Manatee commissioners override its advisory board to permit multi-family project to go as high as seven stories
MANATEE -- Residents turned out Thursday to oppose modifications to a general development plan proposed for a multi-family project at Lakewood Ranch, but the Manatee County Commission sided with the developer, 5-0.
Commissioners overrode a recommendation for denial from its advisory body, the Planning Commission, to grant the request for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.'s University Lakes project.
The board's decision will allow multi-family housing of up to seven stories, rather than five, on a parcel at Lakewood Ranch overlooking Lake Uihlein and the Town Center. No structures in Lakewood Ranch currently exceed four stories,
Fifteen members of the public testified during a land-use meeting, all but one in opposition.
Many argued that their beautiful views of the lake would be compromised; others said Lakewood Ranch is suburban and is not meant for high-rise structures.
Joan Mahon, a retiree who lives nearby at WaterCrest condos, said the developer's plan contradicted sales materials showing green spaces and low-rise buildings.
"Respect residents' concerns," she said. "We deserve better than a done deal."
One speaker appeared in support: David Fink of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, said the developers' request would be good for business.
"These consumers are vitally important right now," he said. "These businesses are facing competition they haven't faced in the past," he added, referring to small businesspeople that now face competition from a new Mall at University Town Center nearby.
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who represents East Manatee, said SMR already had previous approval to build a 10-story hotel or office building.
"I'd rather have a seven-story condo than a 10-story office building," she said, asking, "What's the better project to have?"
"I have faith this can be done, and be beautiful and still keep us like we are today."
The University Lakes area, which comprises more than 4,100 acres of SMR-owned property, is northeast of University Parkway, south of State Road 70 and about 6 miles east of Interstate 75.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.