Neighbors organize to protect wooded area in East Manatee
Forty-six votes stood in the way of county staff bringing forth a recommendation to establish a funding mechanism that would keep 33 acres in East Manatee County from being developed. Supporters who dreamed it would become a passive county park aren’t stopping just yet.
In a memo from Deputy County Administrator Dan Schlandt to county officials Wednesday, the number of mail-in ballots in support of establishing a municipal services taxing unit to help pay for a piece of property north of the Braden River sat at 46.8 percent. If the funding isn’t established by the end of March, developer Pat Neal intends to cluster 32 homes for a gated community called Myara, where Pine Meadow Way meets Club House Drive in the Braden Woods subdivision.
The nonprofit organization Friends of Keep Woods, which led the charge in wanting to make the $3 million available through the taxing unit over a 30-year period, submitted a letter to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners the previous day. The letter, signed by the nonprofit’s president Gary Hebert and vice president Brenda Russell, asks commissioners to consider some bumps in the road that led to this outcome.
Mailers were intended to be sent out in a few rounds, but the first round had a send-by date of Dec. 15, which had confused some homeowners, the nonprofit argues. The official end date was Jan. 11.
Notably, the letter suggests there were eight vacant properties included in the poll. There were also 43 new home sales since June, so the group says not all of the ballots were received by the new owners. This achieved another eight signatures on substitute polls, which Friends of Keep Woods says are notarized and should be included.
In all, the nonprofit said it has 66 substitute polls signed by homeowners who didn’t get one of the county’s polls and one official poll from someone who was afraid it wouldn’t reach the county in time. Therefore, the nonprofit believes they have 728 homeowners in support, which puts them at 50.55 percent.
“We request that the Poll and all notarized attestations by property owners of support be included in the official count supporting the MSTU,” the letter reads.
The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, also raising money to put toward the purchase, recently acquired an adjacent 11 acres that would be donated to the county if the funding is approved.
According to Schlandt’s memo, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who represents this region of the county, said she wanted a discussion of the preserve during the Jan. 23 regular commission meeting held at the Manatee County Adminstrative Building located at 1112 Manatee Ave. W.