BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's Board of County Commissioner work session, local officials listened to Manatee County Planning/Zoning Director John Osborne's presentation: How Will We Grow? Manatee County 2035. The project originated during the 2004-2005 economic boom, which generated many questions as to long-term growth and regulation policies. Some questions the project sought to address:
-- Are we capitalizing on our current infrastructure?
-- Is it maximized in terms of customers?
-- Is the county assisting with economic development?
-- How does it relate to past public workshops?
-- How does it compare to future trends?
Osborne reviewed three possible ways to approach growth and weighed in on their potential impacts.
The first: to "stay the course" and focus on current development plans with some minor tweaks, suggesting "low density with high, spotted growth."
The second: keep up the focus on southwest Manatee county.
The third: Focus more dense and concentrated growth within designated areas (i.e., Port Manatee area, Parrish, Lakewood Ranch, and the Manatee Fruit/IMG area of southwest county).
It seemed there was little in way of major differences between the three. What was clear, and the theme that would continue throughout the session was a strong focus on density. Even the first option 'stay the course,' has been experiencing a slight acceptance to higher density, and the direction the board has been voting for has greatly increased the number of single family units amended to the county's comp plan.
Later this year, the Board of County Commissioners will weigh the recommendations before them, and consider what the public has to add. There was a big push to sell "How Will We Grow" as something different, but it appears that unless the public has something different to add, any one of the three, with a few tweaks, will be the plan.
The numbers involving increased density, the planners and board discussed, will most likely translate into a new comp plan that dumps the 35-foot rule, and there was very little said about urban core blight or the rebuilding on the properties that sit still vacant and continue to decay.
Infrastructure was the second most popular word of the day, and it seemed the rebuilding the county's underground, and the money needed to do it, will depend on how far they are allowed to go up, instead of out, with the building. Density and Infrastructure rebuilding are sure to be in whatever picture the future holds. Change will be hard and slow. Commissioner Carol Whitmore asked, "What can we tell the current builders we already have agreements with?" She didn't get an answer.
The second part of the work session focused on "How Will We Pay." County staff identified some potential new sources of revenue, including franchise fees and stormwater assessments. A full report will follow in Friday's edition of The Bradenton Times.
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