No decision yet on controversial housing proposal

Residents pleading for a wooded area in East Manatee to be conserved are being forced to wait yet again to make their case.

After the proposed Myara Subdivision was not considered at the Manatee County Planning Commission meeting in July , applicant Pat Neal again requested Thursday that he wanted to have the discussion of the item delayed for a second time.

“We have been trying to perfect the motion,” said Neal, chairman of Neal Communities, who would be the developer. “We think there is an error in the motion. We just need to get it through the County Attorney’s Office.”

While the planning commission granted the applicant’s request to continue the item, they decided to hear the item at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 13 rather than during the requested Sept. 8 meeting.

If the applicant requests another continuance in October, planning commission member Matt Bower said, “I think we have plenty of basis to deny the request and move forward with application regardless.”

Myara Subdivision would include up to 32 houses on about 33 acres on the north bank of the Braden River east of Interstate 75.

Neal is seeking a rezone for the property, from residential single family — one dwelling unit per acre — to planned development residential with a preliminary site plan.

County staff has recommended denial of the rezone request and preliminary site plan, according to the staff report.

Residents in attendance Thursday told the planning commission they felt manipulated. Manatee County does not have a limit on the number of continuances an applicant can request, according to the County Attorney’s Office.

“I think we were all shocked and dismayed that yet again at the 11th hour without notice there is a request for continuance,” Richard Taylor said. “To me, it feels like we have a seasoned insider who is manipulating the system. ...We are kind of counting on you to level the scales of justice. That is what our hope is.”

Several people who spoke Thursday said they used a second vacation day from work to be in attendance. Planning commission member Al Horrigan said he flew back from North Carolina specifically for Thursday’s hearing.

“I am an affected landowner,” Joan Boles said. “This is the second day I have taken off work. This is an undue burden on citizens. Today we should be speaking of the merits.”

The applicant should be required to either present or withdraw the application, said Brenda Russell, a Braden Woods resident.

“The motion language is already drafted. How could there be new language drafted unless go back and start all over again?” she said.

Only 18.7 acres of the property would be developable, which Braden Woods residents say is inconsistent with the surrounding area. Braden Woods is a subdivision of about 500 homes built in the late 1980s at a density of about one home per acre.

More than 3,000 people from throughout Manatee County have signed two petitions — one asking the commission to deny the rezone request and the other to preserve the land as a nature preserve. Other concerns include the effect on the Braden River and the overall quality of life for the people and wildlife. In January, a website called keepwoods.com was started.

The Keep Woods group plans to ask the commission to direct county staff to look into buying the property to turn it into conservation land.

Also on Thursday, the planning commission:

  • Recommended for approval a rezone to Planned Development Residential/Coastal High Hazard/Coastal Evacuation Area and a preliminary site plan for 38 homes on a 19.6-acre property located on the south side of 17th Avenue Northwest and east of 99th Street Northwest. The project would be Neal Communities’ Tides End.
  • Recommended for approval a Master Development Plan for Tropicana. The plan proposes a total of 4 million square feet of manufacturing and accessory uses, which includes the existing 2.2 million-square-foot facility, on a 175.94-acre site located north of U.S. 301, east of Ninth Street East, west of 15th Street East and south of 13th Avenue East.
  • Recommended for approval a rezone to Planned Development Residential and a preliminary site plan for 139 single-family detached homes on a 41.43 acres located on the west side of Lorraine Road and north of State Road 70.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

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