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East County Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2012 9 years ago

County closes Tara Bridge land dispute

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by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

TARA — Manatee County officials quietly ended an eminent domain proceeding surrounding the proposed Tara Bridge with the purchase of a 22.6-acre parcel last week.

The purchase was part of a mediated settlement agreement between the county and Manatee Northern Capital Group for the proposed extension of Tara Boulevard and for the construction of a bridge over the Braden River to connect with Honor Avenue.

In September, the county paid about $1.7 million, including attorneys’ and other fees, for a 3.86-acre parcel that had been proposed for development. As part of the settlement, the county also was required to purchase the adjacent 22.6 acres for $511,850 — a deal it formally approved June 19.

Commissioners said they may turn the parcel into a county park, although no detailed plans have been discussed for the property.

“I’m so glad to have closure before the end of my term,” Manatee County District 5 Commissioner Donna Hayes said of the dispute. “I feel this is something that’s been dragging on for many, many years. It’s a done deal now. If, in the future, we find the funding to build the bridge, we have the property to do it.”

The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners voted to use eminent domain to take the original 3.86-acre parcel in June 2009. Development plans for the property, owned by John Neal of John Neal Homes and his business partner, Charles Varah, had been on hold since 2004, because the county was undecided about taking the land for the bridge.

Developers said the taking rendered the adjoining property useless, prompting the agreement that was approved last week.

Neal said he was glad to have the issue resolved and is busy working on other projects.

“I really support the county’s building of infrastructure because it’s the organization that plans for the future,” Neal said. “I think that’s what county dollars are meant for.”

Although the Tara Bridge is a project of record with the county, there is no funding set aside for it.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization in September voted 12-3 to place the Tara Bridge back on its 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan’s list of unfunded needs, after removing it from the list in December 2010.

Residents of the Tara and University Park communities, in particular, have expressed opposition to the bridge as it has come before commissioners over the years. The majority of commissioners, however, believes the bridge will be needed in the future to relieve congestion on other north-south roadways and to improve emergency services for residents near the proposed bridge.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

By the numbers
8 — Number of years the county has been discussing the project.
96,975 — Cost in dollars for attorneys fees related to the $1,739,000 settlement agreement for the taking of 3.86 acres for the proposed Tara Bridge.
511,850 — Amount in dollars the county paid for a 22.6-acre parcel purchased June 19.
1.07 — In millions, the cost of a 3.86-acre parcel purchased by the county through eminent domain proceedings. 

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