MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County leaders have been tasked with creating a new vision for the community — one that establishes more public-private partnerships, coordination with local schools and business and creates a sense of identity throughout Manatee.
During a March 26 presentation, representatives of the Urban Land Institute told Manatee County commissioners to create a bold vision for the community and said the county’s “How Will We Grow” growth alternatives plan is a “solid platform to create detailed plans, policies and implementation strategies” for each of Manatee County’s geographic sectors — Southwest/Bradenton, Port Manatee/Palmetto, Parrish and Lakewood Ranch.
Recommendations include: to improve partnerships with the area’s educational institutions; to seek governance changes at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Port Manatee to enable public/private partnerships, investment and expansion as drivers for the county’s economic growth; to leverage IMG’s international reputation to “brand” Manatee County as the sports-training capital in the nation and attract related industries; and to target investments in the Southwest Bradenton sector along U.S. 41, among other recommendations.
“We believe, in general, the eastern sector of the county — east of Interstate 75) — is very healthy,” said Michael Maxwell, chairman of the ULI panel that studied Manatee County’s “How Will We Grow” proposals and other data. “It’s very capable and continues to demonstrate its viability in the community. We really believe the eastern section is not only working well, but should be allowed to continue to work well.”
In some portions of eastern Manatee, however, commissioners should consider carefully how they deal with the approval of future developments, especially when those requests would require the county to invest in additional infrastructure, Maxwell said.
In Lakewood Ranch, for example, there are 6,889 permitted residential lots, with another 16,761 in Parrish. Those figures indicate 4.9 years of supply in the Lakewood Ranch area and 45.1 years of supply in Parrish, given current market conditions, ULI findings indicate.
Maxwell also said Manatee County should create an identity for itself, using architectural art and signage to welcome guests from I-75 into Manatee County and also to better mark transitions within the community and across county lines.
Signage can help define “character areas” within the county — amenities such as sports campuses, eco-tourism opportunities farther east, beaches and other areas of interest — as well.
“(The ULI findings) definitely back up a lot of stuff we’ve started,” said Manatee County Planning and Zoning official and East County resident John Osborne, who developed “How Will We Grow.” “It’s also given us renewed energy and some new direction in things we need to do. It’s not just direction for Manatee County government; it’s also direction for the airport, the port and the community at large, the business community.”
“It really highlighted again for us in county government our assets,” Osborne said. “We thought we knew what our assets were. They showed us what our assets were and that we may not be supporting them as much (as we think we are).”
Osborne said Manatee County commissioners will have a workshop with Urban Land Institute panelists in mid-May. Osborne also will incorporate the panel’s recommendations into his community presentations on “How Will We Grow” during the next several weeks.
Commissioners are expected to vote in late May or early June on a growth-strategy plan based on the institute’s findings and alternatives and recommendations in “How Will We Grow” plan.
To view the Urban Land Institute presentation or to watch their presentation online, visit mymanatee.org.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].