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Divisive NW Bradenton development vote delayed

BRADENTON — The battle between rural preservation and residential development in northwest Bradenton was a draw Thursday afternoon in the chambers of the county commission.

At first, commissioners voted down a controversial amendment to a comprehensive land-use plan that would have increased the number of homes to be built in Hawthorn Park, a Neal Communities development in northwest Bradenton.

However, developer Pat Neal asked that a revote be held Monday because commissioner Ron Getman was absent. The request was granted and Getman will be present Monday by phone.

When asked, both sides of the argument framed the battle over this development in terms of the upcoming Amendment 4 vote on Nov. 2.

Amendment 4 would require that all new comprehensive land-use plans, and amendments to those plans, be voted on locally.

“I think all the developers are afraid of Amendment 4,” said Katie Pierola, a resident of Hawthorn who opposed the plan amendment.

Pierola explained that Amendment 4 targets overdevelopment and she feels that the Neal Communities development falls within that scope, she said.

Neal said he is up against a deadline because of Amendment 4 and those opposed to increasing the development’s size are using that to their advantage.

“If you can’t win, then delay,” Neal said of the way he perceives opposition tactics.

In addition to the development plan issue, six other items were voted on during the meeting, all of them passing, some with minor opposition.

Of note, the somewhat controversial decision to allow reclaimed water to be used in the Braden River watershed for drinking passed.

Commissioner Joe McClash argued and voted against both items dealing with the use of reclaimed water.

“You can drink a clear glass of water that is poison,” McClash said, punctuating his concern that reclaimed water might taint the local supply.

Terri Behling, of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, spoke in opposition to McClash’s statements.

“Currently, Manatee County is the only county in the state of Florida that does not allow reclaimed water use within drinking water sheds,” she said before the vote.