BRADENTON – Seeking to add 23.4 acres and 50 additional sites to their Rye Road project, in addition to the 100 which were already approved by the county commission last June, developers cleared the final hurdle Thursday when the Manatee County Commission unanimously approved their plan, despite strong opposition from nearby residents who opposed such a drastic increase in density in the historically pastoral area of East Manatee County.
Residents say the project threatens their way of life, while setting up neighbors for potential conflict as a new "cookie-cutter" development clashes with historically agricultural area and all the clucks, moos and oinks that come along with it.
Last month, the Manatee County Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend the application, despite a long line of complaints from residents. Staff said that while the planned development had some drawbacks, it seemed to reflect current trends in development, where density was increasing, even in rural areas.
Julie Spicer, a nearby resident, spoke against the development which she said would destroy the character of the surrounding area that her and fellow property owners bought into, which are mostly 5-acres per unit. She complained that the absence of adequate setbacks and a lack of conformity – "they don't even face the same direction as the houses on Water Line Road" – would not make for a positive situation and further suggested that the current road would not support the necessary hauling trucks once development began.
John Spicer said that as flooding was already an issue, further development could only compound that and asked when would it stop. "It's not being fair to us as residents," he said. "This is not what we bought. This is where we have roots ... we'd really appreciate it if you'd put an end to this sort of development on this road. We have better things to do than come down here and fight, fight, fight."
Tina Lundy thanked commissioners for all that they do for the county and empathized with the economic changes they faced, but pleaded that they not recommend a project that would destroy her family's way of life. Lundy said that her children, who have animals and have participated in 4H, benefit from living in a rural, agricultural community and that this subdivision would change that character of the neighborhood. Lundy also asked whether new residents seeking residential environs would be okay with an area where cows wander and the smell of pigs often permeates the air.
Tim Almeter echoed concerns about Water Line Road's suitability to withstand increased development and spoke of current challenges with drainage that he felt would be exacerbated. "We love it out there," said Almeter, "and this development will not benefit any of us." His wife Annette Almeter also voiced concerns over the development's incompatibility with the area and said it threatened the way of life they invested in when they built their land with the intent of spending the rest of their lives living on it.
Another resident pointed out the obvious flaw in commissioners' statements about market trends, noting that, “It's only 'trending' because you allow it to trend. Let it stop at Rye Road. You don't need to let these little cancerous subdivisions keep invading our neighborhoods.”
Grayson Almeter, an elementary school student who lives on Water Line Road, said that after heavy rains you could literally put a canoe on the street and float down the road. “I love my neighborhood,” said Almeter, “and I don't want to see more flooding and more traffic.”
His older sister Natalie also pleaded with commissioners to respect the quality of life that her family found so rewarding, describing the sort of tranquil “front porch” living that she hoped to maintain for her own adult life.
Staff said that the agreed upon notice to buyers included an agricultural impact notice that described the possible smells and noises that might be an issue with surrounding ag lands. They said they were comfortable that the existing draining ditches and that systems were adequate, then gave a presentation of historical drainage on Water Line Road, that included wetlands and attenuation of runoff for a 25-year storm frequency event. Staff also noted that traffic was not currently near capacity on Water Line Road.
Commissioner Whitmore said that it was “unfortunate that someone who lived in that area sold that 26 acres” and referred to an aerial map that she said showed that the area was continuing to transition residential. She noted that the developer had come before them prior and was told that he would need to find a second connection to approve the additional lots that were desired, and did indeed find one in that property. Whitmore said she still had concerns about water and wondered whether Rye Road could be used instead of Water Line for construction vehicles.
Commissioner Benac noted that the setback was being sacrificed to accommodate the road, but asked that further accommodations be made through buffering along Water Line Road to help protect the rural homeowners way of life. She also questioned whether a previously-stated comment that there was a 20 foot grade difference with the neighboring development. Staff answered that there was indeed a substantial difference in grade (about 20 feet) that would create potential flooding problems during a torrential rain, but that it was just localized flooding that would not coincide with releases from the reservoir.
Commissioner Chappie still had issues with what he thought was a profound change to the character of the land. Looking at the overhead maps, he conceded that there were some developments as Commissioner Whitmore indicated, “but I'm still seeing a lot of 5-acre lots.”
Commissioner Baugh said that she went through a similar situation where she is from in Virginia, but said that she felt the people moving out there were “looking for a little bit of the rural life.” Baugh said the question was how to best do it with all parties in mind and echoed Commissioner Benac's ideas regarding the buffer zone.
Despite reservations, the applicant and staff were able to convince commissioners that the plan would accommodate their concerns and it passed unanimously. Click here for entire agenda results from Thursday's meeting.
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