A proposed 20-acre water park at Tom Bennett Park might be killed after East Manatee residents voiced strong opposition.
After hearing from concerned East Manatee residents Tuesday, the county commission unanimously voted to direct staff to halt negotiations with Lost Lagoon Development LLLP and to consider stopping the process permanently in a future meeting.
“This commission needs to make the decision on whether a water park at that particular location is appropriate or not,” Commissioner John Chappie said.
The water park would be built on 20 acres in the Bradenton park at 400 Cypress Creek Blvd. A county evaluation commission had unanimously recommended in early June to begin negotiations with the sole proposer to construct it.
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“The first negotiation meeting has not even occurred yet,” Chief Assistant County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder said, noting that staff is still waiting for requested additional information from the developer.
Tom Bennett Park has always been a jewel in Manatee County, Chappie said, adding, “It is very important that we keep that park and protect that park.”
Commissioner Carol Whitmore made a motion, which ultimately failed for a lack of second, to stop the process at Tuesday’s meeting and not spend any more money. Fellow commissioners stated that it was only fair to consider doing that when it has been noticed so all parties could be present.
“It just doesn’t fit the character of Manatee County,” Whitmore said. “It is not fair to the people that are building this. It is not fair to have it go any further.”
Commissioner Betsy Benac said she has major concerns about the proposal moving forward.
“We don’t have a lot of expertise on water parks,” she said. “There are so many questions. I am going to continue to raise these questions.”
If the water park developers are confident that the project would be successful, Heritage Harbour resident Patti Reid asked, why don’t they purchase land instead of relying on Manatee County to provide it to them?
“In East Manatee County, we are blessed to have both recreation and open space at Tom Bennett Park,” she said. “As expansion continues to move eastward it would be a travesty to destroy this park. If the proposed Lost Lagoon water park and hotel was approved, does the county have plans to replace the park and all the amenities that will be taken away from the residents of Manatee County to be used free of charge? Where will those amenities be relocated?”
Michael Fisher, another East Manatee resident, voiced doubts about the park’s success.
“When this park fails — and it will — what is going to be the cost to the taxpayers of Manatee County?” he asked. “I can’t think of anything worse for this beautiful open space park.”