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Whitfield Estates residents oppose Race Trac proposal

MANATEE — Two cardboard signs stood on the grass strip at U.S. 41 and Pearl Street near the out-of-business Cesar’s Unique Furniture & Accessories.

One advertised fresh Georgia peaches.

The other, a public hearing on the future of the property at the intersection’s northeast corner.

The Manatee County Commission is expected to decide Thursday whether the Race Trac Corp. will be allowed to build a gas station on the 1.99 acres with 24 gas pumps and a 4,997-square-foot convenience store with a 11,525-square-foot canopy.

Three Whitfield Estates residents, walking the property Monday, emphatically do not want it.

“This thing is a monster to us,” said Dan Young, a 62-year-old U.S. State Department retiree.

“The Wal-Mart of gas stations,” said Norm Luppino, 50, former president of the Whitfield-Ballentine Manor Association.

“Look how big it is. Imagine it covered with a gas station and a store,” said Mike Holderness Sr., 64, longtime area Realtor and resident.

The county planning commission on May 21 voted 4-1 to deny the project.

Traffic, Pearl Street access and lighting were the reasons for denial despite planning staff’s recommendation for approval.

Planning commission Chairman Richard Bedford said the project is not compatible with the present professional small zoning designation.

Planning commission member Steve Belack said he would not support the application since the area has been impacted too heavily.

Race Trac officials followed up by holding neighborhood meetings in June and July and making plan revisions.

Luppino was not persuaded.

“Its scale is inconsistent with what you have on this segment of 41, a low-impact area with mostly professional or small commercial businesses,” said the former county planner.

“They’re talking about a huge gas station with twice as many bays as anything else on 41 between Cortez Road and Sarasota. It will definitely impact it.”

Young did not change his mind, either.

“This isn’t a subtle interruption,” he said. “It’s loud. It belongs on a major highway, not a residential neighborhood.”

Race Trac officials in Atlanta could not be reached for comment Monday.

There are three Race Trac stations in Manatee County.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or email him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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