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Bradenton Rezones 40 Acres for Neal in Backroom of City Hall


If someone in Bradenton wants to change the zoning of their land, it usually takes a public hearing and an approval by the city council. Not if you are Pat Neal. According to Tim Polk, who is in charge of zoning for the city, Neal's Perico Island property was not properly zoned back in the '90s when it was annexed by the city, so he gave it an R-1 zoning versus the approved PDP (Planned Development Project) on the zoning maps. Polk said Neal told him the original zoning was a mistake. The City Council approved his site plan approval without Polk disclosing he administratively changed the zoning from the approved maps.

Polk used a section of the code ( that allows the director to administratively change a zoning. This is typically used for small discrepancies. But we're talking 40 acres of land meaningfully re-zoned some 15 years later when a developer wants to drastically alter what would be allowed to be built on it. The city has a map of R-1 properties and Neal’s property is not close. That doesn't pass the smell test.

Polk was not around in 2000 when Perico Island was the subject of a major dispute with citizens, with the island cities and Manatee County challenging the City of Bradenton’s land use designation. Neal’s property was included in that dispute. So how would he miss the zoning and land use designation back then being, in his opinion, in error? I was serving as a Manatee County Commissioner at the time and was very familiar with the challenge. Part of the outcome was an understanding that the wetlands were to be protected.

Even if there was a mistake, why the rush and why the lack of transparency? The Bradenton City Council could simply amend the map in about two months. That would be the normal procedure and one that complies with the law. Perhaps it would be hard to stand before the council and explain why the land should not retain the current more restrictive PDP zoning in a public process that would likely draw informed opposition.

There is another part of the city’s development rules that require any development with more than 200 linear feet under 2 feet in elevation to be approved under the current PDP zoning – not the one Polk administratively changed to R-1.

So, if the rules are followed, these 40 acres, without question, would still be required to get approved under a PDP process, since a good portion of the land is submerged along the natural shoreline of Sarasota Bay.

Polk hid critical information from his council. You can’t blame the Bradenton City Council, at least up to this point, if Polk did not disclose that he administratively took action to change a zoning map in a way that only the city council is supposed to, and authorized destruction of wetlands. However, the Mayor and the council was presented with these concerns several months ago and never took the time to initiate a response to this important issue.

Another issue with Neal’s approval by the city is the Comprehensive Plan Designation. This designation also seems to have been administratively changed by Polk. The map has a designation on what looks like most of the property as conservation, but the site plan approval lists it as Very Low Density Residential - RES 3, without a word about the conservation designation on part or all of it.

The Neals have been generous to the campaigns of Mayor Poston and members of the city council, including Patrick Roff who is up for re-election. Many people are questioning whether such actions (or inaction) are the political rewards for helping them stay in office. It makes you wonder, would any of us have been able to convince a planning director to change 40 acres of zoning without a public hearing by the city council?

These processes are supposed to be public for a reason – namely so that we as a community can have input regarding the place we call home. The City of Bradenton, however, seems to have figured out a way around public input.

Joe McClash is the publisher of The Bradenton Times, a Marine Corps veteran and former Manatee County Commissioner, having served 22 years in the District 7 countywide seat.


Pat Neal Gets SWFMD Permit to Destroy Wetlands on Perico

Published Friday, August 29, 2014 12:10 am


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