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Manatee County Commission Moves Forward with Impact Fee Giveaway


In the first of two public hearings, Manatee County Commissioners moved forward with their plan to significantly underfund infrastructure required by rampant development by collecting far less in impact fees than growth will require.

As we've explained in multiple articles, which you can find at the bottom of this page, Manatee County had the chance to raise development impact fees to a level that, while still not adequate for the cost of growth, would get much closer to what is needed instead of forcing existing residents to subsidize infrastructure required by new development. From the first presentation, it was clear that the county commission, which is stacked with developer lackeys, would not do that.

At Thursday's land use meeting, five board members showed up with a "like-minded" ideology, which amounted to developers should get whatever they want. Staff gave the desired presentation, and the five commissioner majority came with an agreed-upon narrative—the county lacks the data and likely the validity to invoke a process that would allow them to collect twice as much impact fees.

Commissioner Amanda Ballard, who is an attorney, made her usual effort to intellectualize whatever graft was being passed off, and the rest of the majority agreed that the county would be at risk of being sued by developers if they did not do what the developers that bought the commissioners' seats wanted them to. With the help of Sarah Schenk of the Manatee County Attorney's office, they managed to present what probably seemed like a reasonable case to the uninitiated.

Fortunately, Commissioner George Kruse, who is the only commissioner on the board who is not in the pocket of developers, was the best-prepared participant at the meeting. Kruse once again schooled his fellow board members and the public as to why the narrative was deeply flawed and how detrimental woefully underfunding infrastructure would surely be. You can see that portion of the meeting below.

Of course, none of it mattered. At the end of the day, the board voted 5-1 to do what developers wanted. There is no reason to suspect that will change at the second public hearing, which will be held in August. You, the existing resident, will continue to be forced to subsidize the true cost of new residents who move to Manatee County and build a new home. Public comment, both written and in person, was overwhelmingly in favor of Kruse's plan, often in scathing tones. It didn't matter. The only way this will ever get fixed is by voting the puppets off the board.

Kruse is up for reelection this year and will face the developer's ring leader, Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, in August's Republican primary. That would be a great place to start, especially since the deeply unpopular Van Ostenbridge is now running in a countywide race. He's hoping that a pile of developer cash and culture war-driven attack ads can overcome his putrid record with enough low-information voters to stay on the board. It's up to voters to make sure that doesn't happen. Districts 1 and 5 will also be on this year's ballot. Follow the money and support candidates who are not backed by developer interests.

An Impact Fee Reminder

Developers and their puppets have ensured that growth will not pay for itself

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • Cat L

    Disappointing, and yet not a surprise... sigh

    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • rayfusco68

    Can the commissioners be sued for maleficence in office for so blatantly disregarding the public trust?

    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • jimandlope

    Anyone who votes for these, “puppets,” led by KVO is complicit in this malfeasance. This is the most blatant affront to Manatee County residents since the wetlands were thrown to the developers. Jim Tierney

    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • WTF

    What a farce on this hearing. The attorney Sarah Elizabeth Warren gave a legal opinion that was far from accurate. Terrible terrible advice to the board to give them an excuse to vote for the developer back reduced fees. It’s so obvious to the public that they are developer owned and they do what they are told from the developers.

    Dozens of letters were sent in from the public only to be ignored by the majority of the developer own board. The gang of 5 are only puppets to them. Soon to be only a gang of 3 when the people vote the other 2 out!

    Once again George Kruse hits a home run with facts and common sense. George is for the people 100 per cent. Such an outrage they don’t give him the time of day. He’s the smartest one up there and that’s way he can’t be bought by the developers. You cannot serve 2 masters and George chooses to serve the folks who put him in office. Hang on George the cavalry is coming election time.

    Let’s not listen to the consulting firm that recommend going to 100% as the developers would finally have to pay there fair share. Nope, can’t have that, there funding might shrivel up. Absolutely the worst BOCC in decades

    .“We need to tell each other our stories. We need to show that everyone — our neighbors, our families, our community leaders — everyone we know is touched by corruption.” — Jennifer Lawrence

    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • UteKegel

    If you don't do what we want, we'll sue you. Thus works the modern mafia.

    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • Debann


    Friday, June 7 Report this

  • Ray


    While KVO gives the developers a tong bath the existing tax payers are hit with the cost of all of the new construction. Remember this and vote out all that did not want the developers to pay their fair share.

    Friday, June 7 Report this