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Manatee County planning board gives nod to suburb

MANATEE COUNTY — A proposal for a gated, 600-home subdivision on land the city of Bradenton intends to sell next to its reservoir and water treatment plant cleared an initial hurdle Thursday.

The Manatee County Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval of the development plan submitted by building firm Taylor Morrison. Planning Commissioner Paul Rutledge was absent.

The County Commission will have the final say on May 3.

Planning Commissioner Al Horrigan cast the dissenting vote. Horrigan said Natalie Way, which dead ends at the property several miles from the city limits, should be extended south to create a new north-south connection between State Road 70 and Honore Avenue. He noted that the proposed subdivision’s two exits will put all of its vehicles on Honore Avenue.

“This commission has to be a planning commission,” Horrigan told other board members. He noted that gridlock frequently occurs on Honore Avenue and Interstate 75. “At some point in time, we have to fix this traffic issue. ... How are we going to get people moving north and south?”

Planners noted that, in a 2005 agreement pertaining to the extension of Honore Avenue, the city granted right of way for the road project in exchange for the county agreeing not to designate Natalie Way as a thoroughfare through the city’s property. For security and pollution control reasons, the city did not want a public thoroughfare too close to its water supply and treatment plant.

When that agreement was made, “it wasn’t anticipated there would be 600 homes on this site,” Horrigan countered.

Caleb Grimes, an attorney for Taylor Morrison, said the developer is likely to have a mix of single-family homes, paired villas and eight-unit condominium buildings.

Road impact fees collected from that new construction can go toward capacity and intersection improvements on Honore Avenue, Grimes noted.

John Swart, a resident of nearby Mote Ranch, said heavy rains cause Rattlesnake Slough to flood existing developments in the area.

“That slough can’t handle the water that goes into it now,” said Bob Webb, a resident of Palm-Aire. He said the creek is “overrun by vegetation” and becomes “a constant nightmare.”

Thomas Gerstenberger, stormwater engineering division manager for the county, said runoff from the development will drain into on-site retention ponds and then Ward Lake, the city’s reservoir on the Braden River — and not into Rattlesnake Slough or a ditch in the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood that residents say also causes flooding.

The city initially intended to create an above-ground reservoir for additional water storage on the site it intends to sell. But it eventually determined it would be more cost effective to invest in an underground aquifer storage and retrieval system for its water treatment plant.