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East County Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 4 years ago

Cooper Creek plan raises concerns

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Nearby residents question whether growth will compromise quality of life.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Part of Benderson Development’s plan for its University Town Center projects includes an expansion to property north of Cooper Creek Boulevard.

However, nearby residents have voiced their concerns about the impact.

Manatee County commissioners on Jan. 11 approved plans for Benderson Development to add 135,000 square feet of commercial space, 200,000 square feet of office or school use, 150 hotel rooms and 250 residential units to its existing Cooper Creek Development of Regional Impact, located in the northwest quadrant of Interstate 75 and University Parkway, and on the east side of Honore Avenue.

“For us, this is a very long-term planning step,” said Benderson’s Director of Development Todd Mathes. “Cooper Creek has been built out over the last two decades and it will take another 10 (years) to build out the rest, possibly.”

Although traffic studies indicate the changes will not create more traffic than allowed by existing development approvals, residents of the University Place neighborhood, in particular, are concerned additional development will compromise their safety and quality of life.

University Place resident Susan Lerman called the intersection of Honore Avenue and Cooper Creek Boulevard, in particular, an “accident waiting to happen.”

“And when it happens, it will be seriously, seriously severe,” she said. “Adding more to that problem is really irresponsible.”

She said the traffic at the interchange of University Parkway and Interstate 75 is moving beautifully since the opening of the diverging diamond intersection. However, during its construction, motorists began using Cooper Creek as a cut-through to Honore Avenue, thus increasing traffic and making it harder to leave University Place.

Fellow University Place resident Stuart Ullman said the amount of traffic the expansions will bring to the area would be detrimental.

“Nobody can ignore how much Benderson Development has done economically for the area,” he said. “In this particular case, I think they’ve got it wrong. In this little area, which has existing homes and existing businesses, it’s not really clear why they have to have more. Adding thousands of more people in this area — in a small area — is environmentally, socially irresponsible. It’s turning a suburban area into an urban area.”

Such comments prompted Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who represents that area, to suggest a meeting between herself and Benderson officials to discuss solutions for Cooper Creek. She also said the county may need to consider a roundabout or other traffic solution at University Place’s entrance off Honore Avenue, as well. Solving problems on Honore will be vital to helping the area, overall, she said.

“We have a situation on Honore that the county’s going to have take a look at,” Baugh said. “We’re either going to need to four-lane it all the way or look at roundabouts and alternatives. If we could do something about the traffic on Honore, to keep traffic flowing, that’s going to help everything.”

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