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Rural Manatee County Life Gets Temporary Stay


BRADENTON -- Waterline Road residents have been put on ice for a decade, waiting to see what the county's Comp Plan had in store. At Thursday's Land Use Meeting, residents got a taste of the inevitable; the life they moved to rural Manatee to get away from will soon land in their back yard. Did commissioners postpone the action to soften the blow, or was it just a pause to lick the envelope which seals their fate?

Jack Richardson did what we all wish we could do when the life we've invested in is overwhelmed by a more powerful force; he organized all of his rural neighbors, collected the facts surrounding the situation and presented the whole kit and caboodle to the BOCC. Richardson said he thought, "'protecting himself, his neighbors and their property was what the BOCC's job was all about.' 

Richardson wasn't alone, Tina Lundy, Christopher Lesser, Yevonne Kelly, John DeClerck, Don Gassie, Mark Vaindere, Heather Drao and many others were under that impression too. They all came to the Board of County Commissioners to explain that they had had enough. They were all being smothered by the previous high-density development commissioners had approved last year, and more the year before that. 

Kelly, an army veteran and nurse at the VA clinic, says the peace that surrounds her when she gets home is what she looks forward to. Debbie Roehlig says she and her family moved out there for safety reasons, and John DeClerck's son Christopher, said, "I have seen more than 40 tortoise in the last month."

But sentimental personal life goals wasn't all the Waterline Road residents brought to the commission. They carried in pictures of flooding roads and narrow and cracked streets, which had no shoulders, just washed-out ditches. They had photos of the endless traffic that lined the only major road in and out of their neighborhood, and they had a petition from all of those who lived in their neighborhood rejecting the development.

It was unanimous, every resident that came forward agreed that another 195 residential single-family units was the last thing their rural lifestyle needed. Caleb Grimes, representing the applicant, said that three houses per-acre, on the 78-acre parcel was preventing sprawl, and that many of the opponents to the project had "overstated" the problems and conditions.

Grimes denied there were any endangered species. He said he knew about the two eagles' nests, but that they were beyond the distance of legal concern. Grimes said there weren't any indigo snakes or scrub jays and that if there was a panther, it was just traveling through. 

That didn't sit to well with the Almeter family, whose daughter Natalie actually presented pictures of tortoise and a panther on the property. She and her brother Tim had taken an oath along with their parents to tell the truth, then to see their creditability shunned by Grimes and later the commission, was disheartening.

The Waterline Road group had much to be proud of. They had displayed courage and commitment, honesty and respect,that went far beyond that which they were being accorded from the commission or the applicant. 

Many of the residents saw the writing on the wall when Commissioner DiSabatino suggested a continuance, especially when she followed it up with a suggestion that if Grimes felt he might not have the votes, he could cut a few houses from the proposal and return with a modified deal. The neighborhood's organizer, Richardson, said, "… not much difference between 500 cars and 450."

Grimes said he would go for the continuance and that he wanted the item to return ASAP, because the commission will be recessed for the month of July. Commissioners said they would shoot for June 6.     


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