MANATEE COUNTY — On Thursday, Manatee County Commissioners approved a rezone and preliminary site plan for the future townhome development planned for Linger Lodge Road in Bradenton. The requested approvals were passed in a 5-2 vote with Commissioners George Kruse and Jason Bearden voting in opposition.
The approval makes way for the construction of 99 townhomes on 45.5 acres alongside Braden River at the southeast corner of I-75 and Linger Lodge Road, commonly known as 8240 Linger Lodge Road in Bradenton.
Five citizens appeared in person during Thursday’s land use meeting to address the board, requesting commissioners deny the development's approval. The citizens’ opposition included different concerns, including but not limited to increased traffic, removal of trees, proximity to the river, wildlife, proposed density, noise and water considerations including runoff and increased flooding.
Two citizens who provided public comment introduced a change.org petition, Protect Braden River Natural Habitat in Manatee County, into the record. The petition had collected more than 2,700 resident signatures in opposition to the development's approval.
Attached to the meeting's agenda were dozens of written public comments that had been submitted on the item, none were in support of the development.
Commissioner Mike Rahn addressed some of the runoff and potential river pollution concerns raised by members of the public. Braden River runs along the southern edge of the project’s site. Rahn confirmed the developer’s commitment to maintaining 50-foot buffers between the development and wetlands. Rahn also cited the proposed stormwater ponds as additional insurance against potential negative impacts on the Braden River or surrounding wetlands.
Commissioner Turner addressed the public directly, explaining that the need for new residential developments was a growing need and that Manatee County had fallen behind in meeting the level of demand.
“We need careful growth, we need planned growth, but we need growth,” said Turner.
Commissioner Kruse conceded to Turner’s point about growth being unavoidable and necessary, but pushed back on whether the Linger Lodge development would meet the standards of “careful growth” or “well-planned growth.”
Kruse detailed several aspects of the development proposal he disagreed with following the presentation. The at-large commissioner argued that given the current zoning and location, the proposed development would be “using the smallest possible lots for townhomes” while also requesting development exceptions to allow for tree clearing and an extended cul de sac.
“The cul de sac would maximize to the exact last foot allowable in proximity to the river—and who knows, maybe they will get a couple of more feet in the near future to get even closer to that river,” Kruse said, presumably referencing the upcoming adoption hearing for the wetland protections text amendment which—if adopted—will reduce the county’s wetland buffer requirements along non-isloated wetlands from the current 50-foot requirement to 15 feet.
Kruse continued, “They’re also asking for a stipulation to basically gut the trees to create whatever little land they could possibly cram a townhome onto.”
Kruse summarized his comments by stating that while the developer’s plans propose 75 percent open space and other “niceties,” ultimately, despite the presentation, the current zoning and FPL transmission line easement would mean the lesser portion of developable land would be “maximized.”
“There is no road system for this, there’s no land for this. You’re asking to cut down more trees and get closer to rivers with longer roads to cul de sacs to put the exact maximum number of homes onto this site and the exact maximum number of cars onto these roads,” Kruse concluded.
Commissioner James Satcher offered vague comments that referenced a previous development approval that another commissioner voted in favor of—he did not name the development or commissioner—but said that previous approval provided him some understanding of the concerns expressed about the Linger Lodge development proposal.
Satcher called the approval a “tough situation” adding that “they own this land, and they are reducing the runoff, and they’re capturing the water on their property which is very important.”
Turner motioned to approve the rezoning request and preliminary site plan and Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge seconded the motion.
Put to a vote, Satcher, Turner, Van Ostenbridge, Ballard and Rahn voted in favor. Van Ostenbridge and Ballard did not provide any comment on the item.
Before the vote was taken, Commissioner Bearden provided last-minute comments.
“I just want to jump on here and say a few things in regards to Commissioner Kruse’s comments,” Bearden began. “You talk about certain things in regards to, you know, trees and things like that, but you didn’t think about that type of stuff when, you know, you approved all those other developments.”
Bearden never specified what “other developments” he was referencing nor did he clarify how those developmental approvals were similar to the one before the board on Thursday.
“Now all the sudden you want to start talking about not removing trees and, you know, doing all these other things,” Bearden continued. “When you approved the developments a few years ago, or you know, a couple of years ago, and now to the present time, you know, now you’re contradicting your statements.”
“At that point in time, you know, you were for certain developments that, you know, some people were talking about. But now, all the sudden, everything is starting to change. Now it is starting to change and it is starting to go a different direction,” Bearden said, addressing Kruse.
“I would just say, don’t contradict your statements. If you’re going to be about something, be about it, but don’t be a chameleon. That’s all I have to say,” Bearden said, concluding his comments.
Despite ultimately voting with Kruse against the approval, Bearden never offered any comments directly on the proposed Linger Lodge development request and never offered any explanation as to why he voted against its approval.
After the vote, dissatisfied chants from at least one citizen in the audience could be heard, “Vote them out, vote them out.”
To replay the Linger Lodge Townhome presentation, public comment, and commissioners' discussion, click the video below.
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