Planning Commission won't support the elimination of a Clubhouse Drive extension from future county plans.
Normally, developer John Neal lobbies for roads to be constructed so residents of the neighborhoods he builds can access their properties with ease.
This time, he has been arguing to remove a road from the county’s long-term transportation plans.
“We’re talking about a paper road,” said Neal, gesturing toward a red dotted line on a map showing an extension of Clubhouse Drive west to Linger Lodge Road. “Once it’s on the map, it’s hard to take off.”
Myarra Property Joint Venture, which owns a 33-acre parcel at the western end of Clubhouse Drive between the River Club and Braden Woods communities, is on a mission to delete the proposed thoroughfare from Manatee County’s future transportation maps through a comprehensive plan amendment — a shift in strategy after the Manatee County Planning Commission in October 2016 recommended denial of the entity’s plans to develop a 31-home subdivision there.
The commission liked the project overall, but took issue with the fact it omitted an extension of Clubhouse Drive without first removing the roadway from the county’s future roadway maps.
On June 8, Myarra Property Joint Venture, of which Neal is a partner, hit another roadblock. Planning commissioners voted 4-2 against eliminating the road from county plans. Manatee County transportation officials said the road is on the map for a reason and is projected to carry a maximum of 5,000 vehicles per day, according to traffic models predicting beyond year 2040.
“I’m a big fan of never say never,” Commissioner Matt Bower said of building the road. “Twenty years ago, I never would have said building 44th (Avenue East) over the river was good. I still don’t say it’s a good idea, but it’s happening. I don’t see a public benefit (to removing Clubhouse). That’s my biggest hang up right now.”
Despite the Planning Commission decision, Neal said his group plans to forge ahead, bringing the proposal before Manatee County commissioners in August as planned.
“We’re not afraid,” Neal said. “We think preserving and saving the wetlands and saving taxpayer money (by not building the road) is the thing to do.
“Our presentation (in August) will reflect what we learned,” he said. “The road has more negative impacts on the neighborhood and the environment than the subdivision (we proposed). The goal of a thoroughfare isn’t just to deal with existing trips. It attracts cars.”
Myarra Property Joint Venture consultants testified land takings would cost the county a minimum of $2.25 million and total costs for that plus design and construction would be about $5.6 million. Additionally, the county will have a hard time securing permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eliminate high-quality wetlands and build the road across the Braden River.
“The time for this segment has passed,” Neal said. “I’m pro infrastructure. Infrastructure is needed at its proper time frame.”
A handful of members of Friends of Keep Woods, a group organized to purchase the property and preserve it as a future Braden River Preserve, attended the meeting but did not speak publicly. They said they came to learn, but noted the reasons not to develop the road are the same as the reasons the property should be preserved — protect the existing neighborhood, eliminate impacts to wetlands and preserve habitat corridors for wildlife.