The Florida Second District Court of Appeals upheld Senior Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gallen’s May ruling dismissing a lawsuit trying to stop the city of Bradenton from relocating Glazier-Gates Park.
The order came down Wednesday, saying that Gallen’s ruling had been affirmed. In an email to his clients with Stone Soup Community Unity, an activist group that brought the suit and protested the park’s relocation, Cape Coral attorney Ralf Brookes said, “We apparently lost the appeal.”
Defending the city against the suit was local land use attorney Ed Vogler, representing the development group Bradenton Land Group, which is building the 521-unit rental housing complex Villages at Riverwalk on the old site of the park. Glazier-Gates will be relocated from the 1000 block of Manatee Avenue East, north toward the Manatee River, and will become part of the eventual eastward expansion of Riverwalk.
Vogler previously said no one can be 100 percent certain inside a courtroom, but the development went forward under the threat that it would have to be taken down if the case was lost.
“We’re grateful that the courts applied the law as we understood it, but we aren’t surprised,” Vogler said. “When a landowner seeks zoning approval, it has to prove compliance with all the codes and ordinances. We do that every time and while we respect the right to challenge those approvals, the challenge has to be based on fact and law, not just emotion.”
Vogler said the development group he represents has always respected the opinions of those opposed to the project, but he reiterated its importance to the community.
“You had an area that was challenged with historically insufficient housing, and it’s going to be replaced with a very fine amenity for the citizens of Bradenton,” he said. “The city council and the mayor should be commended for their vision for the ability and desire to connect and the riverfront park and make a meaningful difference in the housing stock in the city. I know some of the neighbors were unhappy, but that’s true of any significant land-use matter in my 34 years of doing this.”
While the city is actually gaining land in the park exchange, parcels of park space are not all adjoined. The main park will be slightly smaller than the previous 4.88 acres that made up Glazier-Gates, but the city is gaining about an acre to include a pocket park within the development site that will be open to the public as well.