EAST MANATEE -- Mary Lou Moore watched two large oak trees fall into her East Manatee home's backyard and into the Pearce Canal a couple years ago. Erosion caused the trees to fall, the Garden Lakes resident says.
When Moore moved into the 55-plus community 31 years ago, just off 37th Street East south of State Road 70, they were the only neighborhood around. But the county commission has approved so much development south of State Road 70 that Garden Lakes residents worry the erosion will only get worse.
"It hasn't overflowed, but many times it's been within a foot or two of the top of the bank," Moore said. "Frustration is the big word."
But Manatee County's public works director said he has no concerns about the drainage canal.
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"We go out there and review it often," Ron Schulhofer said Tuesday. "It's one of our major canals. There is no erosion."
This is not the first time Garden Lakes residents have expressed concern about the erosion along the Pearce Canal. Now a new development is going before the commission for approval Thursday, and it has spurred more worry. Residents are also concerned about area traffic problems.
Westport, the new development, was recommended for approval by the planning commission in February. It's a 158-unit residential project proposed for 43.74 acres south of State Road 70, on the east and west sides of 37th Street East and north of 39th Street East. The commission could approve the project's preliminary site plan and grant special approval Thursday.
Because the property is adjacent to a perennial stream -- in this case the Pearce Drain/Gap Creek -- and has habitable structures within the 25-year floodplain, special approval is necessary to "ensure that water quality of the perennial lake or stream will not be affected by the development, which will be accomplished through the runoff treatment requirements for storm water facilities," according to county documents.
Donald Neu, the agent for the property owner, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Concerns about Pearce Canal
The drainage canal runs north from near Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport toward the Braden River.
Richard Perry, whose Garden Lakes backyard abuts the canal, said he has growing concerns about flooding.
"I'm seeing the total destruction of land," Perry said. "They keep adding (development) and I get scared. They drain into the Pearce Canal because it is a drainage ditch. I'm just wondering where the point is that it's enough. Everybody else pays the penalty for all the water being channeled."
These concerns date back to at least August 2014 when Moore emailed county officials.
"We, who live in Garden Lakes, where three retention ponds deliver surface water into the canal, are aware of the coming erosion problems as more development is allowed south of the Garden Lakes Community and bordering on the canal," Moore wrote.
In May 2015, a Manatee County field operations chief reported that they had reviewed drainage concerns over the previous nine months, and "there appears to be no significant erosion or drainage concerns in the area," according to an email. But Garden Lakes residents say erosion has occurred on the banks of the canal.
"We fear that having so many houses along the canal will compromise the canal," Annette Dimon, president of the Garden Lakes Community Association, wrote in a Feb. 9 email to the commission. "Residents who have lived here for many years, some from the beginning of the development, who have property bordering the canal, have said that there has been a lot of erosion in the past few years."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.