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Rural Community Stands Tall to Protect Solitude


BRADENTON -- At Thursday's BOCC Land Use meeting, residents from east Manatee showed up to protest against the rezoning of a 5.5-acre parcel off State Road 70 and Verna Bethany Road. The applicant for the property, which is currently zoned General Agriculture, is requesting a rezoning to build a small, country-style center with a gas station, store, shops and services. The only problem is, residents say NO, not here.

Myakka is located in the most eastern part of Manatee County. It is a rural community committed to an alternative lifestyle very much unlike that of city and urban dwellers. Those who live in the neighborhood off of S.R. 70 say they are being force-fed a lifestyle they struggled to get away from, and some say that if they have to move, then so be it.

"People shouldn't always have to fight their representatives to get protection for the property and lifestyle they grew up with or moved here for," said Irene Rhodes.

"We want to get away from traffic and I would like to keep my life quiet." Rhodes added, "I am not going to risk gas tanks anywhere near the well my kids use to play, bathe and drink from." 

Rachel Larkin said, "We don't want a brick or wood fence, and I have a list of people that feel the same. We don't need a store next door, we get our milk, locally, at Dakin Daries, just four miles away, on our way home."

Representing the applicant, Misty Servia, Planning Department Manager for King Engineering, said she met again with members of the community to address neighborhood concerns. 

"We discussed a school bus shelter, fencing and landscape along 84th, reduced the height from three stories to two, agreed to no 24/7 on the hours, just four pumps and no LED lights. We have agreed on all of the stipulations from staff."

In response to Servia's statement, resident James Taylor replied, "We don't need to go forward with this, we just don't want it." 

Commissioner Baugh said, "The people out there (in and around Myyaka) know, if they want something, they can come to us. We should listen to the people, and they don't want us changing their lives." 

Commissioner Whitmore said, "I want other commissioners to really consider what Commissioner Baugh said." 

Commissioner DiSabatino asked Servia if the applicant would consider removing the gas pumps, and maybe reduce the square footage to 20,000 ft. 

Servia told the commission, "no"; that the pumps were a deal breaker. Commissioner DiSabatino said she was not willing to vote an approval if the pumps were to stay. "They don't want a gas station." 

One by one commissioners said they understood and supported residents who chose to live an alternative lifestyle, and felt it wasn't right to take it away from them.  

DiSabatino, Whitmore, Baugh and the other commissioners agreed they weren't willing to go against the will of the residents. Whitmore suggested she too would vote against the project if it included a gas station the residents didn't want, and made a motion to continue the discussion so the two parties could attempt to work things out. 

Baugh also let the commission know she was going to stand firm in support of those in her district, and the life they chose to live.

The vote was unanimous to continue the item to the land use meeting on Oct. 3, 2013.


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