Manatee commissioners approve expansion of Ellenton industrial complex

Florida International Trade Port will be built in Ellenton near the intersection of Interstate 75 and U.S. 301. Construction is expected to begin within the next 30 days.
Florida International Trade Port will be built in Ellenton near the intersection of Interstate 75 and U.S. 301. Construction is expected to begin within the next 30 days.

A big Benderson Development project in Ellenton is getting even bigger.

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the developer to modify a portion of the land use so that they could expand the operation. Demand for Class A space at the Florida International Tradeport was much higher than anticipated, which prompted Benderson to request that another 50 acres of the land be rezoned to a mixed use designation, said Todd Mathes, Benderson’s director of development.

“The response to this project has been overwhelming, and it has been overwhelming to our construction department. It’s overwhelming to everybody, but we’re moving fast,” Mathes said at Thursday’s commission meeting

Mathes was light on details regarding the new company Benderson is bringing in, but he did reveal that the user would need 1 million square feet of space. He also assured the board that moving to approve the project would bring 800 more jobs to Manatee County. More information will be revealed at a Dec. 13 Planning Commission meeting.

The Florida International Tradeport is located at along the U.S. 301 and Interstate 75. Construction began earlier this year.

Commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Betsy Benac applauded Benderson for some of their recent contributions to Manatee and the company’s efforts to keep the community involved in ongoing development efforts.

“To me, whatever you do is first-class and always a pleasure,” DiSabatino said. “I appreciate your meeting with the neighbors and having five public meetings, it’s just so awesome how you reach out and if there’s a question, you’re always there to answer.”

Commissioners Charles Smith and Priscilla Trace weren’t so charmed. Both worried that an expansion of the industrial park would result in more dangerous traffic at an already congested interchange.

“It’s so dangerous and with the entrance to the new development you have, it’s even more dangerous. With the semis and tractor trailers, you can’t even get into those businesses at certain times of the day,” Smith said, referring to neighboring businesses such as Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Waffle House and Pilot Travel Center.

Smith said he wasn’t comfortable voting for the expansion without proof that Benderson would do something about the intersection of 51st Avenue Easy and U.S. 301. He was assured by Christopher Hatton, a project consultant with Kimley-Horn & Associates, that resolving that intersection was a top priority.

“Trust me, we are focusing on this because the worst thing we could do is build a development like this and get everybody excited and have it be a quagmire where people can’t get in or out. That is our No. 1 focus,” Hatton said, addressing Smith’s concerns. “The county wants it, you want, and certainly we want it as well.”

Mathes told the board that Benderson has been in close contact with county staff regarding the intersection. There are also plans to adjust the intersection of 17th Street East and 51st Avenue East. Moving forward, he said, Benderson will seek input from state agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure proposed improvements are suitable.

Commissioners also said their goodbyes to Smith and DiSabatino, who will be leaving office Nov. 19.

“You’ve both given back to the community you serve and that’s what this all about at the end of the day,” Commissioner Stephen Jonsson said.