The Samoset neighborhood appears to have ripped a page out of the Rubonia playbook, which compelled government action on community improvements and revitalization.
Both historic neighborhoods rank among the oldest in Manatee County, and both have similar deficiencies that need attention, including the lack of sidewalks and streetlights, poor stormwater drainage, and substandard streets — basic infrastructure found elsewhere.
Manatee County commissioners made Rubonia improvements a high priority early last year after decades of neglect. Samoset deserves greater consideration, too.
A small cadre of Rubonia residents pressed for political action for years, attending commission meetings to air their grievances. Then more residents mobilized. The Rubonia Community Association played a pivotal role in rallying the community.
Officials helped residents develop a neighborhood action plan, one step in the qualifying process for federal Community Development Block Grant funding. The neighborhood lost its eligibility for CDBG funds in part due to the lack of response from residents to the 2010 census, but regained that qualification last year after word spread about the importance of federal grants.
Samoset is already entitled to CDBG grants, winning $420,000 for intersection improvements in the 2015-2016 distribution of those federal funds. The neighborhood needs additional improvements. To that end, the fledgling Samoset Neighborhood Association organized last May, led by Taura Denis, a 36-year-old mother of seven whose motivation is establishing a safe community for children.
You have to be engaged in your community if you want your community to be successful.
Samoset resident Taura Denis
The neighborhood of almost 4,700 residents lies directly south of Bradenton’s city limits roughly between 15th Street East to the west and 27th Street East to the east, stretching south all the way to 44th Avenue East.
Samoset hasn’t been roundly overlooked by the county like Rubonia. The county’s Samoset Community Improvement Strategy, written with resident input and adopted in 2007, focused on many of today’s issues but the recession hit and county money evaporated. So now the community should flex its political muscle via the Samoset Neighborhood Association and hound commissioners like Rubonia did.
“If you live here, you should have a vested interest in your community,” Denis told Herald county reporter Claire Aronson for an article published this week. “You have to be engaged in your community if you want your community to be successful.” Resident engagement served Rubonia well and Samoset appears poised to follow that path, led by its neighborhood association. More and more residents have been attending association meetings, a promising development acknowledged by the county.
“That’s a sign to me and our department that there’s traction there in that community,” Ogden Clark, with the county’s Neighborhood Services Department, told Aronson. “They are being vocal. They are starting to be heard.”
Though the recession tanked the 2007 plan, the county now enjoys a new and steady revenue stream thanks to voters approving an initiative for a half-cent sales tax dedicated to infrastructure — expected to produce around $30 million annually for the next 15 years. Samoset deserves a slice of that very large pie.
The community, established as a railroad town back in 1902 when train service reached Manatee County, incorporated as a city in 1926, but then went bankrupt because of a 1928 hurricane, the Florida land bust and the Great Depression. And the city was dissolved. “For decades, roads remained unpaved, and there were no sidewalks,” the Samoset Community Improvement Strategy states. “Homes, well-built in the 1920s, deteriorated and businesses closed.”
Furthermore, “ ... Samoset today is struggling to gain needed community improvements that are on par with other neighborhoods in the county,” the county’s 2007 strategy points out — conditions still unmet.
Since community revitalization continues to be Manatee County’s priority, Samoset should be included in that economic development strategy.