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Local Government Manatee Planning Commission Gives Neal's Silverleaf a Pass


BRADENTON -- All looked in order for the Neal Communities Silverleaf development proposal. It was said to be compliant with the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan and had SWFWMD approval, but the applicant tried to cut some corners on public safety. The plan proposed 732 homes, but it would have to lose two in order to provide adequate safety for some of its residents. The applicant said no, and the commissioners still gave them the green light.  

Neal Communities had already gotten approval for the project back in 2010, but this time they were adding 19 new lots. The two wetlands being destroyed were said to be "non-viable" seriously degradable, one grass and the other was being called a cattle pond. They were to be mitigated by a larger one that would be constructed, said Jeff Clark, an aquatic biologist from North Port representing the applicant. He said, "Neal Communities has spared no expense." 

The 235 acre development on the south side of 301, west of Chin Road and north of Old Tampa Road is slated to have eight acres of usable open space and is similar to the layout of the Central Park community built by Neal across from Lakewood Ranch High. There were two problems with this design though. It had two cul-de-sacs, and each only had one access road. One of these non-compliant features was corrected when Neal agreed to put a emergency access at the end of the 1,800 ft. drive. The other, a 1,200 ft. run, didn't have the convenient space at the end to make the same access a possibility.

The remedy recommended by staff was to put in what is called a "eyebrow," or half moon turnaround. This would allow a firetruck and other emergency vehicles to function without serious problems. In a life and death situation, the minutes to travel to the end of the almost quarter mile cul-de-sac and turnaround, could prove fatal. 

Planning recommended the plan, with the request the developer put in a turnaround at 800 ft. as the ordinance requires. Fire Department Chief Ron Kofer, all but insisted they do as well. He said not having a turnaround could be very difficult and potentially life threatening. Pat Neal said a turnaround at that point could cost him upward of $100,000 and was not in the plan.

Planning Commissioners spent a little time hem-hawing, while promising to still support the project. Then they asked Pat Neal if he would consider installing the turnaround. In short, Neal said no, and they said okay. Neal argued that the larger, man-made wetland mitigated the need to put in a turnaround though it didn't seem to relate at all to the primary concern of safety, a point no one brought up. Commissioners voted to recommend approval for the permit, 5 - 0, Wick absent.     


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