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Commission rejects RaceTrac station

BRADENTON — After listening to more than 30 members of the public speak against a proposal for a 24-pump gas station in their neighborhood, the Manatee County commission agreed with them.

In a 5-2 vote Thursday, commissioners decided a proposed RaceTrac convenience store and gas station on U.S. 41 at Pearl Avenue would not be compatible with the surrounding Whitfield Estates and Ballentine Manor neighborhoods.

Commissioners Gwen Brown, John Chappie, Ron Getman, Joe McClash and Carol Whitmore voted not to approve the site plan, and commissioners Larry Bustle and Donna Hayes voted in favor.

Michael Holderness Sr., owner of SaraBay Realty, said after the meeting he was happy with the vote.

“I’m not against RaceTrac; they’re a good business,” said Holderness, who has lived in Whitfield Estates since 1979. “But it was just over the top.”

He said potential problems with traffic, noise and lights from the business would distract from one of the oldest neighborhoods in Manatee County.

“If you lived next door, it would be way too intense,” Holderness said. “And that would have a trickle-down effect on the property values of the area.”

Resident Norm Luppino, who was a planner for the county before being laid off earlier this year, highlighted for commissioners several instances where he said the proposed project would be inconsistent with the land development code.

Luppino said the scale is disproportionate to surrounding similar businesses, and with the plan calling for 36 more parking spaces than the code requires, there was an expectation of high volume.

He also produced a map showing Whitfield and Pearl avenues, which run through the neighborhood, would become direct routes for trucks from an industrial area east of 15th Street East.

Mark Barnebey, an attorney representing RaceTrac, said the company made many concessions to the county planning staff and neighborhood residents, including changing the design and limiting the access drives.

Barnebey also had engineers and experts present rebuttals to statements made by some residents. But the majority of commissioners were not swayed.

Getman, who represents the Whitfield Estates area, said he was sure the community would want something to replace the vacant furnishings store now on the property, “but this is not the right facility.”

After the meeting, Barnebey said he was disappointed by the decision and would talk to his clients to evaluate their options.

“I think the facts and analysis indicate the plan was consistent with the codes,” he said.

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