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East County Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 1 year ago

Growth in eastern Manatee and Sarasota counties key to administrators

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

I'm sure many of you have lived in rural areas, where it was rare to see a county vehicle drive past, let alone have some kind of county event held nearby.

That was both the beauty and curse of living in the sticks ... being isolated.

It wasn't really a problem until that giant pothole in the county two-lane made you feel like Evel Knievel each day. Why the heck won't they come out and fix that danged thing?

Jay Heater

The reason, of course, was only six people drove on that road each day, and county officials had pressing problems in the more populated areas. See you next year.

Those in Lakewood Ranch who wonder if Manatee County has been slow to address needs and supply services to their area might think back to Lakewood Ranch pre-2000, when it was, indeed, the sticks.

Consider Manatee County was founded in 1855, so for the first century and a half of its existence, the Lakewood Ranch area needed very little attention. It takes time to change such a perception.

Then again, it's not the case anymore, with more than 36,000 residents now in the Lakewood Ranch area alone. When you add the surrounding neighborhoods, which aren't really Lakewood Ranch but aren't really their listed address of Bradenton, either, you can double that amount. Many more people are on the way.

So for all those residents, it has to be a head-scratcher when, for example, the county's library system hosts most of its main events at the downtown library at 1301 Barcarrota Boulevard West, which is a more than 10 miles, and 20 minutes, for Lakewood Ranch residents.

You might ask, "What about us?"

The answer to that question is "Things are changing."

I attended the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's Regional Impact luncheon Aug. 8 at the Carlisle Inn in Sarasota. Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea and Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis were the guest speakers and according to the flyer for the event, those attending would "Learn how our two neighboring counties work together and what's in store for the future of our region."

Coryea and Lewis both gave interesting reports on how well their respective county has been doing in terms of economics and growth. They never did get into the how they work together part, but I did take something encouraging away from the luncheon for those who live in the former sticks.

In terms of what's in store for our region, both commissioners noted they must recognize the population growth of their counties is headed east (in Sarasota's case to the east in Waterside at Lakewood Ranch and then the most southeast sector of the county) and they must react accordingly.

Reacting accordingly is the tricky part, especially when your tourist bread-and-butter, and your main draw, is the beach area. No beaches in the east.

Even so, we have seen Manatee County shift its attention to the east, and that includes the purchase of Premier Sports Campus and the surrounding area. We are getting a new library, a major county park and county offices so we don't have to travel more than 10 miles after we want to do some county business. Among the amenities at the park will be a pavilion and a stage for concerts so East County residents can book some major entertainment.

Perhaps the county might even free up a deputy to do speed checks on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, although that might be pie-in-the-sky stuff.

Whether Sarasota County reacts to its growth in a similar way remains to be seen, but it certainly can learn from Manatee County's action from the past couple of years. Waterside is going to need schools and law enforcement as its population density increases.

Eventually, they might even need a pot-hole filled.


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