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East County Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2011 9 years ago

OUR VIEW: No miracle on 44th Avenue

by: Rod Thomson

Poor planning and NIMBYism has created an unfortunate collision at 44th Avenue East’s expansion running from east of Bradenton through Lakewood Ranch. The divided four-lane road has been in the county’s long-term comprehensive plan for 20 years. Yet the County Commission approved two developments in its path in 2002.

The road is needed for the increasing flow of traffic. But residents from those nearby newer developments — Highland Ridge and Oak Trace — either do not want the road or want it scaled way back.

So the commission voted unanimously last week to send the plan back to staff to see if the road can be narrowed to two lanes and the speed limit lowered. If that is the route the commission eventually takes, then neighbors in the area can never complain about traffic, because the obvious result will be a clogged road.

The county has spent $8.2 million on the $50 million east-west road extension so far, and it is clearly needed. So eliminating it should not be an option.

Building a two-lane 44th Avenue East extension is an option and would be better than nothing for traffic movement in the area.

But the problem is that as soon as it is put in, it will start approaching capacity. With just normal growth, within a few years of completion, the debate will have to start again on widening the road.

If the numbers show that a four-lane road is needed and that is what has been planned, then the commission has a responsibility to the broader community. It need only make sure the road is built for the safety of the neighborhoods and that reasonable noise buffers, such as tree and bush landscaping, are in place.

No one wants a road where he now has open green space next to his house. But homeowners in the area blame developers and Realtors for not telling them about the proposed road. Well, the road is in the public records, right in the county comprehensive plan. A phone call to the county is all that was needed. Many homebuyers do that. Those who do not tend to want to blame someone else for their lack of due diligence.

Caveat emptor does not mean let other people protect buyers from their choices.

Thumbs up to Kathleen Gagg, of Lakewood Ranch, who has launched Camp Better America to help military veterans re-integrate.

The idea, spawned by Gagg and friend Kimberly Burleson, of Texas, is to work on the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being of those veterans who have difficulty going from the battlefield to the suburb. The camps are being set up around the country.

Gagg told the East County Observer: “We have our (military) fighting for our freedom. As civilians, we need to stand up and return the salute. Some are sacrificing their lives.”

Well said. Well done.


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