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East County Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Tara residents mobilize against land-use proposals

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

TARA — Tara resident Bill Pastori took a long look at the red, brick monument sign that marks the entrance into his community and the trees that paint a scenic backdrop behind it.

This view, in particular, is one for which Pastori and fellow Tara residents are ready to fight. Just a few months ago, the community learned its developer, Lake Lincoln LLC, is — for the eighth time since its approval — seeking to change its development of regional impact. Lake Lincoln is requesting five changes, and residents are fearful of what they could do to the community. At this time, there just aren’t enough answers.

“We’re trying to punch our way out of a paper bag,” said Pastori, who is leading efforts on behalf of Tara residents through a newly formed committee, the 12 Oaks Advisory Team. “Our goal is not to stymie the developer in exercising his rights. It’s to assure the Tara community does not sacrifice for his gain. We’re saying enough if enough.”

Of utmost concern to residents in both Tara Preserve and the Tara Golf and Country Club is the developer’s request for the approval of a land use equivalency matrix, which essentially would allow Lake Lincoln to trade un-built residential units for for the opportunity to build more commercial or other development.

“That land-use swap is key to a couple of things we aren’t too happy about,” Pastori said.

Residents fear the trade-off may result in high densities for un-built commercial areas. Phase III-R, in the northeast corner of the project, already is approved for 247,899 square feet of commercial use, and three other sub-phases allow up to 143,000 square feet of commercial in total.

“Everything east of Tara Boulevard (originally) was meant to service the community out east,” said Cathy Wolley, a fellow member of the advisory team. “This could be tremendously dense.”

Lake Lincoln, formerly known as Tara-Manatee, also is requesting to transfer 19,500 square feet of commercial use from other sub-phases of the project and placing it on the parcel at the southwestern corner of the intersection of State Road 70 and Tara Boulevard, where the sign Pastori pointed out is located. The site would have right-in/right-out entrances and exits — one off S.R. 70 and one off Tara Boulevard.

“Tara Boulevard already is overburdened with traffic,” Woolley said. “We understand the level of pain this intersection is in. By trying to retain one part of this street as noncommercial, it eases the traffic burden.”

Pastori also noted the wetland and forested area behind the monument sign provides an aesthetically pleasing entrance to the community. Placing a commercial building on that corner likely would result in the removal of those trees, making the spot look more like a major commercial intersection — or at least visually similar to the entrance to Creekwood directly opposite it — than the entrance to a 30-year-old community.

To build on that parcel, Lake Lincoln also would have to mitigate at least an acre of wetland impacts. Residents have long believed the site is not developable, Woolley said.

Additionally, Lake Lincoln is requesting to add a monopole telecommunications tower as a specified use in the newly developing commercial node. All potential spots for the tower are located in commercial areas, but residents say it’s too late in the process to add the use.

“Don’t throw a 200-foot cell tower at us,” Pastori said. “The concern is we don’t know where the tower is and how close (it will be to residences).”

The developer also is proposing the addition of an adult assisted living facility use, which has always been on the drawing board. Tara residents don’t object to the use, Pastori said, but they are concerned about making sure the building will be two stories instead of three and that security lighting from the project will not negatively impact existing neighbors, among other concerns.

A mini warehouse use also is a permitted use in the Tara DRI, but the developer is asking for changes to the development order to clarify at which locations the warehouse can be placed. Again, residents do not object to the use, but are looking for protections.

A public hearing for Lake Lincoln’s request already has been delayed twice, so residents aren’t sure when the item actually will take the public spotlight. But Pastori said Tara residents will be ready.

Currently, the Manatee County Planning Commission is slated to hear the item at its April 8 meeting.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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