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East County Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020 1 month ago

Proposed homes draw criticism in eastern Manatee County

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Compatibility with surrounding neighborhood creates concern for Concession project.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Mounted atop a quarter horse, Panther Ridge’s Olga Zarlenga rode beneath a canopy of oak trees alongside friends Dalia Hibbs and Olga Ways on June 10.

The section of trail they were riding headed east from Lindrick Lane, just south of State Road 70, and connects directly to trails owned by the Panther Ridge community. Residents say the trail has been used for horseback riding, walking and bicycling since the community was formed in the mid-1990s. Because it was the site of railroad tracks in the early 1900s, the path is slightly elevated, which keeps it usable even after rainstorms.

The women, along with other Panther Ridge residents, worry the pathway might soon disappear because the developer of The

Concession is proposing to turn the 17-acre site, through which the trail runs, into a 22-home luxury subdivision.

They also object to the density of the proposed project. Their community, which immediately abuts the project, has lots ranging from 5 to 15 acres compared to what’s being proposed — minimum-sized lots will be slightly less than 0.25 acres in size (10,000 square feet).

“We are being threatened at the heart of Panther Ridge,” Zarlenga said. “This will ruin the appeal of the area.”

Foxwood at Panther Ridge Homeowners Association President Nikki Olarsch said the plans are not consistent with the surrounding land uses, and residents hope to convince Manatee County commissioners of that June 23.

“It’s not even consistent with the land uses within the The Concession,” Olarsch said. “Why should they not be held to the same land usage within their gates?”

She said residents also worry about flooding. Homesites within the Panther Ridge already experience flooding, which has increased with development. They believe it will only get worse if the site is cleared and filled.

“It’s not going to get better for these people,” she said. “That’s not fair, and that’s not right.”

About half the site is considered within a 100-year flood plain, according to Manatee County’s Braden River Watershed Study maps, and would have to be mitigated accordingly, per county guidelines.

Manatee County Planning Commission members on June 11 voted 4-2 to recommend denial of the project. That came after voting unanimously in May to recommend it to the Manatee County Commission. The project came forward a second time because it was not noticed properly the first time.

Planning Commissioner Mike Rahn said he changed his mind because of new information presented by residents.

“I don’t think this is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and even The Concession property,” he said.

The project is considered phase four of The Concession but would be outside of The Concession’s main gates and be its own private gated community, according to The Concession representative Rachel Layton, of ZNS Engineering.

The 1280-acre The Concession development is entitled for up to 255 residential units, of which 22 remain unbuilt. The applicant is asking to move them from within the gated section of The Concession to the outlying parcel. In 2009, the commission approved a revised general development plan to add 16 multifamily residential units in 16 individual buildings amid the golf course, and those units are part of the proposed request.

“This is the last parcel within The Concession available for development,” Layton said.

Although home sites would be a minimum of 10,000 square feet,  Layton and Manatee County staff members said the density is OK because clustering of homes is allowed under the county’s land development guidelines and because of the way the density is calculated — units over total acreage for The Concession, not just for the 17-acre parcel.

Dan Lobeck, attorney for the Foxwood at Panther Ridge Homeowners Association, disagreed. He said the application violates Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan and land development codes because it is not in keeping with the rural character intended for properties east of the county’s urban service boundary (the cut-off for public water and sewer connections) and because of its proposed density. Although the density is lower when considered part of the overall 1,280-acre The Concession project, Lobeck asserts it doesn’t meet the “smell test.”

“When you have density at this high intensity next to 5-acre lots, it’s not arguable,” he said.

He also says Panther Ridge has a “prescriptive easement” to the riding trail. A prescriptive easement is an easement to use someone else’s land because of continued use, without objection, for at least 20 years.

Manatee County assistant county attorney Sarah Schenk said issues including the prescriptive easement are a “private matter” and should not be considered by the commission.

Following the meeting, Layton declined further comment. Kevin Daves, of Core Development Inc. and developer of The Concession, declined comment. 

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