The Villages of Riverwalk project, cloaked in secrecy and receiving hasty approval by Bradenton's City Council last November, has yet to unveil what may be its best kept secret.
The agreement provides for retention of land along the vacated stretch of Riverside Drive, or an easement to be provided to the developers for the construction of public docks, gazebos and other improvements intended to increase public access to the waters of the river, and goes on to say the developers will pay for them and have "use" of the easement.
This ambiguous language could lead one to believe these wonderful amenities will be enjoyed in their entirety by the general public.
At the Aug. 19 Planning Commission meeting, the conceptual site plan didn't reveal any of these proposed improvements, only "Public Park to be designed by the City of Bradenton." Why are they waiting to reveal these wonderful amenities until this goes before council -- if revealed even then? Will it be "fully public"? Maybe I'm cynical, but if there is nothing to hide, why haven't we been fully informed?
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Will the docks and gazebos be a restricted access area for the walled apartment renters only? What is the scope of these improvements? Based on the density of the project, there may be a large swath of dockage and boat slips. Will the riparian rights of property owners on Riverside Drive East be compromised?
The city wishes to expand the Riverwalk eastward. Will it deviate from a fully public park by granting easements for privatization to development? Is this a good idea?
We face bidding farewell to this peaceful, idyllic stretch of riverfront, home to many water fowl. This project will kill the historical significance of Glazier Gates Park, and the area beloved by many, known as "Old Manatee."