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Rural Residents Oppose Hillwood Development


BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's Manatee County Planning Commission meeting, a plan to build 195 single-family detached residential units was recommended for approval by five of the six members of the commission with little consideration going to the longtime residents who opposed the plan.   

The proposed Martin / Hillwood development is located on 78 acres at 17145 Waterline Road, 1.8 miles east of Rye Road in rural Bradenton. The applicant is asking to rezone the General Agriculture to a Planned Development Residential Zoning District. 

The applicants, Mary and Richard Martin plan to leave 15 acres of Upland Preservation in areas at least 50 feet for wildlife habitat and screening buffers. Made up of mostly native Xeric Oaks and Pine Flatwoods, it would allow compliance the county's comp. plan policy.

Even though much consideration is being focused on the gopher tortoise and bald eagles that live in surrounding areas, surrounding residents say that isn't enough.

Those who oppose the plan say the road can't handle the traffic and that the infrastructure is far from sufficient. Most of the traffic will come from the North exit of the development.

Nanche and Tim Almeter say, that is the problem. To the north, off of Rye Road is another development, and next to that is another, and they say they are the end of the line.

Surrounded by the dwindling number of native Florida acreage, Tim and Nanche say the land on Waterline Road is what is left from Manatee County's ever encroaching sprawl. 

Jack Richardson, another Waterline Road resident agreed, and believes it has to stop somewhere. John DeClevili, another resident, questions the proposed layout saying, "How are they going to provide for drainage?

Criss Lesser wants to know just how the road will handle the almost 400 cars that will come with the development, and just how much the quality of life will drop. Janett Able said the density was just too much for Waterline Road. 

Not one resident spoke favorably of the proposed development, but they didn't need to. The applicant's attorney, Caleb Grimes, along with the Planning Commission Chairman, Richard Bedford, drove the vote to approval by a little stretch of the imagination.

Bedford said, "I imagine I would go out of the development to the north to Rye Road," as if he had surveyed the project beyond the map in the documents. 

Grimes said, "If you want to stop urban sprawl, then raise the density there, otherwise if all of these people were to move on to five acre ranchettes, they would cover the county." It seemed the definition of urban sprawl had gotten lost, and then Bedford agreed with Grimes, saying, "This is how you stop urban sprawl."

Planning Commissioner Timothy Rhoades was the dissenting vote in the 5 to 1 recommendation for approval, a decision that seemed to confirm developers' ability to have their way with county boards.

The proposal will now go before the BOCC. Residents say they are coming back, and they are wondering if commissioners want to know, or care, what they have to say.


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