The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners rejected a housing development plan because of the peculiarity of a road.
After pleas from neighbors, organized into a group called Preserve Our Waterline Road Inc. (POWeR), urged commissioners to preserve their rural lifestyle, commissioners voted Sept. 5 to deny plans to build 175 residential units on 77 acres of wooded property on the north side of Waterline Road.
Commission Chairman Larry Bustle and Betsy Benac dissented in the 5-2 vote.
County staff recommended commissioners approve the Martin-Hillwood project, a rezone of 77 acres from general agriculture to planned development residential (PDR).
The land has been in Mary Jane Martin Smith’s family since 1957 and, after leaving it untouched since then, she planned to "provide homes for new families moving into the county."
The decision came after Caleb Grimes, an attorney representing Smith and her husband, Richard I. Martin, made concessions such as reducing the number of units from 195 to 175 and proposing a 50-foot buffer around the development.
"We are very, very disappointed in the vote," Grimes said. "I believe the vote was inappropriate. We worked hard to be in complete compliance with the comprehensive plan and land development code. There was no valid reason for this to be turned down."
Commissioners opposed to the project worried about increased traffic to Waterline Road, which has no sidewalks.
For now, the decision pleased Waterline Road homeowners, who wish to maintain the quiet of a neighborhood that the comprehensive plan calls to be developed.
“Our prayers were answered,” said Tim Almeter, a lifetime farmer, rancher and construction worker who lives on Waterline Road. “Everything we said came from the heart. And the commissioners showed they have a heart.”
Grimes and Smith can come back in a year with a new plan for the land.
See the Sept. 12 East County Observer for more on this story.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].