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East County Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2021 1 week ago

Heritage Harbour construction a taller task

Manatee County Commissioners approve fifth story for assisted living facility.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Manatee County Commissioners voted 5-1 on Thursday to approve an amendment to the Heritage Harbour development plan that will, among other things, allow construction of a proposed assisted living facility as high as five stories rather than four.

James Satcher cast the dissenting vote, while Carol Whitmore abstained because her son-in-law, Scott Rudacille, represents project builder Medallion Homes. 

About a dozen residents from Heritage Harbour and neighboring Waterlefe attended the meeting to speak about their concerns with the amendment and the incoming development.

The most common complaint came from Waterlefe residents whose backyards face the proposed assisted living facility from the north.

Residents such as Mary Lou Kovac said it’s bad enough they can see the four-story apartments at Watercolor Place from their house, especially at night when lights are constantly visible within the apartments. The proposed assisted living facility is much closer to Waterlefe than the apartments. With the addition of a fifth story, they’re worried about how visible it will be over the trees that line their backyards.

Kovac said the land set aside for the assisted living facility was cow pasture when she bought her home, but said she knows there is no stopping development.

Medallion Homes Project Planner Carol Clarke said the company has not yet decided if it will build five stories but would like the option to do so. She said building the facility higher would allow it to have a smaller footprint. Kovac is still holding out hope Medallion will decide to limit the assisted living facility to four stories, but she said there’s nothing she can do if they decide to build five.

“The builders rule here in Manatee County, and it's a shame,” Kovac said. “We elected several new commissioners this time — Satcher, George Kruse and Kevin Van Ostenbridge. … I was hoping that when they got in there that maybe we wouldn't have so much siding with (the builders’) needs. But we still do.”

Local residents also raised concerns about traffic in the area that will be generated by the 288-unit apartment complex that is planned adjacent to the assisted living facility. Waterlefe Community Development District Chair Ken Bumgarner said he had to wait and hope someone would let him in when trying to turn out of Waterlefe onto Port Harbour Parkway on the morning of the land use meeting.

“We have a major problem on that road,” Bumgarner said. “Anything you are doing in the way of adding to this facility or this property, is making the traffic situation horrendous.”

Heritage Harbour Master Association President Gene Zeiner wants Medallion to better maintain its half of this ditch, shown on the left. He is concerned about the possibility of flooding if the ditch doesn't stay clear.

Heritage Harbour Master Association President Gene Zeiner attended the meeting for a different reason. He has been trying to speak with Medallion Homes about a small creek at the community’s eastern border known as the “East Ditch” since he was elected president in 2018. The western half of the ditch is in Heritage Harbour, while the eastern half is on the undeveloped property owned by Medallion Homes.

The left side of this ditch is part of Medallion's undeveloped property, while the right side is in Heritage Harbour. Heritage Harbour Master Association President Gene Zeiner wants Medallion to better maintain its half.

Zeiner said Heritage Harbour has been paying to clear and maintain its side of the ditch, while the other side has become cluttered and overrun with plants. If both parties don’t properly maintain the ditch, he said he fears flooding will begin to occur, especially considering the incoming development on Medallion’s side will cause more runoff. Zeiner spokes with Medallion representatives at the meeting and said he hopes it will be the start of a dialogue.

“We’re in an area where if things go crazy, it can cause huge issues,” Zeiner said.

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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