ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Officials on Anna Maria Island are expressing concern over future development in Manatee County and how it would affect the 7-mile barrier island.
In a July 29 letter to Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, Bradenton Beach Mayor Jack Clarke and Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said they had a lengthy discussion at their most recent Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting about "development on the mainland."
"With the recent rebound of housing development in the area, it would be reassuring if we had some insight and understanding as to the plans both Manatee County and the city of Bradenton have in place to channel this growth," the letter states. "At the same time, we would like to have the opportunity to offer our suggestions and recommendations as to how these plans may serve to lighten the impact on our island environment."
Marianne Lopata, executive administrative assistant for the Board of County Com
missioners, said Monday that Hunzeker had no comment. He is expected to speak to Mayor Murphy.
Murphy, who wrote the letter, said a recent discussion with other island officials about the Lake Flores development in West Bradenton -- which would be built along Cortez Road, one of the approaches to the island -- spurred their move to reach out to Hunzeker.
Lake Flores is an approximately 1,300-acre mixed-use walkable community that the Manatee County Commission unanimously approved on Aug. 6. Development plans filed with the county May 29, 2014, call for 6,500 residential units, 1 million square feet of retail space, 2 million square feet of commercial space and 500 hotel rooms.
"What we'd like to do is be more involved with the growth issues," Murphy said Monday. "That development is going to be thousands of residences. ... We were saying it's already difficult to get on and off the island and for people to come on who visit and for us to get off as island residents ... so we wanted to know what the plans were for doing that. What are the long-range plans? There must be short-range and long-range plans to accommodate for these developments."
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In the letter, officials invited Hunzeker and his staff to attend an upcoming BIEO meeting and present plans.
"What we're hoping is that Mr. Hunzeker will come to the meeting and show us what the county's plans are and how they plan on handling it," he said.
Holmes Beach Commission Vice Chairwoman Jean Peelen said she and other islanders have not heard anything about what the "master plan" is for handling issues that are created by all the new development in Manatee County.
This letter is one way the island cities have begun working together as a unit, she said.
"If all three cities go together to the county, to the state, or wherever for grant proposals," she said, "then we have a lot more chance getting done what we want to get done."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, contributed to this report.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.