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Rural East Manatee Residents Earn Rare Victory in Brawl Over Sprawl


BRADENTON – In a 5-2 decision, Waterline Road residents got rare support from the Manatee County Commission at Thursday's Land Use meeting, allowing rural life to remain alive and well in at least part of Manatee. Commissioners struggled to find middle ground on an application to rezone almost 80 acres of agricultural land to residential in order to build 195 units in the rural area of east Manatee County, where residents have been waging an ongoing (and largely unsuccessful) battle against urban sprawl.

Waterline residents don't expect much, except to be left alone. In years past, one development after another has creeped out and around their humble abodes, bringing traffic, noise, and fear that they would lose the element of rural life that drew them out there in the first place.

The applicant, who sought a rezone of 77.9 acres from A (General Agriculture) to PDR (Planned Development Residential) and a General Development Plan for 195 residential units, was met with serious opposition from residents.

Terri Wonder, not residing on Waterline, but a long time Manatee County resident and activist, spoke to the benefits of living in a rural life setting, that she too had experienced growing up. 

"Woodlands are dynamic ecosystems that exist as part of the fabric of rural, agricultural landscapes," said Wonder. "It's where you find you-pick fruit, vegetable plots, horseback riding trails, wineries and where people keep bees and sell honey."

The applicant, and a couple of the commissioners, challenged the definition of "sprawl," arguing that to build such a development, would actually prevent sprawl.

Larry Grossman, a Manatee County resident said, "Sprawl is in the eyes of the beholder, and to call Waterline a 'collector road' is a joke."

Mark VanDeRee, a Waterline resident said, "First, this cannot be developed as Low Impact Development (LID). Sandy Branch Creek is scheduled to be a 'Designated Florida Waterway', and the street needs 11 ft. wide lanes to be a Urban Collector, and Waterline is not."

Barbara Hines, from Manasota 88, disgusted with the way the chairman and a couple of the other commissioners were managing the process with gag orders on what could be said, walked up to the podium and declared, "This is no way to run a railroad."

For hours, Commissioners Bustle and Benac tried to extinguish the flow of comments coming from the 20 or more residents who spoke in defense of their property and lifestyles, with both saying they couldn't see "any reason" the commission could deny the application.

Yet five of their fellow members did just that, voting to deny the application 5-2 with Bustle and Benac dissenting.


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