EAST COUNTY — In 2004, Peter and Nancy Schneider came from Rochester, N.Y., to Bradenton with plans to retire quietly.
But their retirement home, which features a screened-in lanai and backyard garden, sits on Raintree Street Circle East, in Peridia, 15 feet away from a thin wall separating it from 45th Street East.
In the third phase of the 44th Avenue East extension, part of the county’s comprehensive plan since 1987, 45th Street East will be widened from two to four lanes.
“Our house already shakes,” Peter Schneider said. “I can’t imagine what it will be like when it expands to four lanes. We’re going to have to shutter our lanai and plant palm trees to block the noise. We wouldn’t have bought the house if we knew about this.”
The Schneiders were two of 145 people gathered Feb. 26, at the Peridia Golf and Country Club, to discuss the county government road-building project, which will connect Cortez Road and its nearby beaches on the west to Lakewood Ranch, farther east. Peridia residents were joined by homeowners from Wallingford, Manatee Oaks, Sable Key, Sable Harbour, Fairfax and Highland Ridge, who have opposed the project.
Citing the potential for declining property values, noise, safety, pollution, traffic and a waste of taxpayer dollars, they hope to convince Manatee County commissioners to halt construction at U.S. Highway 301.
Homeowners call it “the road to nowhere,” because it’s too early in the planning process to get approvals to build a bridge for the four traffic lanes to cross the Braden River; drivers still will have to drive south a half-mile, to State Road 70, to continue east.
Some of the 44th Avenue extension already exists in Lakewood Ranch, linking Gullett Elementary School, Central Park and part of the Lakewood Ranch Commerce Park.
State Rep. Greg Steube attended Peridia’s meeting as a “show of support.” He urged residents to get organized and work with county commissioners; he called the issue a local one.
“But, I can assure you if this many people showed up at one of my meetings, I would pay attention,” Steube said.
Loretto Sadkin, chairwoman for Peridia’s opposition group, said, between the communities, they hope to go door-to-door to obtain 1,700 to 2,000 signatures on a petition to stop the project at 301.
“Past that point is a waste of money,” Sadkin said. “Traffic is already bananas at 45th and State Road 70.”
Sadkin wrote an email Jan. 29 to Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator, detailing her community’s concerns.
Hunzeker replied Feb. 11, saying county staff already presented the 44th Avenue East project to county commissioners on three different occasions between 2010 and 2011. Nearby homeowners associations were invited to those meetings.
Hunzeker called the 45th Street East widening a separate project and said the county has not yet purchased the land to do it.
Similarly, Sia Mollanazar, county deputy director of engineering, dismissed the complaints, saying the county has been acquiring land and right of way for the project since 1987.
Since then, homeowners received notice the county had acquired nearby land and that there will be a “future roadway by your house.”
“The county is not the policing entity to make sure people know what’s behind their houses,” Mollanazar said.
Sadkin admitted to knowing about the project for some time, but some residents thought it would just go away.
“Ten years ago, the commission said we should have read the 20-year Comprehensive Plan before we bought the property,” Sadkin said. “But, no one thought this was going to happen.”
Added Schneider: “How ridiculous is that? Could you have visualized what Bradenton was going to be like 20 years from now?”
The county scheduled an informational meeting at 6 p.m. March 20, at the Manatee Area Convention Center in Palmetto, to discuss phase two of the project.
Sadkin encourages protestors to attend that meeting and future County Commission meetings and wear red — signaling stop.
The estimated cost for the project from First Street East to 45th Street East is
Contact Josh Siegel at email@example.com.
+ Project details
Construction on the first phase will start as early as summer 2013. It spans from the intersection of U.S. 41 and 44th Avenue East to 19th Street Court East.
Phase one includes work from First Street East to 19th Street Court East.
Phase two, slated to begin in summer 2014, calls for a new four-lane roadway with a median, from 19th Street Court East to 30th Street East.
It will include intersections with signals at 19th Street Court East, U.S. 301 and at 30th Street East.
Phase three calls for a new, four-lane roadway between 30th Street East and 45th Street East, with construction estimated to start during summer 2014.
A related project calls for widening 45th Street East from two to four lanes.
All work is scheduled to be complete by 2017.