Lakewood Ranch Herald

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh hears concerns from Lakewood Ranch constituents during town hall

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- As a master-planned community, growth is going to continue in Lakewood Ranch, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh told constituents Wednesday.

"Are we going to see the area as it was five years ago? No we aren't," Baugh said. "It's going to continue to grow. That being said, we have a pretty good quality of life here, and we are going to keep it."

About 50 Lakewood Ranch and East Manatee residents attended Baugh's town hall meeting at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall on Wednesday evening, hearing from Baugh as well as Rae Dowling, area manager with Florida Power & Light, and Richard Bedford, vice president of planning for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.

FPL addressed recent power issues that occurred earlier in the year but told residents that since February,

there have not be any additional problems, Dowling said.

"We think we have gotten it," she said. "We recognize the impact that electricity has on your life and in your regular day-to-day business. We don't like the outages any more than you do."

Bedford update residents on SMR projects including the extension of Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south to Fruitville Road.

After hearing from Dowling and Bedford, residents expressed concerns and asked questions on a variety of issues including traffic, development, protection of wildlife and future transportation projects.

Noise from the traffic on Interstate 75 was of concern to Riva Trace residents at Wednesday's meeting.

"It isn't just bad," Christine Burton said, adding that the noise isn't coming from the construction underway on I-75. "It is so terrible. It is like you are in a wind tunnel."

For East Manatee resident Charles Barrow, development and the traffic is a concern as he wants to ensure "growth is done properly."

"You got to have infrastructure ahead of it not behind it," he said.

In regard to the wildlife, Baugh said there is a "huge, huge assortment of wildlife" in Lakewood Ranch.

"Lakewood Ranch has more open, green space than any other community in Manatee County," she said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not passing a deer on the road. ... We have all kinds of wildlife in this area."

With respect to transportation, once the 44th Avenue East extension is complete, which will connect Bradenton to Lakewood Ranch, it will take a lot of traffic off other roadways, Baugh said.

"It is essentially going to change the transportation issues we have today," she said. "We are working very hard to try to get the roads built as quickly as we can."

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.