BRADENTON -- Residents flocked into the chambers of Tuesday's BOCC meeting to oppose the proposed Pearl Avenue RaceTrac Station, but commissioners saw it differently. They said that only an eyesore is there now, and the business would bring much-needed commerce to the area.
When you live near a through-way, lights, noise and traffic are always of concern, but that wasn't all that residents objected to. Homeowners said the traffic already backed-up into the neighborhood, blocking driveways and making it unsafe to cross the street.
They said, they too would love to see some merchant in the abandoned building where a furniture store used to operate, but for reasons, thought A 16 pump, 24/7 gas station was not at all what they had in mind.
Melissa Hicks said, "I counted 14 gas stations/convenient stores from Pearl Avenue to Cortez Rd. on highway 41. How many gas stations can we put on one street?"
Hicks added, "Since they built the last RaceTrac, three smaller stations have gone out of business. The ones that survived had to cut back on jobs."
Dan Young said, "You have legal precedents to leave it as it is and deny the applicant." Responding to the way the property looks, Young said, "The applicant has owned the building for years. It looks the way it does because they have let it get that way." Young added, "They said they couldn't sell the property? They just needed to clean it up to sell it."
Jeff Rainwater said, "Of the 500 residents that showed up at the meeting, all but four were against it."
Robert Thomas said he was for the development, and that the complaints shared by residents could be fixed by, "slower speed, turn lanes and changing the timer for the light."
But not all of the complaints can be fixed so easily.
There isn't anything planned to retain the water run-off; it travels under U.S. 41 in an 18' pipe then straight into Bowlees Creek and Sarasota Bay. For most other businesses it might not be such a big issue, but for a 16 pump station, every little splash or spill can be devastating to a already troubled estuary.
Commissioners announced jobs being one of the reasons to approve the application; but the numbers don't suggest that. One of the commissioners asked all of the six men representing the applicant, how many jobs would be created, and none had an answer.
It was clear that nearly everyone in the 80 year old community knew some sort of business needed to occupy the corner, but few thought a mega fuel station was the answer.
Staff supported the project, and the commission struggled to highlight the concerns of the public, but in the end approved the applicant's proposal with a 5 to 2 vote. Commissioners Whitmore and DiSabatino dissented, stating they wanted a stipulation that prevented late night or early morning deliveries, but the applicant wouldn't agree.
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