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East County Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2009 13 years ago

Manatee OKs Tara Bridge land acquisition

by: Pam McTeer

EAST COUNTY — Years of uncertainty came to an end Tuesday as the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners voted to use eminent domain to take private property to extend Tara Boulevard across the Braden River.

In a 5-2 vote today, commissioners determined there is a public purpose and necessity for the proposed Tara Bridge project, and they authorized the use of eminent domain “quick take” proceedings for 3.8 acres of privately held land.

“It will create the grid system that we need,” Commissioner Ron Getman said.

Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Joe McClash dissented.

Property owner John Neal and business partner Charles Varah supported the decision, citing that development plans for the property were put on hold by the county in December 2004.

“It’s good to have a decision,” Varah said after the vote. “It completes a stage that has been stalled for a long time and allows us to move forward.”

The county and property owners now will enter into eminent domain proceedings, which will determine the price of the property and resolve other issues.

Although a handful of East County residents offered support for the vote at the meeting, the decision proved to be a disappointment to the dozens of Tara Preserve and University Park residents who came to the meeting to oppose the action. Residents argued the bridge would bring additional noise and traffic to Tara Boulevard and Honore Avenue, would endanger wildlife and is no longer necessary.

“It’s going to destroy the neighborhood — everybody agreed on that,” Tara Preserve resident Carolyn Primus said.

“We all have road access anywhere we need to go,” resident Maynard David said. “Nobody is isolated in this area. We oppose spending money on something that is no longer needed.”

Some county officials disagreed, arguing that the bridge would improve the county’s transportation grid network and response times for emergency medical services, among other benefits to the community.

Discussion about the Tara Bridge project emerged last winter as commissioners pushed forward with $85 million in utility projects, roads and building and park construction to create jobs locally. Officials had hoped that monies from the federal stimulus package could fund the project although it was not specified in the county’s five-year capital improvement plan.

Developer Pat Neal of Neal Communities offered to front the money, but the project did not qualify for stimulus money.

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].

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