BRADENTON -- The proposal to turn parts of the Point Pleasant neighborhood into a conservation district has turned into a three-way battle between the majority of residents, one high-profile property owner and Westminster Communities.
Divisiveness also emerged Wednesday within the Bradenton Planning Commission, which voted 3-2 to recommend approval to the Bradenton City Council.
The effort to form some type of protection around the 14-acre neighborhood on the western edge of downtown began in 2005.
Much of the renewed effort to protect the neighborhood is due to Ryan Snyder, of the Snyder Law Group, who purchased the "Old Rossi House" at 1800 Point Pleasant Drive on the prime northwest corner on the Manatee River.
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Snyder purchased the property and built his dream home, which many residents now call the "Monster House." As the city moved to create a conservation district to limit the types of allowable development, Snyder requested via letter his property not be included in the district.
The city declined but allowed all existing Westminster properties, including recent purchases, to be exempted. Snyder said it isn't fair.
"The properties have been cherry-picked, so either this applies to everyone or no one," Snyder said. "A lot of these residents don't realize that what they are trying to prevent is not going to happen. Westminster is still going to build what they want to build. If Westminster is not subject to this, then I shouldn't be either."
Westminster, represented by Dye, Deitrich, Petruff & St. Paul of Bradenton, also sent a letter objecting to the city conservation district proposal because they had been excluded from meetings. It was revealed Wednesday that Westminster would be exempted from the district.
Attorney Patricia Petruff said it made no sense to include existing Westminster buildings, "which are mostly institutional uses of property, so the change for the existing buildings would make it legal non-conforming, which would devalue the land." Petruff said undeveloped Westminster properties have already received preliminary site plan approvals for condominium-style buildings and the city actions would create a Bert Harris Act situation for the city where it could be taken to court for creating undue burden on a property owner.
The oddly shaped Point Pleasant Conservation District would be rezoned T4R, which would essentially eliminate commercial development and restrict housing development to conformity with the neighborhood. The Westminster properties and four parcels on the southwest corner of the Point Pleasant peninsula were excluded and remain T4O, which allows commercial and high-density residential for up to six-story buildings.
Neighbors say Westminster is buying up too much of the neighborhood and is bulldozing historic houses. The city acknowledges it has taken place at least once.
Point Pleasant resident Jane Plitt said Snyder's "monstrous structure" and Westminster's "bulldozing of a historic home" were reasons why the neighborhood needs the designation.
Most of the 40-plus people in attendance agreed.
Commissioner Stewart Moon also agreed but joined with Snyder in saying the designation should apply to everyone. Moon said the character of the neighborhood needs to be protected and Westminster's goal of expanding its retirement communities was counterproductive to city efforts to attract millennialls to the area.
"The Westminster use is not what's appealing to the next generation of people moving, living and working in Bradenton," he said. "We need to create a district that protects the uniqueness of the neighborhood and promotes downtown development similar to what we have seen in the Village of the Arts that allows growth but in the right way."
The city council will consider the conservation district proposal Jan. 27. A second reading and public hearing will be Feb. 10.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.