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Manatee County OKs MTI site plan

MANATEE — The legal battle over Manatee Technical Institute’s proposed Caruso Road campus is almost over.

Manatee County commissioners approved a site plan for the proposed campus Thursday, the final approval needed to end a three-year court tussle over where the campus would go. The vote was unanimous, with Commissioner Ron Getman on vacation.

“This will resolve the litigation between Manatee County and the school board,” said William Clague, an assistant county attorney.

School officials initially proposed in 2005 to build the MTI campus on the north side of Braden River High School to replace MTI’s aging facility on 34th Street West. Neighboring residents rose up in opposition, saying it would cause traffic, noise and lighting problems.

That prompted commissioners to reject rezoning the site in 2006. The school board lost an administrative challenge and later sued the county.

School officials later decided to place the new MTI south of the high school, closer to State Road 70 and farther away from residents. That set the stage for Thursday’s unanimous vote.

But it didn’t eliminate traffic concerns, as a few residents pointed out to commissioners. They raised questions about whether, and where, a traffic signal would go at the site’s western entrance at Caruso Road.

Commissioner Joe McClash also pushed for details, saying “I just don’t want to make the situation worse for people in the community” when MTI opens.

Joe Gramail, the school’s district’s traffic consultant, said officials are looking to switch the existing bus and main entrances to the site but doubt there is enough traffic to warrant a signal at either entrance. He said school officials also plan to change traffic patterns on interior roads to reduce traffic backups.

The site plan calls for a 215,000-square-foot campus for MTI, with room for a 35,000-square-foot expansion. It will take almost 30 acres of the overall 191.7-acre site.

School officials have estimated the new MTI campus will cost $40 million to build.

It’s the second major approval the school board has gotten for the overall site. In April, commissioners approved a general development plan that includes an elementary school and middle school or a combined K-8 school north of the high school.

Also Thursday, commissioners:

n Approved an amended general development plan for a 106-acre portion of Heritage Harbour.

The changes allow a hotel and add another 54,900 square feet of commercial space — to a total of 851,900 square feet — on the site, at the northeast corner of Interstate 75 and State Road 64. Possible tenants for the proposed shopping center include SuperTarget and Best Buy, said an attorney for landowner LNR Heritage Harbour LLLP.

n Approved a rezoning and preliminary site plan for Sweetwater Preserve, a 824-acre development planned at the northwest corner of I-75 and Buckeye Road.

Plans call for 1,719 homes, 150,000 square feet of commercial space and a 208-acre regional park. In a related matter, commissioners approved a master plan that allows developer Chamax LLC to substitute light-industrial or other port-related uses on all or part of the site.

n Approved a rezone and preliminary site plan for Silverleaf, a 263-acre project at the corner of Chin and Old Tampa roads in greater Parrish.

Developer Neal Communities plans to build 713 single-family houses on the site. Commissioners also approved an agreement with Neal that specifies road and other improvements the developer must make as a condition of approval.

n Approved a rezone and preliminary site plan for Bayou Pointe Estates, a 10-lot subdivision in the 8900 block of 25th Street East/Lyntnor Road in Ellenton.

Several neighbors opposed CNL Bank’s project, saying it is incompatible with their neighborhood and will cause traffic, flooding and environmental problems.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.

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