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Controversial Robinson Farms Issue to Come Back to BOCC at Thursday's Meeting


BRADENTON – Call it the application that won't die. Pat and John Neal have been trying to get an application approved to change the zoning designation on a planned Robinson Farms development from Res-1 to Res-3 since 2010. The story has more twists and turns than the roads in sports car commercials, including the infamous Gwen Brown video. Thursday, it will once again go before the Manatee County Commission when the board will vote on a proposed settlement.

The ordinance first passed way back in October of 2010, but only after it failed the first time around. After commissioners voted 4-3 to deny the application, the matter was brought back up later in the meeting (and after most opponents had left thinking they'd been victorious). At the second vote, former Manatee County Commissioner Gwen Brown changed her vote to flip the decision.

It was later discovered via security video that Brown had had a private meeting with one of the developers, their legal counsel and a lobbyist in the administration building lobby during a break in the meeting, before coming back in and switching her vote.

To cloud the water even further, the lobbyist in question has since been elected to the very same Manatee County Commission. There's no telling whether Commissioner Betsy Benac will recuse herself from Thursday's vote because of her previous relationship with the applicant and the project. Of the commissioners who sided with the applicant in 2010, only Larry Bustle remains on the board.

Opponents of the project never thought they would see this type of action. Katie Pierola and Greg Geraldson beat the odds to win an Administrative Law Judge's ruling on the increased density, but thanks to a 2010 growth management law passed by the state, some of the teeth have been take out that decision. The new process sends it to the governor's cabinet rather than the Department of Community Affairs.

In Thursday's meeting, commissioners will vote on a settlement proposal of pending litigation that includes a remedial plan amendment which would still increase the density, despite the fact that it is in a Coastal High Hazzard Area. Of course, Geraldson and Pierola aren't party to the settlement agreement; only the county, the applicants and the Department of Economic Opportunity have agreed to the terms. The legality of the vote has been called into question, meaning it may return still again to the courtrooms should it pass.

Below are the relevant agenda items for themeeting. Click each, for more information. The meeting will take place beginning at 9 a.m. at the County Administrative Building, 1112 Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton, and will also be shown live on METV (Brighthouse 614, Verizon FIOS 31, Comcast 19) or online at MGA-TV.

6. Compliance Agreement - Robinson Farms Comprehensive Plan Amendment

Attachment: Compliance Agreement Revised.pdf
Attachment: Copy of Newspaper Advertising - Robinson Farms Compliance Agreement - 12-5-13 BC.pdf
Attachment: Public Comment letter.pdf

7. Ordinance No. 13-10 - Robinson Farms

Attachment: PA-10-02R-KLTRobinson Farms SR.pdf
Attachment: Copy of Newspaper Advertising - Ord. 13-10 PA-10-02R - Remedial Plan Amendment Robinson Farms - 12-5-13 BC.pdf
Attachment: Ordinance 13-10.pdf
Attachment: Public Comment Letter.pdf

(This original story had an error in the date of the meeting for Tuesday. The correction is that the meeting will take place Thursday December 5th,and has been edited. )


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