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Manatee County Commissioners Tell Parrish Residents to Return... Again


BRADENTON -- The Story is nearing volumes with a repetitious plot: Small town in Florida fighting to save its identity. Parrish residents may be tiring of the drive, the time off work, and the what seems to be endless parade of reasons they have to supply to the county commissioners in order to save their lifestyle. 

To walk down 25th Street, look south to where the river peeks through the old oaks in and around the homes that have been there for decades, and not feel a need to protect it all, you would have to be a developer. Shunn-Shion Chung, who wants to develop a site on the north side of 25th Street, doesn't share that view. 

On 25th there are signs of sprawl, so it's not Mayberry, but it is comfortable and pleasant even for those who don't live on the south side of the street. It's like a living mural for all who live in the neighborhood, a road you can still walk down without the threat of being run over, a place to walk your dog. Most of those that live around there don't want to lose that.

By now, Mr Chung knows he has a fight on his hands. He has modified the plans from 28 homes down to 19, on the 11.9 acre piece of land. The community won't budge, they insist the plans reflect what has been there for years. It is zoned for agriculture, which now restricts homes to five acres, but there are some houses grandfathered in that sit on property as little as one acre. Residents insist that Chung at least meet that density.

At Thursday's land use meeting, Chung returned with another development plan, one that had just 12 homes on the District One parcel. It all could have gone down to a vote, but District One Commissioner Larry Bustle was gone on a cruise, so a continuance was requested.    

This did not sit well with any of the residents. The date for Thursday's meeting was set back on Nov. 4 at the last meeting. Residents didn't find out about the continuance until two days before Thursday's meeting. They felt robbed and trivial. 

Residents also felt the Chair Commissioner Carol Whitmore appeared to be satisfied with the new plans that were reduced again, down to 12 homes on the parcel. But residents knew that did not translate to one house per acre. In fact, it equated to just a little over one half acre per home when factoring in required, easements, road, right-of-ways and a retention pond. 

At that point, Commissioner Robin DiSabatino saved the day. She had performed her due diligence and taken the drawing submitted by the applicant and sketched in six properties within the parcel, to where each home sat of one acre. This did not sit well with Commissioner Whitmore or Commissioner Hayes. Both seemingly tried to scold DiSabatino, but Commissioner McClash was quick to offer support, as was Commissioner Gallen. They saw DiSabatino's effort as exemplifying what they are all there for -- to protect the property and people of the county.

The Parrish residents weren't going to let the commissioners suggest that the reduction was acceptable, when they all knew it didn't pan-out the way it was being presented. DiSabatino, McClash and Gallen stood firm to make sure Parrish residents were going to get a fair shake. McClash also made a motion to extend the continuance into Feburary, instead of a January 5 date suggested by the chair, so to not inconvenience the residents any further.   

Commissioner Hayes fought the motion, as well as the idea McClash had about going forward with a vote to conclude the matter. She didn't think the time was needed for the extension and that a final vote would be unacceptable with the district's commissioner gone. 

Residents found it a little disturbing that  Commissioner Bustle had previously announced last month that he would be gone in early December, although Hayes said she just found out two days prior to Thursday's meeting. And if the commissioners knew the districts's commissioner and "tie-breaker" vote would be gone, why was it the applicant's attorney that called and was granted the continuance, two days before Thursdays meeting?

It seems obvious why Patricia Petruff, the applicants attorney, asked for the continuance. Bustle had made it clear that he had no problem with the development at previous meetings, and Petruff didn't want one of her votes out of town on a final vote. 

It all starts up again on Feburary 2, 2012.


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