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East County Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 12 months ago

Development dispute in Tara begins again

Manatee commissioners to reconsider Lake Lincoln settlement.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Tara residents hope they now will be heard in a proposed development dispute between developer Lake Lincoln and Manatee County.

Hundreds of Tara residents are expected to fill the Manatee County Commission chambers at 1:30 p.m., March 7 when commissioners will reconsider commercial development at the western corner of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70.

In 2010, Manatee County commissioners denied development on the specific parcel, known as III-BB, but granted developer Lake Lincoln its other development requests at the same time. Commissioners said Parcel III-BB could only be used as wetlands or for conservation.

“We’re asking the commission to honor the decision it made in 2010,” longtime Tara resident Cathy Woolley said. “This is a land-use issue.”

Lake Lincoln sued Manatee County in 2012, alleging property rights had been stripped from Parcel III-BB. Manatee County and Lake Lincoln in June 2017 came to a settlement agreement that would have allowed for Lake Lincoln to build on a roughly 3-acre portion of the 10-acre property.

The settlement had to be approved by a judge, but as the matter came before 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Lon Arend in September 2017, a group of Tara residents  tried to stop it, claiming they had a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuit.

Arend allowed the Tara Master Association and Fairway Gardens II at Tara Condominium Association to legally contest the settlement. After hearing testimony and reviewing documents, Arend on Aug. 21, 2018 remanded the agreement back to Manatee County commissioners so they could conduct any proceedings needed to “address consistency with the Tara (Development of Regional Impact) Development Order and the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan,” Arend’s order stated.

Some Tara residents argue the settlement is not in the public’s best interest, as county attorneys and Lake Lincoln suggest, and development of the property violated Manatee’s land development regulations.

Residents of Tara say the parcel in question has environmental benefits, acting as the “sponge” for the area by collecting water after heavy rain events. They also believe access to and from the property will be a problem, causing unsafe driving conditions. 

Development plans previously submitted to the county indicate Tara residents would not be able to access the parcel from Tara Boulevard, but instead would have to leave their community and travel on State Road 70 to get into it.

“It’s been our position since 2010 that nothing should be built on that corner,” said John Leone, president of the Tara Master Association. “Nothing has changed with that parcel except everything has gotten considerably worse — traffic, stormwater, egress and ingress.”

After Tara’s developer Lake Lincoln sued Manatee County in 2012, Manatee County commissioners stood by their decision. In June 2016, commissioners rejected an offer to settle for $2.3 million or rehear the case.

That same month, the county attorney’s office advised against a second mediation with Lake Lincoln, saying the company had previously negotiated in “bad faith.” One year later, commissioners were asked to approve a settlement to allow development on three of the 10 acres. Attorneys said they were prepared to defend the original land-use decision, but recommended approval of the settlement offer in light of changes in property rights laws and how they have impacted other cases.

Commissioners voted 4-2 to settle. They will reconsider that decision March 7. Manatee County Attorney Mickey Palmer declined comment.

If county commissioners re-approve the settlement, the judge will determine if it follows county regulations and is in the public’s best interest. 

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