With Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, it becomes evident land around Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch will be more than a recreational mecca.
Hunzeker wants $1.9 million set aside for an “East County government facility” in Lakewood Ranch. The county’s proposed general fund net budget is $371 million.
Plans have not been finalized and still must be approved by Manatee County commissioners, but the concept has been set in motion. In May, commissioners moved forward with an option to buy up to 74 acres north of Premier Sports campus — property roughly bounded by Post Boulevard to the west, Rangeland Parkway to the north and the future Uihlein Road to the east — for $65,000 per acre from seller Schroeder-Manatee Ranch. The decision came after the county purchased the 127-acre Premier site and 36 additional acres, to be used for a future aquatics center, in December 2017. Part of the deal was an option to purchase the additional 74 acres.
Hunzeker said the additional land will likely become home to the future East County library, a Sheriff’s Office
district location and an EMS facility, as well as one or more government buildings. At that government facility, residents could do things like apply for permits or inquire about land zoning. A satellite tax collector’s office could be added.
“We are doing master planning on that site to determine the location of each of the facilities,” Hunzeker said. “There will be a Sheriff’s district office. There will be an EMS facility. The government building will house government services so the residents in what I refer to as the center part of the county don’t have to drive downtown to (do county business).”
Hunzeker wants to waste no time.
He intends to finish overall site design this year and then design individual county facilities in 2019. Construction would begin in 2020 with offices opening to residents in 2021.
Manatee County At-Large Commissioner Betsy Benac said adding a hub out east for county services, such as pulling permits or paying taxes, is a natural progression as the county’s population shifts away from downtown to the suburban area.
“In the future, that’s where the population is going to be,” she said, noting the county always will have its downtown Bradenton location. “The library and the pool facility are still part of the plan. It’s an opportunity to look at other uses, such as the facility uses that have been identified. We’ll have to see when we do the master plan.”
Hunzeker said total costs, excluding parks-related projects, are expected to be in the $50 million range.
Hunzeker said the county will pursue a variety of revenue sources for the projects so there is minimal reliance on property taxes. For example, library construction funds could come from impact fees and the infrastructure sales tax.
He said the important thing is to move quickly.
“Why wait?” he said of the timeline. “Services are needed. There’s no need to drag it out.”