Development Next to Race Tracks Goes Forward Despite Massive Opposition
BRADENTON — Thursday’s land use meeting drew the largest organized development opposition in Manatee County history. Fans of the Freedom Factory race track and Bradenton Motor Speedway drag strip urged county commissioners to deny a developer’s request for a comp plan amendment that would allow 4,500 homes to be built next to the tracks on land that is currently zoned agricultural. Opponents worry that the houses will spell the beginning of the end for the beloved attractions.
The developer, SMR Taylor Ranch, initiated a request for a large-scale comprehensive land use plan amendment for the future land use classification of just over 2,300 acres of property from Agricultural-Rural (1 unit per 5 acres) to Urban Fringe 3 (3 units per acre) with a text amendment setting the actual maximum density of 1.95 units per acre.
Garrett Mitchell, a popular Youtuber who goes by the name "Cleetus McFarland,” bought the failing 63-acre speedway in 2020 and has turned it into an immensely popular attraction, called the Freedom Factory, regularly drawing standing-room-only crowds to the rural area in east Manatee.
The drag strip next to the track is owned by Victor Alvarez and operates under the name Bradenton Motorsports Park. Both owners told commissioners that they feared an approval would be the death of their businesses, citing examples of raceways throughout the country closing after new development spawned complaints from residents.
McFarland’s popularity (he has more than 3 million subscribers to his Youtube channel and regularly draws over a million views per video) helped the issue draw massive attention. A video on his secondary channel, describing the issue, drew nearly a million views. As a result, commissioners got over 15,000 emails opposing the amendment. At Thursday’s meeting, the chambers were packed with opponents, some of whom had driven across the state just to give three minutes of public comment. One fan even flew in from Arizona to offer his support at the meeting. Manatee County Commission meetings, which often have only a dozen or so viewers on the county's Youtube channel, sustained around 15,000 viewers until the item was voted on.
The door for the project was opened by a text amendment passed by commissioners in November of 2021 that allowed for the eastward expansion of Lakewood Ranch. That amendment created something of an FDAB exception for an amendment to the geographic extent of future development on land coterminous and contiguous to the FDAB, when it is a continuation of west-to-east development under a single master developer who is responsible for infrastructure improvements, and when the infrastructure for utilities and roads are available without adverse impact to the county's ability to serve the utility service area.
Representatives for the developer said they planned to put an 80-foot berm and 25-foot fence between the property and the tracks, but opponents noted that such measures would do little to nothing in terms of mitigating the sound of top-fuel drag cars and other events emanating from the two facilities.
Commissioners noted that the transmittal to the state was only the first step and that it would have to come back before the board after. In response, several opponents noted the infrequency in which proposed comp plan amendments transmitted to the state didn’t get approved by the county afterward.
Despite ardent opposition from the public, commissioners ultimately voted 5-2 to transmit the proposed amendments to the state, with commissioners Satcher and Bearden dissenting. Click here to see video of the item’s portion of the meeting. A reaction video posted by McFarland after the meeting can be seen below.
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Reader CommentsJohn Kissel
DEC 30, 2022 • I seem to remember Ed Chance of the commission declaring that development would not go east of I-75.That land would remain for ag. use only. Well, we can see how well that worked out, NOT!!!. Racing is part of American heritage, keep the tracks going, as when one is lost, it is gone forever, I well know what it is like to lose a local track, I raced at Bradenton from 1981 to 2003.
DEC 17, 2022 • You bring up a good point Ray you could very well be correct.
DEC 17, 2022 • There are a number of comments that blame the people that voted the current commissioners into office. Actually those who didn't vote and the Democratic party that didn't field an alternative candidate are equally to blame. If you don't vote don't complain about what your get, and if you can't field a moderate candidate to counter the far right developer controlled candidates don't complain either. 56% of the registered voters in Manatee county are either Democrats or no party affiliation (NPA). The developer lock is assured by the non-voters and no oposition.
DEC 16, 2022 • Take a look at the relationship between Baugh and the public records manager, Scaccinoce (sp?)
