Braden Woods residents hope Manatee County will preserve a 33-acre parcel in their community.
Gary Hebert is spreading the message. A beautiful wooded area is in danger.
He became alarmed in December, after learning that on a roughly 33-acre property at the end of Clubhouse Drive, developer Neal Communities is planning to construct a new 31-home subdivision, Myara.
The project, which is working its way through Manatee County’s approval process, would be a gated neighborhood with private roads. Homes likely would be from Neal’s “Signature” line, generally costing upward of $550,000.
After Pat Neal presented preliminary plans to neighbors at a December community meeting, Braden Woods residents have been circulating a petition asking Manatee County to purchase the property as a nature preserve. They've also created a website, keepwoods.com, for the cause.
Herbert, who is leading the charge, lives immediately north of the property. He would like the area to remain wooded and a wetland preserve. In a letter to the county and the city of Bradenton, he cites the impact on wetlands and wildlife, flooding, safety, noise and light pollution and the impact on neighboring communities as reasons conservation should be considered.
“The area east of I-75 has lost huge tracts of nature due to the construction of shopping centers and new communities,” he said.
Neighbor Bob Conley agrees.
“You’re taking away one of the last pieces of property in this area that’s like a preserve,” he said. “Where are the animals going to go?
“It’s an initiative not to overbuild. Give us a bit breathing space (for the wildlife),” he said. “It’s got nothing to do with Braden Woods.”
Herbert said the petition is circulating in the River Club neighborhood, as well.
“We’re still getting the word out,” he said.
He and other residents planned to attend a Feb. 10 development review committee meeting at the county administrative building.
Neal said he understands not everyone will like the project, but he believes the project is a good fit for the area.
"I think we’ll build beautiful homes in a beautiful setting," he said. "Our homes will be more expensive and we will argue they improve their neighborhood by increasing the value."
Nicholas Azzara, spokesperson for Manatee County, said the county must purchase land before it can be designated for conservation. The county commission has intervened to prevent sensitive pieces of land from being developed before, including Conservatory Park.
Manatee County purchased the 55-acre property in the Palm Aire community from Ryland Homes in 2004 for $3.4 million, with half of the money from a Florida Communities Trust grant and the other half from a local matching arrangement. It was part of a larger original 113-acre site.
“But much has changed since the downturn,” Azzara said, noting a land purchase would be balanced against a host of competing budgetary needs. “Land values have risen. Public budgets are still constrained. There’s no millage specially marked for conservation lands in Manatee County.”
Neal said Manatee County could acquire the property for conservation, if it so desired.
“If Manatee County wants to buy something, that’s always their right,” he said. “And usually a property owner can deal with that.”