It was the solitude, quiet and freedom that attracted John Pugh and his wife, Christina, to the home at the end of Amlong Road four years ago.
“That’s definitely what attracted me,” Pugh said while standing on the edge of his 6.5 acres in north Manatee County. “Being able to have the freedom to do what I like to do, have no traffic in front of my house and be backed up to the woods is exactly the reason we came out here.”
But now a proposal to turn those woods into a 720-unit apartment complex has Pugh, along with other neighbors who live along secluded Amlong Road, worried that solitude may be lost.
There is nothing else out here like that so why are they saying it’s compatible to what’s here? That’s what we don’t understand.
Linda Stinson, Manatee County resident
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“There is nothing else out here like that, so why are they saying it’s compatible to what’s here? That’s what we don’t understand,” said Linda Stinson, who has lived along Amlong Road for 15 years.
On Thursday, the Manatee County Commission will consider The Vorbeck Family Limited Partnership’s proposed development called Vorbeck Moccasin Wallow, which calls for 720 multifamily residential units on 139 acres. The site is located on the south side of Moccasin Wallow Road and north of Amlong Road (89th Street East).
“This is the type of area that you want to have this type of development,” Scott Rudacille, who represents the property owner, told commissioners in a Feb. 9 planning meeting. They voted 6-1 to recommended approval. “I think we’ve done a good job to address the potential concerns with any compatibility issues.”
Residents not opposed to progress
With both Interstate 75 and Interstate 275 nearby, residents know progress is coming, Stinson said.
“We are not totally against progress,” she said.
But with thousands of homes already approved for the Moccasin Wallow Road area, there isn’t enough infrastructure to support the already-approved units, Stinson said.
“Why don’t we slow down try to prepare, get ready for what needs to come and for progress, and stop playing catch-up and just get ready for what’s coming and get a better infrastructure before we get behind?” she said.
Pugh said he’s all for progress, but the biggest concern with the apartments is the accompanying crime. Instead of the apartment complex, some residents would rather see a senior mobile home park or single-family homes.
“They claim it is going to be high-end, but this area can’t sustain that amount of people from a high-end perspective,” he said. “There are not enough people out here, and all these homes around us are multiple-acre homes, A-1, so that’s the other thing that I have a problem with.”
The homes on all those acres along Amlong Road also have animals in addition to the area’s wildlife, said Carol Huttinger, who has lived there for 22 years.
“Who wants to live around a bunch of people? We moved out here to get away from it all,” she said. “It’s country living. There’s nothing out here, and we like it like that.”
Residents fear too much change
When Gail Amlong Calandra first moved to Amlong Road, she was 2. Her mother and father, the namesakes of Amlong Road, built their home in 1956.
In the 60 years Calandra has lived along Amlong Road, there has been little substantial change. Some families moved, but the country lifestyle remained.
“I love it out here,” she said.
But the Vorbeck Moccasin Wallow is the second project going before the county commission in less than six months that abuts Amlong Road. In October, county commissioners approved Country Walk Estates, which calls for 172 single-family homes on the east side of Ellenton-Gillette Road and south of Amlong Road.
“That’s going to be pretty much across the street from my property, which is a big impact,” said Tanya Lex, who has lived along Amlong Road since 1999. “It’s a small project, but the extra people means extra just traffic, schools that aren’t available and just our peace and quiet of out here living in the country.”
Ahead of Thursday’s hearing on the apartment complex proposal, Lex said they are writing letters opposing the development as well as speaking in opposition during the hearing.
“I mean anyone doesn’t want to live on top of a three-story apartment complex between the crime, the traffic and everything else of how it is going to definitely affect our everyday living,” she said.
If the development is approved, Pugh said his family would reevaluate things.
“The big reason we moved out here was being away from it all, but close to the city,” he said. “It will just be impossible to go everywhere.”