MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County Public Schools officials are moving forward with conceptual plans to place Manatee Technical Institute along State Road 70 and to develop a master plan for the overall 195-acre property on which it would sit.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to get a school,” board member Barbara Harvey said of MTI. “I now feel that it’s time to move. We’ve been with it and just as a child carrying a blanket around with it forever, we have carried this blanket around for a long time.”
The board voted 5-0 to conceptually approve the construction of MTI on State Road 70 at Caruso Road, close out existing contracts for MTI design and construction, contract with Fawley Bryant Architects to begin the master-planning process for the 195-acre parcel and allow for new preconstruction services for MTI.
“I believe the 50-year solution for Manatee Technical Institute is to build on State Road 70,” Superintendent Tim McGonegal said. “All of the students that go there choose to go there. The best tool we have for marketing that is placement.”
McGonegal said no change will be required in the existing MTI total project budget, but additional costs for redesign are estimated between $500,000 and $800,000, depending on the scope of services.
The board’s decision to have a master plan developed for the 195-acre site would provide for the possible development of an elementary and/or middle school or K-8 school on the 46-acre parcel north of Braden River High School, the original site proposed for MTI’s new campus.
McGonegal did not have a timeline for when a school would be needed but noted there are more than 9,000 developable acres of land within a five-mile radius of the site.
“The piece of this that’s most important to me for the next 50 years,” McGonegal said. “(These schools) aren’t going to be developed overnight … but sometime in the future, we are going to need elementary and middle school student stations in this area.”
Creating a master plan for the property, which will have to be approved by Manatee County officials, will ensure future uses on the site are identified and also help provide for an integrated approach to storm water retention and site access, McGonegal said.
Costs for master-planning the site are about $205,935.
The superintendent said the school’s layout on the proposed property may allow the school board to retain several smaller, two- and five-acre out-parcels — about 10 acres in total — along S.R. 70 to sell at a later date.
Additionally, McGonegal noted any additional sites for MTI likely would be north of the Manatee River so reserving space for expansion on the proposed site is not necessary.
Moving the MTI site to S.R. 70 frontage also eliminates a conflict between the school district, Manatee County and neighbors of Braden River High that began in 2006 over the placement of MTI. Residents to the north of the site had opposed the district’s original placement of MTI, which would have backed up to their neighborhood.
The new proposal garnered the support of Dude Ranch Acres resident Brad Hawkins, who also spoke for some of his neighbors. Although residents would still like to see the northern parcel converted into a park, Hawkins said neighbors appreciated the changes and would be more OK with an elementary or middle school than a college.
“We’re excited (MTI is on S.R. 70),” Hawkins said. “As residents, we’re willing to throw in our full political support.”
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