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Residents in Braden Woods have formed a group called Keep Woods Inc. to oppose development of the site. The group also hopes to raise money to purchase the 33-acre property for conservation.
East County Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 2 years ago

Project hits road block

Extension of Clubhouse Drive may be key issue in Myara development's approval.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

When East County resident and businessman Albert Myara went to purchase three adjoining parcels along the Braden River, he sat down with Manatee County staff for a development pre-application meeting.

After showing them a preliminary design, he walked away confident of two things.

First, the property could, in fact, be developed.

Second, the proposed road going through it — an extension of Clubhouse Drive west to Linger Lodge Road — would never be built.

He bought the land.

“We didn’t consider the road to be an issue,” Myara said.

Now, the roadway may be the only thing keeping Myara from selling his property, as planned.

The property is under contract with Neal Communities, which plans to construct a 32-home private neighborhood on the 32.4 acres at the end of Clubhouse Drive, between the River Club and Braden Woods communities.

Based on the feedback Myara initially received from the county, Neal’s neighborhood design clusters homes to preserve wetlands and create more buffer along the Braden River.

It has 70% open space and is a private community, with no Clubhouse Drive extension planned to go through it.

“We don’t think this is ever going to happen,” Neal Communities CEO Pat Neal said of the road, citing its wetland impacts and estimated $4.1 million construction costs. “It’s opposed by the neighbors. We chose to create a plan we thought was most environmentally conscious.”

So what’s the hangup?

Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan, which governs how development occurs, appears to be in conflict with  the development of the property without the proposed road.

Based on the Comprehensive Plan, county staff members said the road needs to be eliminated from future roadway maps before a development could exclude it. To do otherwise would deny the public the opportunity to give feedback at a public hearing.

Neal’s attorney, Ed Vogler, said the county should make a decision about the road’s future as it approves development, per a county policy that states transportation corridors and rights of way “shall be established during the review of each individual project” and that the plan allows for “flexibility” in the final alignment of roads.

“The fact that our own Comprehensive Plan introduces the confusion is a little bit problematic,” Planning Commissioner Bill Conerly said.

Overall, Manatee County Planning Commissioners on Oct. 13 said they liked the project’s design, but they recommended 6-1 for denial of the project because of the proposed road.

“I find the project to be compatible related to the density issue,” Planning Commissioner Paul Rutledge said. “The elephant in the room is going back since 1989 this roadway has been shown in the Comprehensive Plan to be a connection. To say we want to forget about that or we want to change ... that hasn’t happened.”

Commissioner Matt Bower held a firmer opinion.

“You can create ambiguity if you really search for it,” he said. “This is not a matter that has any ambiguity in it whatsoever. I think it’s a cart before the horse scenario.”

Planning commissioners, the developer and even residents opposing the project say the road likely never will be built, and they don’t think it should be.

However, the Clubhouse Drive extension is depicted on a future roadways map, and would require a width of 84 feet.

It is not funded in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program. It’s not even in the list of transportation projects the county has planned if voters approve a 15-year, half-cent sales tax in November.

Conerly, the lone dissenting vote, called the road issue a “red herring.” Unlike fellow planning commissioners, he thought the project could be approved without changes to the maps.

The Manatee County Commission will hear arguments for and against the approval during its Dec. 1 land-use meeting.

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