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Pearl Avenue Race Trac Deferred for History Lesson

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BRADENTON -- At Thursday's BOCC Land Use meeting, Manatee County Commissioners found a rare opportunity to stand up for citizens opposing the construction of a new Race Trac gasoline station at Pearl Avenue and U.S. 41.

The residents of Whitfield Estates are the second historic community to remind county commissioners of the respect that history demands.

Whitfield Estates joins the Village of Cortez as a member of the exclusive club that owns much of Manatee County's history. Both date back nearly 100 years and both hold the distinction of being the oldest of their kind in the state. 

Cortez is the oldest fishing village in the state, and Whitfield Estates is the oldest country club, as well as the oldest community in Manatee County.

For almost two years now, Whitfield residents have opposed the construction of a Race Trac fuel station and retail store at the northeast corner of Pearl Avenue and U.S. 41.

Citizens came out in opposition again Thursday -- and made a strong argument against the proposal -- with many reasons why the Commission should consider the attributes that Manatee's Planning Commission ignored when they recommended the project on April 10, 2014.

County Commissioners suggested that the applicant consider postponing their request until they could figure out how to meet the requests of Whitfield Estates residents.

For over two hours (not counting the two-hour lunch), Commissioners and staff struggled with the applicant's proposal, questioning the height of the building and canopy over the pumps; inquiring to the landscape and fence; and wrestling with the concerns over safety, environmental threats, as well as the lack of historical ambiance.

Commissioners threatened to reject the project if more compromise wasn't reached, and those representing Race Trac weren't in the position to make all of the calls. 

Staff recognized the next available date on the BOCC calendar was May 20, 2014. The motion to continue to May 20, was approved unanimous.

Much like the group of Cortezians who have showed up before the board in concert to protect their way of life and history, the residents of Whitfield Estates wanted respect, and they don't want their history trampled. 

Commissioners seldom take that stand, and even though the can was just kicked down the road, the Whitfield residents vowed to see it through.

At lunch I ran into Cotrezians, Bob Landry and Joe Kane,  and asked them what they were doing at the dais at Thursday's meeting. Kane replied, "We old towns look out for each other." 

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