DEC 16, 2022 • Glen Gibellina - and all concerned The Manatee County Republican Executive Committee almost had the “intervention” you suggest on Monday night when the old- boy Board, which is connected and in bed with the developers and Pedicini was narrowly re-elected. Glen - YOU voted for them. This is exactly what you voted FOR and it’s astonishing that you don’t understand that. Steve Vernon and his ties and allegiance to the developers who funded his PAC in 2020 and its sphere of influence through Pedicini is obvious and well documented- and so how are we supposed to hold our public officials accountable for terrible policy and rules when the REC is not doing its job and has no influence? The Republican Party has a responsibility for holding this BOCC accountable but it has become part and parcel of the system of corruption in Manatee County. You had a chance to elect an outsider with competence and principles but you chose Vernon - expect more of this behavior not less.
DEC 16, 2022 • Glen Gibellina - and all concerned The Manatee County Republican Executive Commitee almost had the necessary “intervention” you suggest on Monday night when the Old- boy Board, which is connected and in bed with the developers and Pedicini, was narrowly re-elected. Glen - YOU voted for them. This is exactly what you voted for and it’s astonishing that you don’t understand that. Steve Vernon and his ties and allegiance to the developers who funded his PAC in 2020 and its sphere of influence through Pedicini is obvious and well documented- and so how are we supposed to hold our public officials accountable for terrible policy and decisions when the REC is not doing its job and has no influence? The Republican Party has a responsibility for holding this Republican BOCC accountable but it has become part and parcel of the system of corruption in Manatee County. You had a chance to elect an outsider with competence and principles but you chose Vernon - expect more of this behavior not less.
DEC 16, 2022 • The people who voted for this Board did this! I bet the majority of the voters who live out there and who frequent the track are conservatives who voted for this Board. They simply don't get that they voted against themselves. "Keep Florida Free". What a joke. Manatee County's natural areas and rural areas are history. We need more housing? You're telling us that all the homes being built are sold? That's BS! And for them to do away with having to justify speculative building of homes is nuts!
william e. moore
DEC 16, 2022 • the voters are to blame for the bad decisions of the county commissioners because they keep voting for the same people who favor the developers over the voters they are supposed to represent . start voting them out to see how fast some things change.
DEC 16, 2022 • Is the criminal cabal that runs Manatee County ever going to be investigated? Wake up DOJ - do your job.
DEC 16, 2022 • Track owners can only do so much. The long-term solution to help protect ALL racetracks is for the people who use them and enjoy them to buy up as much of the property around them as possible. When developers see vast swaths of undeveloped farmland owned by one or two people, it doesn't take long and it doesn't take much to buy those people out.
DEC 16, 2022 • I believe the owners of the tracks presented their cases well and as the one said, if I was wanting to building the track next to an existing residential area how would you vote left a pretty indisputable conclusion. There were stipulations that were said would be added if this goes through that a person buying the property would sign a paper saying they know this, well, how about one step further to assure their knowledge of this, that the property can only be shown and sold during times races are occurring?
DEC 16, 2022 • The question here is: what benefit will all this development bring to Manatee county? The response is little to none. Positive: It will increase the tax revenue for the county Negative: It will increase traffic and the overcrowded roads we currently have are not part of the planning. Oh boy!!! The noise surrounding the racetracks will be hard to withstand. Will those houses sell or would they have to go for wholesale prices? The environmental footprint will diminish our quality of life. The infrastructure will have to be taken into consideration as the FIRST issue when plans are proposed. It never is. In some areas, the flooding will be more frequent as construction affects the water tables. We have enough flooding in the area already. We have been here since 2005 and in the last few storms the area where we live is starting to flood. New schools will have to be built. Not enough hospitals nearby to service such increase in population. In addition, the traffic EMS will have to contend with in those 2 lane roads with flood ditches on both sides of the road. The negatives win for now. Please continue to add to my lists as I am sure there are more negatives I have not thought about. The benefit to the community is NEVER taken into consideration. Next time, remember that ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL!
DEC 16, 2022 • Promises about protecting the tracks sound good today and maybe saves face right now, but someday those promises will be tested by time and relality.
