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Lakewood Ranch Reaches Higher; Residents Resist


BRADENTON — Schroeder Manatee Ranch, Inc. wishes to build higher. Their University Lakes project has but three parcels left to which they can build on, but residents say seven stories is too much and ten is out of the question. SMR says they already have the right to build up to ten stories, and going up instead of out reduces their footprint.

SMR is asking for a Zoning/General Development Plan (GDP) Amendment for the 4,000-plus acre University Lakes DRI (Development Regional Impact), with claims that they are following the county's plan to increase urban development and reduce sprawl. 

The proposed site is on the water behind Main Street at Town Center. Residents told the Manatee County Planning Commission on Thursday that any building, whether seven or ten stories, is unacceptable, either as residential or a hotel.

"The timing on this discussion is premature," argued resident Michael Miller. "We need another (discussion). I suggest you deny this request until we can have a better discussion, one born on facts."

Kathleen Grant said, "There is a big difference between five and seven stories. We aren't a dense urban development, and ten stories is ridiculous. They are building 237 additional apartments across the street. That's 300 more cars. LWR Boulevard is already in need of repair. The camel's back is broken."

"We bought into a planned community with low rise buildings, both residential and commercial," Ian Bacon told the commission. "LWR is not an urban city. Draw a line in the sand here. There is not enough parking as it is." 

Caleb Grimes, the attorney representing the applicant, said it was always the intention to raise the density of the Town Center. Grimes said, "This is so there aren't a lot of cars, so people can walk to where they are going."

Grimes's point was supported by Commissioner Conerly, who said he thought it seemed logical.

Commissioners Horrigan, Rhoades and Bower felt the possibility of a ten-story building out at the point on the lake was disturbing and didn't support recommending the request. Commissioners DeLesline, Conerly and Chairman Richard Bedford did support recommending the amendment.  

The motion to recommend the amendment to the BOCC was therefore a 3-3 tie. The deciding vote, commissioner Lukowiak, was absent, and county attorney Sarah Schenk called it as a denial. The planning commission is an advisory board and only votes on recommending one way or the other. When a tie happens on a vote for a motion before the county commission and other government bodies, the motion does not carry.

Grimes disagreed with Schenk's call, arguing that "a tie would approve the request."

Chairman Bedford suggested a 15-minute break was in order and that maybe someone from upstairs would weigh in on the call, but added, "When we come back, we are moving to (the next item on the agenda)."


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