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Braden Woods residents and Friends of Keep Woods organizers Phil St. John, Gary Hebert and Brenda Russell say the Myara property could be combined with another to create a preserve on both sides of the Braden River.
East County Wednesday, Jun. 7, 2017 1 year ago

Conservationists hope to buy Myara property

Fundraising continues as new ideas are pitched for tract.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

The future of a 33-acre parcel wedged between the River Club and Braden Woods communities, along the Braden River, remains the center of attention for developers and residents.

Friends of Keep Woods, a resident-led group created to preserve the property from development, has attracted the expertise of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. The nonprofit purchases natural areas, oversees land preservation agreements and educates people about responsible land and water stewardship.

Now the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast is negotiating with developer Pat Neal about possibly buying the property. It will accept donations toward the purchase of the land.

Friends of Keep Woods is attempting to come up with funding and is meeting with Manatee County officials about funding options to create what it calls the Braden River Preserve.

“It’s the vision that everybody wants,” said Brenda Russell, one of the leaders of Friends of Keep Woods. “Everybody is committed to making this happen.”

If preservation efforts are successful, the 33-acre piece would be combined with a 12-acre site on the other side of the river at the end of Linger Lodge Road. That land has been donated for preservation by the late Carl Bergstresser, a founder of Keep Woods.

“This property is along the Braden River and is important for water quality protection,” Conservation Foundation President Christine Johnson said in a statement. “It has exceptional natural habitat, which is home to much wildlife and is a slice of natural Florida that people can enjoy. The Friends of Keep Woods is raising funds to save and protect this oasis of nature and the Conservation Foundation will act as fiscal agent and accept donations designated for Keep Woods.”

Neal confirmed negotiations are ongoing.

“I think it’s hopeful that they have found a professional organization to help them in acquiring this property. Further than that, I’m bound by the confidentiality agreement,” Neal said.

But Neal is pursuing other options.

The application for his original Myara project, which eliminates a future extension of Clubhouse Drive that divides the property in half, has never been withdrawn from the county, according to records. That project would put 31 homes on the site. 

Myarra Property Joint Venture (of which Neal’s company, Neal Communities, is a part) purchased the site from ESME LLC on Dec. 28 for $1,637,500.

On June 8, Neal, representing Myarra Property Joint Venture, is expected to tell Manatee County it should eliminate the future extension of Clubhouse Drive west across the Manatee River. The change in Manatee County’s comprehensive plan would eliminate an east-west road connecting River Club Boulevard to Linger Lodge Road (69th Avenue East) and has been on county maps since 1989. It bisects the 33-acre parcel.

The roadway proved a stumbling block for the development application from Neal Communities, and was rejected by the Manatee County Planning Commission in October. In December, the property sold to Myarra Property Joint Venture, and Neal, as that entity’s representative, has applied for the comprehensive plan change needed to eliminate the road from the county’s future transportation maps.

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