Peninsula Bay developer Whiting Preston’s latest project received its first stamp of approval Thursday by the Manatee County Planning Commission.
The planning commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval for the general development plan and rezoning request to planned development mixed use. Planning commission member Matt Bower dissented. The request will go before the Manatee County County Commission on Sept. 1.
Peninsula Bay would be built on 359 acres owned by Preston’s Manatee Fruit Co., north of Cortez Road, east and west of 115th Street West and south of Palma Sola Bay. The project calls for 1,950 residential units, 90,000 square feet of nonresidential uses, a dry storage marina for 200 boats and a boat ramp.
Traffic conditions on Cortez Road are the main concern among residents who spoke Thursday.
For Longboat Key resident Larry Grossman, traffic congestion already makes it difficult for him to get home when he takes Cortez Road.
“We have a very constrained road system that really can’t be improved, certainly not to accommodate the amount of traffic that will be generated,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, former county Commissioner Jane Von Hahmann said residents have a right to enjoy homes where they have lived for years.
“We have a right to not be made prisoners in our home,” she said.
Planning commission member Tim Rhoades said every development that comes before the planning commission has traffic issues stated by the residents.
“I don’t know if the solution to the traffic is saying no to development,” he said.
To Carl Marino, who lives adjacent to where Peninsula Bay would be built, any additional traffic will only make things worse.
“There is simply too much volume for the road to handle,” he said.
While not completely in disagreement with the density proposed in Peninsula Bay, Bower said some sort of plan should be made first to address the traffic issue rather than being reactive.
“If we don’t do that, we are going to be again coming in behind, always late, and always having to fix things,” he said. “I think we need to do something ahead of time on the traffic.”
The traffic problems wouldn’t be because of Peninsula Bay, said Caleb Grimes, an attorney who represents the applicant.
“It has been an ongoing process with the county to address something that is way bigger than Peninsula Bay,” he said. “Without a development like this, we won’t generate the impact fees and monies and funds necessary to start fixing all those kids of roads. ...We intend to and have to by your rules continue to work with the county to address these issues.”
Using the tagline, “Connecting People To The Water,” Peninsula Bay is one of two significant development proposals for the Preston family farmland in southwest Manatee County.
“This is an exciting project for this part of the community,” Preston told the crowd Thursday before the vote on Peninsula Bay. “It really draws on authenticity of area. That is what we are hoping to capture. We really have a special place here.”
Last August, the county commission approved a general development plan for Lake Flores, a 1,322-acre mixed-use community that will bring 6,500 homes, 500 hotel rooms and millions of square feet of retail and commercial space.