News Columns & Blogs

Little consent in Braden River bridge project

Consent items on the Manatee County Commission meeting agenda are defined as business “determined to be routine in nature and should be considered in a single motion.”

Worth noting that going into the June 23 county commission meeting, a “quick take” resolution for 3.86-acres of land owned by John Neal and Charles Varah, was item No. 6 on the consent agenda.

When it comes to that piece of land, there is nothing routine about it. Certainly not to Neal and Varah who believe the county’s valuation is way too low.

And not to the residents in Tara, Mote Ranch, University Place and University Park, who either passionately oppose the bridge being built, or think that it makes good sense.

The Neal/Varah acreage is the key to extending Tara Boulevard south across the Braden River to tie-in with Honore Avenue. Were it built, it would give those residents a north-south route to get from State Road 70 to University Parkway without traveling all the way to Lockwood Ridge Road or getting in the fast lane on Interstate 75.

The downside? Opponents say such a bridge would add more traffic and noise.

Maybe, maybe not.

Since Honore Avenue was extended from University Parkway to Lockwood Ridge Road, it has not exactly been a freeway. Pretty drive? Absolutely. But traffic is scant, at least anytime I’ve ever driven it. I see more joggers than cars. One reason is the low speed limit. Anyone in a hurry to get anywhere will probably avoid that road.

Note to Sheriff Brad Steube: When I’ve been on the Honore extension, I’ve seen one of your deputies patrolling there, every ime. It’s enough to keep me honest and respect the speed limit.

So maybe if the Braden River is bridged at Tara Boulevard, strict law enforcement can help allay neighborhood concerns by denying leadfoots the ability to turn it into a race track.

What the “quick take,” or eminent domain, process will do is allow the determination of a fair value for the landowners who face the loss of their property.

That’s fair. But placing this bit of business on the consent agenda appears to the hundreds of citizens having a direct interest in the project as an effort by government to sneak something past them.

After all, those interested citizens were told earlier this year that the bridge project had indefinitely been deferred. Even though those same residents were warned that the bridge project could come off the table at anytime. Now, the project is off the table, but it was taken off in a manner some might call stealthy.

There’s no such thing as too much transparency in open government.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.