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Commission to hold new Terra Ceia hearing


BRADENTON - The Manatee County Commission voted 4-3 Tuesday to hold another hearing next month on Estates on Tillet Bayou on Terra Ceia Island.

Rendering of Tillet Bayou
This rendering of Estates at Tillet Bayou shows the through road from Center Road to Bayshore Road. Click on the image for a larger image.

County Commissioner Joe McClash said eliminating the planned through street from Center Road to Bayshore Road would address residents' concerns about the project's site plan, which the commission approved on May 12.

In addition, he said. "It would go a long way toward healing some of the issues."

Terra Ceia Island resident Ron Martino said he was glad to hear the news that the commissioners are talking about Tillet Bayou again.

"We're happy that we're able to explore the roadway situation a little further, because it wasn't really talked about in depth in the last meeting to make it more compatible," he said.

Julie Roberts was also glad. She spoke during citizen's comments at Tuesday's commission meeting and asked that the decision on Tillet Bayou be reconsidered, but was cut off after two minutes.

"I'm very happy, and when everybody else found out, we were all very happy," she said about the new meeting. "It's nice that they're going to revisit it again."

Roberts said she was following rules that allow asking for a reconsideration of a decision. You have to tell them something new, she said, and she had something new to show commissioners: two site plans showing how the stipulations of 27 lots and no through street to Bayshore Drive could be possible, and it would comply better with more of the county's comprehensive plan.

However, county attorney Sarah Schenk appeared and told the commissioners they couldn't accept new testimony without advertising a public hearing.

Residents speak out

At the Terra Ceia post office on Wednesday, people coming in to pick up their mail offered their views.

Doug Shaw said he didn't know about the commission's action but supported the idea of not having a through road.

"I think it was a good idea to exit on Center Road opposite Ken Hubbard. I don't think it was a good idea to have an exit on Bayshore," he said. "I don't think there should be a road through. I think it should just have one exit. I thought it was a bad idea in the first place, putting the road clear through."

Russ Cicero said the island has enough roads now. "All the commissioners, they don't even live here, they don't even use this place, I don't think they even know where this place is at," he said. "Leave it alone. It's a very nice community."

Catherine Uphoff, a college student in St. Petersburg whose family has lived in Terra Ceia for 12 years, said she was against eliminating the road.

In addition to concerns about traffic, residents are also worried about stormwater runoff from Bayshore Road into Terra Ceia Bay, and possible effects on marine life as well as a fisheries business operating in Terra Ceia.

Commissioner Ron Getman said during commissioners' comments that he was worried about that factor, too.

"I felt that the design by our staff was superior, but I did have a concern about that road because of how it affects the bay," he said.

Issue raised in comments

McClash had brought up the issue of the through street during commissioner's comments Tuesday.

"We were all pretty tired," he said of the motion and vote in the May 12 meeting, and pointed out that the road is no longer gated.

"I was planning on putting in a motion to amend for that one specific elimination of the drive from Center Road to Bayshore," he said. "I think it'll also address a lot of the residents' concerns that were in front of us without affecting site plans."

A concern of the commissioners was that holding another hearing could lead to other issues on Terra Ceia regarding the Estates on Tillet Bayou project being brought up.

"I would like a confirmation from our county attorney if we did bring it up that it would be the only thing we would discuss," Getman said.

County Attorney Tedd Williams said that was a valid concern. "I think a motion for reconsideration would open the door for everything, he said. "As far as the law's concerned, anything could be discussed on reconsideration."

"I would support it if it was for that one issue only," Getman said, and Commissioner Gwendolyn Brown said, "So would I."

Getman added, "I would be concerned about opening it up again and going through what we've gone through four times already."

"I think it can be readvertised for just that one issue," McClash said. "There's no new testimony that someone should be able to bring."

Schenk then entered the chambers and said as long as the hearing was properly advertised, it could be limited to one item.

But commissioners Larry Bustle and Donna Hayes were opposed to the motion to reconsider.

"I believe the motion is the motion and the decision is the decision," Bustle said. "However, I do believe that if there is a concern about the road, it'd be OK to ask the staff to come back and give us their opinion as to what the impact of the road is. If they come back to us and say that they believe that the road should not be built between Center Road and Bayshore, then I'd certainly be willing to consider that.

"In spite of all the assurances, I believe that once you reconsider, you're going to have a room full of people. And you're also going to have other issues brought forward, and I'm not going to support that."

Brown tried to reassure Bustle and Hayes that she'd keep it to one issue. "I'm going to hold firm that that is the only issue we're going to be discussing that night," she said. "We're not going anywhere else."

Hayes said she worried about losing control of the meeting, too, but her main concern was about mobility in the community if the road is not there.

"During an emergency I think you have to have that opening there in case of an extreme emergency," she said. "I just think the decision's been made. My main reason is the mobility of the community. I really support having that entrance there."

Commissioner Carol Whitmore asked about the cost, and who would pay for it. Schenk said since it was county-initiated, the county would have to pay.

Also, Whitmore said, "I just want to make sure that there's no hidden agendas when we're coming up here," adding that she justed want to avoid another five-hour hearing. "And that nothing else will get brought up at that meeting."

The meeting will be scheduled for sometime next month.

Martino said that he is disappointed with the commissioners because of the decision they made May 12.

"We're really kind of sad that the commissioners are not seeing the uniqueness of Terra Ceia," he said.

"They don't feel that they heard everything correctly" and that's why they're doing this again.

Roberts said she was going to say there didn't need to be a whole meeting, but that she would respect the commissioners' wishes.

"We'll just have to take what we can get and be happy," she said.


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