When it rains, Samoset’s narrow streets, lined with ditches, always flood, says a longtime Samoset resident.
“It is a very depressed little area,” said Carol Fenzl, who has lived in Samoset since 1998. “The streets are thin. We are always flooded out. It floods every year. Homes get flooded out.”
Bordered by 15th Street East to the west, the neighborhood’s flooding could possibly improve if green and complete streets are implemented in the area, Fenzl said during a workshop at the Central Library this week.
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Thanks to a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Manatee County officials had a workshop to get community feedback about green and complete streets in the county.
While complete streets are “streets for everyone,” green streets “integrate stormwater management techniques in roads and rights-of-way,” according to Wednesday’s workshop.
“The reason for selecting Manatee County is we see a lot of great potential in moving things forward,” said Jason Berner with the EPA. “That’s why we are here. It’s a good sign you guys are interested in this topic.”
The EPA selected the communities from 76 applicants to the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program, according to a news release.
“Using the Green and Complete Streets tool, for example, EPA will assist Manatee County ... by exploring how the county could develop long-term stormwater plans for the 15th Street corridor,” according to the release. “These plans would create green space, encourage redevelopment and reduce flooding while cleaning runoff before it pollutes the Sarasota Bay.”
Pointing to the number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents in Manatee County, Simone Peterson with the county’s neighborhood services department said the streets in the county are mostly designed for cars.
“There is not a good design of our streets in Manatee County,” she said. “We are not that walkers’ paradise where we should be at. ... Complete streets is a policy making tool that we can use to make sure we have safe streets for everyone.”
During the workshop, participants identified Manatee County’s strengths, opportunities and challenges in implementing the green and complete streets.
“Collaboration, I think, is a strength we have in Manatee County,” Peterson said. “I do think funding is definitely a challenge.”
With the county’s focus on the Southwest District, there may be opportunity to include some of the green and complete street elements as they work in that focus area, said Karen Stewart, the county’s economic development manager.
“There is opportunity to include some elements in redevelopment projects in the future,” she said.
While there is a Florida Department of Transportation project currently planned for 15th Street East, the medians along 14th Street West could be an opportunity, Stewart said.
“It’s underbuilt,” she said. “It doesn’t have irrigation.”
But there could be a challenge since a lot of the streets mentioned are owned by the state, said Geri Lopez, the county’s redevelopment and economic opportunity director.
“That poses challenges,” she said.
Manatee County’s Green and Complete Streets Community Goals
- Engage with regulatory agencies and other stakeholders to build common ground
- Identify milestone/demonstration projects to showcase green and complete street concepts
- Decrease injuries and fatalities of bicyclists and pedestrians
- Provide improvements of both conditions and aesthetics of the community
Source: Wednesday’s workshop presentation