Tallevast residents give county officials earful against Manatee County's new transit fleet facility

SARASOTA -- Tallevast residents voiced fierce opposition Tuesday night against construction of a new Manatee County transit fleet facility in their community.

At a meeting held in Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 7461 Prospect Road, Sarasota, residents gave county officials an earful against the 116,000-square-foot complex slated to be built at the northwest corner of the intersection at U.S. 301 and Tallevast Road.

Traffic congestion was a top concern for residents who have already suffered through contamination from the former American Beryllium Co. plant at 1600 Tallevast Road.

"For you to bring us a project that's going to impact our community with the fumes, with the traffic... there's no way you can tell us that there isn't going to be any traffic," said Laura Ward, president of Family Oriented Community United Strong Inc., a community group representing Tallevast residents.

Ward expressed great concern over a possible onslaught of traffic from the facility, which will feature an office building, maintenance building, fuel depot, truck wash station and a logistics building. She suggested the county build something for the community instead.

Wanda Washington, vice president of FOCUS, expressed similar sentiments.

"This is the wrong project for this community and we've expressed that from the very beginning," she told county officials. "This is not the correct project to bring to this community and it seems as though nobody's hearing us. It sounds like we're going to have to go past Manatee County with this ... and I'm just letting you know, we are going to file complaints."

Residents also asked county officials why the meeting was held in Sarasota instead of Tallevast.

Manatee County Property Management Department project manager Michael DiPinto and Tom Yarger, construction services manager for the department, said they were unable to find a space in Tallevast.

DiPinto said construction traffic, with exception of the workers, will come off U.S. 301. There will be no buses heading toward 41, he added.

In 2012, county commissioners OK'd purchase of the 37.71-acre site from The Forum LLC for $4.52 million, according to county documents.

Darin Autrey, architect for Jerry N. Zoller Architect/Planner, said the facility is meant for dispatching and repairing county transit buses. He stood at the front of the room by boards illustrating the layout and plans of the facility.

Seeking public concerns

Yarger asked residents to write down concerns on comment forms distributed at the beginning of the meeting.

"I want to make sure that you're heard and that your concerns are addressed by the people that can address them," he said.

Ward said Tallevast is a historic community with families dating back to the 1800s.

"Our families were in that community when no one else wanted to be out there. ... Manatee County never gave us lights, they never gave you a phone number," she said, adding residents still have trouble getting mail unless they use a Sarasota ZIP code. "Those are the kinds of things that need to be straightened out. We don't want any handouts. We don't want any favors ... We don't want any foolishness like this in our community."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, contributed to this report.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@Amaris Castillo.