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East County Wednesday, May. 5, 2010 7 years ago

Residents mobilize to battle Tara plans

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

TARA — Although plans by the developer of Tara have been delayed by several months, residents of the community remain ready to battle plans they feel would negatively impact their community.

The 12 Oaks Advisory Committee, a resident-led taskforce created to fight proposed changes to Tara’s development of regional impact, has collected nearly 1,300 signatures for a petition opposing the proposal.

The group’s leader, Bill Pastori, said the group has reached as many residents as it can through word-of-mouth, mailings and other efforts, and plans to submit the petition to county officials and others by mid-May.

“We wanted to get the pulse of the community,” Pastori said the petition drive. “We wanted to make sure we have the support of the community, and we feel like we do. And, it’s something we can wave around.”

The 12 Oaks Advisory Committee, comprising more than a dozen residents representing both the Tara Golf & Country Club and the Preserves, formed just a few months ago, after residents learned their community’s developer, Lake Lincoln (formerly Tara-Manatee) was seeking five changes to its development of regional impact.

Two of the items — the addition of an adult assisted-living facility and a mini-warehouse as an allowed use — raised little concern.

But a request to add a monopole telecommunications tower as a specified use in an undeveloped commercial area of Twelve Oaks Plaza was a major point of contention until the developer submitted a letter to the county April 26 stating it wished to delete the request.

Lake Lincoln’s Senior Vice President John Agnelli said the decision stemmed partly from resident opposition and partly because of uncertainty of where the tower could go.

But for residents, any relief associated with the tower has not diminished concern about the remaining two items because of potential traffic problems, Pastori said.

First, Lake Lincoln is asking for approval of a land-use equivalency matrix, which would allow the developer to trade un-built residential units for the opportunity for commercial or other development within the project’s boundaries. Residents feel the trade-off may result in high densities for un-built commercial areas.

Lake Lincoln also proposing to transfer 19,500 square feet of commercial use from other sub-phases of the project and place it on the parcel at the southwestern corner of the intersection of State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard behind the community’s entrance sign.

“We think it’s going to be dangerous,” Pastori said. “That intersection is grade D to F, depending on which direction you’re coming from. We’re focusing on traffic issues. In anything we write, the words ‘dangerous’ and ‘hazard’ come up.”

Members of the advisory committee have been to trying meet with Manatee County commissioners to plead their concerns directly and also to speak with officials from the Florida Department of Transportation, among other agencies, to get more facts about potential impacts and other information relating to the project.

And, as part of their strategy moving forward, they already are inserting information about an Aug. 5 public hearing for the project into billing statements and other documents being sent out by the Tara Golf & Country Club and Tara Master Association, among others.

“It’s an inexpensive, but effective way to get the word out,” Pastori said. “We want to get a massive presence there.”

The group also has hired both an attorney and land-use consultant to assist with their efforts, using up to about $20 per household from the Tara Master Association’s funds. More than 30 residents have complained about the use of the money for the effort, but even those individuals support the committee’s efforts, Pastori said.

Agnelli noted he’s had a handful of residents call him in support of what Lake Lincoln is doing and cannot understand the resident opposition, particularly to plans for the southwest corner of Tara Boulevard and S.R. 70. Lake Lincoln had the property under contract about five years ago, at which time the company buying the land worked out a deal with the Tara Golf & Country Club board for its support.

“(My thought is) you agreed to it before; why is it such a bad thing now?” Agnelli said. “Does the end justify the means?”

Pastori, who admittedly was one of the board members to sign that agreement at the time, said this time it is different because the developer had offered several inducements, including conveyance of the remaining land to the Tara Golf & Country Club, preservation of the aesthetics of the entrance to Tara, a more acceptable means of ingress and egress from the property and a cash incentive, among others.

“What is more important is that the arrangement was between the developer and the Tara Golf & Country Club board,” Pastori said. “Opposition to the Twelve Oaks Plaza proposal by Mr. Agnelli’s firm involves a different entity — the larger homeowner’s association, the Tara Master Association, and the decision to oppose is being made by the residents, not just a group of seven directors.”

Agnelli also said he does intend to preserve the aesthetics of the entrance to Tara in the property’s design and is not concerned the changes would create safety hazards in regard to traffic.

“It’s so highly controlled by FDOT along (State Road 70),” Agnelli said. “We can’t do things your not allowed to do.”

Plus, the addition of commercial to the southwest corner of S.R. 70 and Tara Boulevard would prove convenient for Tara residents, he said.

Lake Lincoln’s application now is slated to go before the Manatee County Planning Commission June 10. A hearing date before the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners is set for Aug. 5 — about seven months after its original hearing date.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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