WHITFIELD ESTATES -- Whitfield Estates residents will have an encore face-off over a proposed gas station at the former Cesar's Unique Furniture & Accessories.
Bonus Properties, a division of Sarasota-based Bank of Commerce, wants to build a Circle K gas station at the former furniture mart, 7259 N. Tamiami Trail, plus a 9,100-square-foot retail store. The bank is requesting to divide the property into two separate tracts -- one for a retail center and another for the gas station.
A hearing before the Manatee County Planning Commission is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 9 at the Manatee County Commissioners Board Chambers. The planning commission will make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners, which is scheduled to consider the request at its June 6 meeting.
The property on the corner of U.S. 41 and Pearl Avenue was proposed for a RaceTrac gas station in 2009, but county commissioners voted 5-2 to reject the 24-pump gas station because it was not compatible with the neighborhood. Since then, RaceTrac opened a gas station on the corner of U.S. 41 and 53rd Avenue West.
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Michael Holderness Sr., owner of SaraBay Realty, was vocal in 2009 about his opposition to the plan, and while he still has reservations about the most recent plan, he sees some positives. He said he's not surprised that plans for a gas station, albeit a smaller one, were revived. He hopes that if the plan goes through, the appearance of the store and gas station matches the Mediterranean style found on homes, his office and the fire station, all nearby.
"I wouldn't have a big problem with a convenience store there as long as it conforms to the neighborhood," he said.
Jeff Rainwater, president of the Whitfield-Ballentine Manor Association, said residents have mixed feelings following a presentation earlier this year by an agent for Bank of Commerce at an association meeting. The board has not taken an official stance on the project, and is scheduled to discuss the gas station at its May 13
meeting, he said.
Residents don't like the idea of a 24-hour operation, the boxy appearance, increased traffic through the neighborhoods and the potential noise, he said.
But some residents believe something at the rundown furniture store would be better than nothing.
"The way the building exists today, some feel this may conceivably be an improvement to what's already there," he said.
Holderness would rather have a professional mixed-use building with an urgent care facility and a gym to provide Whitfield residents with something different.
Plans for the retail store could not be confirmed, and Rainwater said residents at the previous meeting told the bank they did not want a tire/oil change operation like Tires Plus or Firestone because of the noise from air guns and honking horns.
The bank-owned property was listed Monday for $1 million. A sale is pending, according to the bank's real estate listing.
Calls to Bank of Commerce's senior vice president Jeff Burkee and to the project's attorney, William Robinson, were not returned.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.