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Preserving lifestyle with reason

There’s a certain kind of vintage elegance about Whitfield Estates and Ballentine Manor. Strangely, this south county neighborhood has thrived and survived quite well since its birth in the Roaring ’20s.

The charm remains as one meanders down Willow Street past Sarabay County Club and the small intimate Villa Serena hotel across the way, where movie and sports stars once enjoyed the glorious Florida winters. It’s a unique three- or four-generation family neighborhood of subdivisions on Sarasota Bay bisected by busy U.S. 41 and way too close to an expanded international airport.

Residents fought long and hard over the years to maintain and preserve this south county oasis, threatened by urban decay, rapid growth and the economic ups and downs of the marketplace. Offices, eateries, a marina, nightclub, a convenience store, a car wash and two hotels front either side of the highway, creating the usual activities and attendant concerns.

It should have been no surprise when the neighborhood showed up some two weeks ago to protest at the public hearing for a RaceTrac service station with 24 pumps and a full-scale roadside convenience stop at the corner of Pearl Avenue. Although a potential use under the county’s Comprehensive Plan and an assurance of property rights were invoked on one side, the matter of compatibility with adjacent property owners and lack of judgment regarding the character and future of the area were appropriate issues for serious consideration.

Amy Leigh, resident for 40 years in what was her parents’ home, turned the old NIMBY (not in my backyard) acronym on its head with “Not in my front yard” — 24 hours of bright lights, human traffic and idling trucks.

This was the first time since I left office that I appeared to speak to the commission and voice opposition in behalf of my former home and district. When the applicant’s attorney came forward in response to the opposition, I was somewhat shocked when he characterized the citizens’ reactions as “emotional.” Perhaps an emotional attachment to the quality of one’s neighborhood, one’s home and the value thereof is a poignant part of life. But that does not cancel out the reasoned, well-thought and well-explained testimony such as that given by Norman Luppino, former Manatee County planning manager.

Not one person lost control of the moment. Turn on any TV news if you really want angry citizen emotion.

golf course at Sarabay and its surrounding dwellings, to the lovely homes along the bay front, there is a right that has been long established over the years. This is an historical gem to be preserved.

The planning commission thought so. The county commission is always faced with the final determination. Under the land use code, the commissioners are empowered to use discretion regarding the numerous uses “allowable” under the zoning category.

That’s where words like intensity, compatibility, timing and trends have real meaning.

Five commissioners agreed.

Let’s hope no lawsuit prevails.

Pat Glass, retired county commissioner, can be contacted by writing Pat Glass, c/o the Herald, 102 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton 32405.