Braden Woods residents win round in fight to conserve woods

Residents pleading for a wooded area in East Manatee to be conserved cleared their first hurdle Thursday.

Following Manatee County’s staff recommendation, the planning commission recommended denial of a rezone request and preliminary site plan of the Myara Subdivision, which would include up to 32 houses on 33 acres along the Braden River’s north bank.

“It’s not consistent (with the comprehensive plan), and how this unfolds down the road, that’s not what we are here for today,” planning commission member Matt Bower said.

Neal Communities is seeking a rezone for the property, from residential single family — one dwelling unit per acre — to planned development residential with a preliminary site plan. The proposal is scheduled to go before the county commission on Dec. 1.

A future connection between Linger Lodge Road and Clubhouse Drive, which is included in the county’s comprehensive plan and the reason for staff’s denial recommendation, was the cause of much discussion Thursday. The proposed thoroughfare was not included in the applicant’s preliminary site plans, making the proposal inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.

“If you want to move this road or change this road, it requires a comprehensive-plan amendment,” Assistant County Attorney Bill Clague said.

The road would be financially irresponsible, property owner Albert Myara said, adding that he’s spent thousands of dollars on the project.

“It would jeopardize everything I worked hard for all these years,” he said.

Only 18.7 acres of the property would be developable, which Braden Woods residents say is inconsistent with the surrounding area. Braden Woods is a subdivision of about 500 homes built in the late 1980s at a density of about one home per acre.

Braden Woods resident Steve Taylor said he can see the property in question from his backyard and regularly sees wildlife on it.

“I’d rather see wild hogs than additional houses,” he said. “This piece of property, whether we realize it or not, has become a wildlife refuge. When the bulldozers come in, I don’t know where all these animals are supposed to go.”

Showing a video of the surrounding land, Braden Woods resident Phil St. John said he wanted the planning commission to personally experience the area.

“This is an oasis of natural habitat for wildlife,” he said.

Nearly 5,000 people from throughout Manatee County have signed two petitions — one asking the commission to deny the rezone request, and the other to preserve the land as a nature preserve. Other concerns include the effect on the Braden River and the overall quality of life for the people and wildlife. In January, a website called keepwoods.com was started.

Also on Thursday, the planning commission:

  • Recommended for approval a resolution that would incorporate a Complete Streets section into the county’s Public Works Highway and Traffic Standards Manual.
  • Recommended for approval a rezone and preliminary site plan for 306 multifamily residential units located on approximately 59.68 acres located on the south side of Moccasin Wallow Road, approximately 1.75 miles east of the Interstate 75/Moccasin Wallow Road interchange.
  • Recommended for approval Land Development Code amendments for six urban corridors in Manatee County: U.S. 41, 15th Street East, 53rd Avenue/State Road 70, Cortez Road, Manatee Avenue and First Street. These changes come after amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan were adopted in September.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson