding properties as well as any properties located adjacent to the proposed loop."

According to Nick Azzara, Manatee County information outreach manager, the chiller plant will save the county $10 million in the first 20 years, "reduce the county's water consumption, lower its carbon footprint and eliminate the need for more expensive air-handling units."

The project is part of a Florida Power & Light energy-savings program . Total costs include electrical upgrades to county buildings.

According to Manatee County Building Management Division Manager David Thompson, other government buildings, including Bradenton City Hall and eventually private businesses within the 1-mile loop of the chiller plant, will be able to tap into the system.

"By working with us, this system will remarkably reduce costs and maintenance," said Thompson, who noted the project is partially funded through the county capital improvement fund and partially "through a number of other sources that we will pay back with the savings we generate using this system."

The county will act as the utility company for other entities wanting to use the system.

"We thought it would be an economic generator for the future development of downtown, so we are definitely onboard with it," said Bradenton Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk. "I applaud the county in its efforts and forethought in not only moving the county forward, but the city forward as well."

Azzara said construction could be completed in the fall 2015.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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