DEC 16, 2022 • We as citizens of Manatee County have been through issues such as this before. The former Race Trace at 41 and 57th Ave/ The Airport was an issue but that got voted down probably because is dipped into The Powers that Be pockets to badly/ Myakka City Area as a whole/ now the Existing Race Track/ Along with the stipulation that potential homeowners would have to sign an acknowledgment that they are buying next to a Race Track, let's make one more stipulation...that the property can only be sold during the time races are running. It hasn't happened yet so here's hoping!
DEC 16, 2022 • Another rubber stamp will be put on yet another development. Time to look into the personal finances of all board members and administrators. Someone is buying them
DEC 16, 2022 • When is everyone in this county going to realize that this is nothing new with the commission and the developers. They have been and always will be in each other's pockets until the people wake up and vote for new blood instead of the ongoing "good ole boy" system. If someone chooses to buy a development near a race track then that's their problem to deal with the noise and hassle.
DEC 16, 2022 • I agree with you Mr.Smith you are like me we are dating our selfs very few people I know even know about the Sara Mana race track my family raced stock cars there, that was a nice track It was a big deal here a lot of people put out a lot of effort to get those tracks going.
DEC 16, 2022 • When it comes back I pray they go for a larger buffer. Putting a clause in the notice to buyer does not do enough. Years ago Waterlefe residents had a clause about building the Fort Hamer bridge in the notice. When the commissioners finally voted to build this bridge the residents came out in droves to protest it even though they knew this bridge was on the plan before their homes were even built. Owners will complain about the noise no matter what they sign. And what will happen when homes are resold? Will the new purchasers be required to sign it if they are even informed about it?
DEC 16, 2022 • SMR should have bought the racetracks when they were both up for sale years ago. As for our county they need to stop building housing developments, but with all politicians in the pockets of all developers it will never heppen. All politicians are on the take. Just follow the money. Too much government not listening to the residents.
DEC 16, 2022 • The self proclaimed “queen of Myakka” herself voted for this as well Vanessa Baugh.
Paul D. Smith
DEC 16, 2022 • Racers had a track, Sara-Mana behind the present Red Lobster. Developement did not like the noise. The track was moved to the present location to escape developement back in the seventies. It has been very popular since. I guess a developer needs to have an interest.
DEC 16, 2022 • Bradenton Motorsports Park and Freedom Works bring in millions of tourist ￼dollars ￼a year, hundreds came, many from across the country to speak in opposition of the transmittal letter to the state. Where they heard? Nope! It passed 5-2 with Commissioners James Stacher and Jason Bearden￼ in opposition to send in the letter. Here’s my analogy and comparison… Drugs and alcohol don’t mix Drag strips and housing don’t mix Perhaps it’s time for an intervention
DEC 16, 2022 • A shining example of single party rule. Be careful what you wish and vote for.
DEC 16, 2022 • When all 7 are in bed with Jensen, Neal and Beruff do we really expect anything different. Really Sad!
DEC 16, 2022 • Why is anyone surprised, a drunk commissioner is getting off after drunk driving. A liar commissioner is off the hook after illegally directing vaccines to boost her image ( she is disgusting and everyone knows it) fraud runs wild in the county admins office. You republicans is Manatee deserve all the pain and heartache this bozo commissioners impose on you. You voted the crooks in!
DEC 16, 2022 • Don't expect to have any effect on this board with public protests. We had the same experience with 59th Street, a nearly totally un-needed expenditure of $31mil. They don't care what you think! The only way is to organize campaigns around new board members who will fight against rampant development. Might even involve electing Democrats.
DEC 16, 2022 • More Manatee board members bough5 and paid for by developers!! DISGRACEFUL!! Bring in the DOJ NOW!
DEC 16, 2022 • They always use "form letters" as an excuse to ignore large swells of communication and public outrage, but are extremely responsive to a handful of select people. I don't expect any response to my email, that's for sure. And what a disgrace it will be when the issue comes back from the state - I'm not hopeful that they won't rubber stamp it too. Maybe if it gets national attention, something may change. But I'm not hopeful.