Lakewood Ranch Herald

With concessions, Riva Trace approved (with photo gallery)

MANATEE — Controversial revisions to a proposed subdivision won initial county approval Tuesday, but only after the developer made several concessions in an effort to appease hostile neighbors.

Manatee County commissioners unanimously approved a revised preliminary site plan for Riva Trace, an 86-lot single-family development planned at the southwest corner of Interstate 75 and the Braden River. The vote was 6-0, with Commissioner Ron Getman absent from the meeting.

The county approved the project’s initial site plan in 2006, but local developer Carlos Beruff later bought Riva Trace and sought various changes to its preliminary plan. His requests drew vocal opposition from residents of neighboring University Place, with more than 100 packing the commission’s meeting room.

Most were there to fight Beruff’s request that Riva Trace residents be allowed to use University Place’s Meeting Street to get to their homes. That road has a gate across it that is only opened in emergencies.

But Beruff dropped that request after county attorneys said the county had no power to grant it, because University Place’s community development district owns the gate.

Yet neighbors found fault with other changes Beruff wanted, including the elimination of a previously required fence or wall between Riva Trace and University Place.

“It’s a huge point of concern for this neighborhood,” said Dan Lobeck, an attorney for University Place homeowners.

In a sequence that re- sembled horse-trading, Beruff agreed to install the fence or wall — in exchange for being allowed to build houses closer to I-75 and replace fewer trees than the 722 that county planners wanted.

He got the first — Riva Trace homes can be as close as 75 feet to the highway’s right of way — but had to settle for a compromise on the second: 665 trees instead of the 587 he wanted.

County planners also objected to Beruff’s proposal to revise a condition of development involving wetlands mitigation.

Beruff wanted the Southwest Florida Water Management District — of which he is a board member — to have sole authority over that issue, saying it would eliminate duplication of government.

County planners and some commissioners viewed it as an attempt to bypass county oversight if the water district determined it had no jurisdiction.

Beruff later modified his request so that the county would regulate the wetlands if the water district did not.

Beruff did win the authority to burn yard waste on-site during construction, which county planners had recommended banning. But he must use a type of incinerator that emits less smoke.

He said the burning will save $2,000 per home in Riva Trace, which he said will benefit the economy.

“If we can’t move forward (on this project) at a speedy pace, a lot of jobs would be imperiled,” he said, adding he hopes to break ground later this year.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.