New apartments approved for Palmetto. Some worry about who they will attract

Palmetto will likely soon see a new apartment complex — with a concept geared toward workforce and some affordable housing — but it wasn’t an easy sell to city commissioners.

The proposed four-story building would house 82 studio/efficiency apartments at 460 square-feet per unit. Five more two-bedroom units would be available at 750 square-feet each. Rent for the apartments will range from $900 to $1,400 per month, with the exception of the 10 percent set aside for affordable housing.

Developers have previously said the project has no age restriction and is geared toward those in the workforce and empty nesters, as well as the portion set aside for affordable housing.

The building would go on a 2.88 acre site at 2701 U.S. 41 Business, Palmetto. The land backs up to the Villas at Oak Bend and would share an exit road of Fourth Avenue West with the existing development. The site also is near Holy Cross Manor.

Monday night, Palmetto city commissioners voted 3-2 to approve general development plans for the efficiency apartment complex, with commissioners Tambra Varnadore and Brian Williams dissenting.

Over the course of multiple developer presentations to the city, concerns were raised from residents and commissioners related to traffic, fill station facilities and density.

Changes were made to the original proposal after previous meetings with commissioners to make plans more appealing to the city, including lowering the number of proposed stories in the building from six to four and therefore the number of units.

“I’ve got to be honest, I don’t understand. It’s a dilemma I don’t know how to get across because there’s no consistency with what I saw last meeting to this meeting,” developer Robert Gause of Gause and Associates, Inc. said.

When commissioners last met on Aug. 26, they approved a 225-unit affordable housing senior living complex that will have six stories and fewer parking spaces.

Traffic tops list of concerns

Residents from the Villas at Oak Bend development have arrived at previous meetings and expressed their concerns about potential for parking on the road that is their only exit and the city’s infrastructure’s ability to handle the additional units.

Showing up to every meeting where the development was discussed, Jan Schaberg and her husband Ray Schaberg have repeatedly spoken out against the project. They said they represent many homeowners in the Villas at Oak Bend who are worried about the traffic.

Mostly, about Fourth Avenue being their only exit point from their homes and they’re worried those visiting the apartment complex may try to park on the street. The project has 160 parking spaces planned for 87 units.

Developers previously met with homeowners and Gause said they have made adjustments to their plans to address those concerns, including adding a fence, being willing to add signage along Fourth Avenue to deter parking and moving their building further from the property line.

“We’re trying to be good developers for this property,” Guase said.

As for the traffic concerns, developers turned in a traffic assessment that Gause said showed no foreseen issues.

However, the proposed site is near historically problematic intersection of U.S. 41 Business and 26th Street West, near Holy Cross Catholic Church.

Conversations between the developers, the city and the Florida Department of Transportation are ongoing for potential solutions.

Varnadore was adamantly against the project, worried about the traffic implications and that the building would be incompatible in an area that is so close in proximity to an area that is quiet and mostly age restricted, like Holy Cross Manor.

Plus, no one wants a high rise in their backyard, she noted.

“I have no problem with what you’re proposing but I have a problem with it being on this particular site,” Varnadore said.

She added some of the differences for her between the senior housing approved last month and the new efficiency apartments are the size of the land parcels they’re being built on and the proximity of the buildings to the other sites around them.

Williams wanted to see more information from the school district that the apartments would not add too many new students. Developers noted that in apartments of this size, it’s not typical to have many children. They’ve agreed to restrict the number of people under the age of 18 years old in each unit.

It’s not immediately clear if the lift station near the approved project site will be able to facilitate the increase. If it cannot, the developers would incur the cost of adding a new one.

Mayor Shirley Groover Byrant pointed out the one lift station doesn’t show the entire capacity of the city’s wastewater treatment plant and there wouldn’t be an issue with that facility.

Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.