BRADENTON – At Wednesday night's meeting, Bradenton City Council members heard arguments for and against a proposal that would allow a local church to sell part of its property for the development of a 24-hour gas station and convenience store at the intersection of SR 64 and 48th St Ct E.
Faith United Church, who was wanting to sell the northwest corner of their property to Kentucky company Thornton's, for development of the proposed store, pleaded urgent financial problems from a struggling economy.
Residents of the church's neighboring subdivision, Braden River Lakes, opposed development of the store, saying additional traffic to the intersection of their neighborhood's only entrance would bring them inconvenience and major safety concerns for their community.
M.R. Lembright, a member of the church, talked about Faith United being a positive and active force in the community, and said that money troubles have increasingly burdened them. "Churches are not immune to the realities of financial problems in daily life," she told commissioners.
Fred Damianos of Faith United said that if it does not sell part of its property soon, its financial situation would continue to sink, and the church would be forced to sell the entire property that it sits on.
Though many residents of Braden River Lakes expressed sympathy for the church's situation, all had issues with the development of the gas station, which would sit on the east side of the neighborhood's only entrance and exit.
But the issue most often raised was the increased traffic that a 24-hour fill-up station and store would bring to an already busy intersection, and the numerous ways that could affect residents, especially kids.
Neighborhood resident Timothy Calpin brought up these concerns with council members, saying patrons of the Thornton's station and delivery trucks "can only increase the number of tragic accidents" that the intersection has experienced over the years. He also said that the Thornton's store would diminish the values of residents' homes.
An increased likelihood of child abductions in the area was also brought up. Resident Cindy Hinton warned of the danger of unwanted strangers driving out of Thornton's and wandering into the neighborhood. Another resident brought in printed Google Earth maps of council members' homes and their streets, claiming that the public servants would also oppose such a development just outside of their neighborhoods.
But in the end, council members said the concerns raised by residents of the subdivision were not strong enough to warrant denial of the store. Councilman Bemis Smith said, "Certain neighborhoods already have strip malls at intersections to their entrances ... I don't get to pick which convenience store comes in and which doesn't in certain perimeters ... we don't get to be dictators."
Councilman Patrick Roff echoed Smith's comments, saying, "The human in me wants to deny this ... but we're not allowed to just deny things without having a good reason as to why it can't be denied." He also argued that if the church is forced to move from the property after being unable to sell the northwest corner, a much less pleasing business in the eyes of the residents may develop on the property, such as a bar.
The council voted unanimously to approve the sale and development of the property, with Councilman Harold Byrd absent from the meeting.
Full agenda results of Wednesday's meeting can be found here.
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