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Manatee County Commission refuses to reconsider approval of Trevesta development

MANATEE -- Frustrated opponents of the Trevesta development were told not to say its name Tuesday in requesting the Manatee County Commission to reconsider previous approval of the huge mixed-use project.

About 20 project opponents appeared at the commission meeting, where commissioners could have reconsidered earlier approval of the development near Parrish.

The legal situation would only permit speech in very general terms, commissioners claimed, and residents were instructed to omit the word "Trevesta," for instance.

One speaker, John William Ward, was warned he would have to leave the commission chamber at the county administrative building after he declined to observe the commission's rules.

Sheriff's deputies intervened when another project opponent, Russell Weir, approached too near the commission dais.

"Please put the requests of your constituents ahead of those who are funding these developments," said Weir, who complained the development would cause traffic tie-ups and overcrowded schools.

Others complained their civil rights were violated because of legal restrictions governing "quasi-judicial" cases, which County Attorney Mickey Palmer said applied to any discussion about the Trevesta project.

At a land-use meeting Thursday, the commission OK'd plans for 1,103 homes, including 803 single family detached units, 300 multifamily units and 100,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial/retail space in the Pennington Park neighborhood. The site is east of Interstate 75 and south of 69th Street East.

The commission declined to reconsider its previous approval of Trevesta. Only those on the prevailing side of the vote Thursday could propose reconsideration.

Chairwoman Betsy Benac and commissioners John Chappie, Carol Whitmore, Vanessa Baugh and Larry Bustle voted Thursday in favor of the proposal. Commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Charles B. Smith voted against.

DiSabatino called the episode "an embarrassment."

"I've never seen a board meeting like I saw today," said Benac.

The board agreed to ask the county administrator to set up forums in the evenings to help the public understand land-use policies and other topics in a setting where questions could be asked and answered.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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