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Waterline Road Residents Say They are Drowning in Sprawl


BRADENTON -- This Thursday, September 5, residents of Waterline Road return to the Manatee Board of County Commissioners land use meeting, to plea again for a lifeline. The homeowners say they feel as if they are living in quick-sand, slowly being devoured by concrete and rooftops. They say, it's now time to trust commissioners will do the right thing.

Developers are requesting a rezone of 77.9 acres from A (General Agriculture) to PDR (Planned Development Residential) and a General Development Plan for 195 residential units.

The property is located on the north side of Waterline Road 1.8 miles east of Rye Rd. On April 11, the Manatee Planning Commission recommended approval by a 5-1 vote, with Mr. Rhoades voting nay, saying that he didn't feel that the additional number of lots were compatible with this area. 

During a May 2 hearing, the Board continued this case to June 6, 2013 to allow the applicant to prepare responses to concerns expressed by the Board during the hearing, particularly: 1)  Waterline Road capacity and level of service;  2)  quantity of houses proposed; and 3) Low Impact Design (LID). The June 6 meeting was interrupted by a tropical storm forcing the item to be continued to this Thursday. 

Commissioner Baugh says, "The people out there (in and around Myyaka) know, if they want something, they can come to us. We should listen to the people, and they don't want us changing their lives." 

Subsequently Commissioner Whitmore said, "I want other commissioners to really consider what Commissioner Baugh said." Baugh also let the commission know she was going to stand firm in support of those in her district, and the life they chose to live.

But they weren't talking about the residents of Waterline Road. They were talking about a community off of SR 70 and Verna Bethany Rd., where locals very much fear facing the same fate fallen to those who live off Waterline Rd.

Both communities are in east Manatee County, both have residents who long ago opted for a rural lifestyle with hopes to break away from the traffic, crime and hustle-bustle that comes with living in urban sprawl.

The distance between the two communities may only be six miles, but the fate each face could place them a world apart, if the same respect given to the SR 70 community, isn't given to those in Waterline. 

Seldom does the whole community come forward to plea for help before the BOCC, as has the Waterline community in the past. Maybe that's because their fight to not be consumed by one development after another was always answered by the rubber stamp, "Build More." Now they are answering, "we've had enough."

Even though conventional wisdom is crying out against further sprawl -- and it being a viable part of Manatee's future -- the commission hasn't always seen it that way. Often, they have characterized the cir de coeur (cry of heart) from residents, as a necessary growing pain.

But it is not just the country folks bellowing about the current commission's "no-brakes" policy. Beach town residents say they too need better comprehensive planning, and moreover, remedy for the multitude of unmanageable consequences that has come from being sold as the area's "top tourist attraction."   

"We will do whatever we have to do to protect our way of life …" says Ana Maria Island Mayor, Sue Lynn, in an interview with The Islander. "Greed is running the Island" Mayor Lynn said, speaking about how the over promotion, by the Bradenton Area Convention  Visitors Bureau and the Tourist Development Council (TDC), has painted their everyday quality of life into a corner.

The Islander reported Mayor Lynn saying, "I've been asking and asking for help from the TDC. Where is the agenda item that discusses giving back to the island?"

TDC Chair and County Commissioner, Carol Whitmore said, "We understand your stress, but we can't wreck what we have. We have to go through the process. At the same time, we are at a tipping point. Let's try and maintain a balance."

"Waterline residents wonder when balance is going to show-up in their neighborhood," says Jack Richardson, a Waterline resident. He is hoping the commission will deliver the same compassion and reasoning given to the SR 70 community.  

County Commissioners recently paid the Urban Land Institute $125,000 for a crash-course in "Urbanism," and will spend many times that in preparation for, and promoting of -- "How Will We Grow." County Administrator Ed Hunzeker says, "We have to decide, will we build up or out?" 

They all agree, urban sprawl no longer works, that it is counter productive to bettering life for Manatee County citizens. Those who make up Manatee's rural backbone say, they have had enough of their countryside community being paved over and littered with development; and that, it has to stop.

Developers on the other hand, seem intent to continue to develop in all price ranges and densities throughout the rural hamlets of east Manatee, further compounding the challenges of the urban core, which struggles to compete with the glut of new construction.

At this Thursday's Land Use meeting, we'll see what the BOCC thinks.


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