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County chooses downtown site for bus station

BRADENTON — After years of setbacks, delays and indecisions, the Manatee County commissioners took a stand and approved a site for the relocation of the downtown bus transfer station from near the Historic County Courthouse.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the commissioners agreed with the city of Bradenton that the best location for the Manatee County Area Transit facility would be on 13th Street West, between Sixth and Eighth avenues.

This did not sit well with the property owners along the street, especially Harry Bakker, who had his attorney address the commission.

The attorney, Patricia Petruff, told commissioners her client owns the property on the east side of 13th Street West and objects to locating the facility on public right of way.

Petruff said Bakker shares the right of way with county and does not think a transit station is a proper use for the site.

Limiting the traffic on the street to buses only would restrict Bakker from developing or selling the vacant parcel on the southern portion of his property, she said.

“If a transit facility goes there it would diminish the value of the property,” Petruff said.

The city’s master plan calls for mixed use of retail, offices and residents on her client’s property, but the county’s proposal for a bus station on 13th Street West was said to limit Bakker’s options.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said he met with Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston and staff, and they would like to know where the county planned to locate the bus station so they can move forward with their plans.

“This vote lets the city know where the county facility is going to go,” Hunzeker said, “and in the meantime we will research the concerns of the property owner.”

MCAT has been working for several years to find a new location for the transfer station to move it away from the courthouse because of the traffic congestion created when all the buses arrive and leave at the same time.

They had looked at seven sites in the downtown area. One potential site on the former McSwiggins tavern property was lost when negotiations for the parcel collapsed.

Ralf Heseler, manager of MCAT, said the other sites “presented issues of an operational, cost, safety, distance or space needs that rendered those options undesirable.”

When Bakker first objected to the 13th Street West relocation proposal in April, he offered to sell the county property he owns on Ninth Avenue West, between 12th and 13th streets. Commissioners told Heseler and staff to investigate that site.

The MCAT staff came up with a preliminary design for the one-acre parcel, but several neighboring property owners objected to a bus transfer station in that location.

There also was a concern with bus riders having to cross Eighth Avenue West to get to the downtown core area.

Considering those factors and Bakker’s asking price of $875,000, the commissioners decided to take a position and approved the 13th Street West location.

MCAT has been working to complete two other bus transfer stations, one on Eighth Avenue West north of 17th Street West in Palmetto, and one on U.S. 301 Boulevard near the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office.

No opening date has been set for the Palmetto facility, but Randy Beckwith, spokesman for the county, said the other station has a mid-October ribbon-cutting scheduled.

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