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Villages Of Amazon South Sees Sidewalk Fiasco


BRADENTON — The proposed Moccasin Wallow Road development is unlike other Neal Community projects, says Pat Neal. "I couldn't be more proud," the developer told the BOCC at Thursday's land use meeting, adding that he is looking forward to the county being proud of it too. Trouble is, he was just trying to take one of his costly responsibilities and foist it on the public ... again.

Watching the meeting, you would have felt that the people of Manatee County must be blessed to have a developer searching through the county documents for unfinished sidewalks the way that Neal and company had; a goodwill gesture to be certain. 

The law requires developments to put a sidewalk bordering property that is on a roadway. Neal's new Villages of Amazon South has 2.75 miles of roadway, which gave Neal a gracious idea. 

Why build a sidewalk that some day will be torn-up by the Florida Department of Transportation when it widens the road? Neal coined the concept the "sidewalk to nowhere." 

He suggested instead putting the money he would spend building one for his project into the sidewalk fund, making the dollars available for unfinished sidewalks anywhere in the county. Neal and company discovered 127 locations that needed sidewalk attention.

Neal even dedicated nine of the twenty-two 11" x 17" full color pages of his Amazon Village brochure to maps, pictures and top priority sidewalk improvements; highlighting schools and other sensitive locations where safety would be an issue. 

But Neal's Boy Scout uniform started to fade when Stormwater Engineering Division Manager Tom Gerstenberger took control. 

Gerstenberger said it could be 10 to 20 years before FDOT widened the road on Moccasin Wallow. Currently, the project isn't even on the Long Term Plan list and Neal's project is scheduled to be built out by the year 2020, in the final phase of the 1999 homes being built. Most are scheduled to be done within a few years.

Neal only wanted to deposit $23.19 a foot into the sidewalk fund; a total of $320,000, or a fraction of what it would cost to actually build the sidewalks. But Neal knew when he bought the 1,200-acre parcel that much of the property was wetlands, and much of what he was required to sidewalk is wetland as well. 

The hour Neal spent parading his charity was actually a ploy to save himself, and his company, more than a million dollars. You see, to build a sidewalk bordering wetlands, the cost soars to $200 a foot, as a great deal of foundation work is needed.

The project was approved unanimously after the special request to remove the sidewalk exemption from the application was complete, but leaving opportunity for Neal to negotiate a meandering, "phased-in" sidewalk as a future possibility. 


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