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Manatee County Commissioners continue discussion of Myakka boundary line

Commissioners listen to concerns about moving the Future Development Area Boundary line.

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A giant white sign stating “Stop over development, hold the urban boundary line” can be seen while driving down County Road 675.

The sign shows the sentiment of many Myakka City residents who do not want the Manatee County commissioners to approve an amendment that would allow development beyond the Future Development Area Boundary line, which is located at Bourneside Boulevard from State Road 64 south to University Parkway. The boundary line goes slightly westward north of State Road 64 until it reaches the county’s northern border. 

“I get the fact that there’s growth happening, but there has to be smart development,” said Kim Seery, a Myakka City resident who lives off County Road 675 near the big “hold the line” sign. “We have a community. We have a sense of purpose. We are a village to raise our kids. We all look out for each other’s homes and properties. We feel safe. We don’t worry about crime. It’s our peace, and it’s our refuge.”

During a Manatee County Commission workshop Aug. 31 at Bethany Baptist Church, Myakka City residents were able to voice their opposition to the potential movement of the boundary line, which was designed to limit urban sprawl and preserve agriculture as the primary land use east of the line through 2040, according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

With thousands of new residents moving to Manatee County each year, the county is seeing an increase in demand for housing with developments popping up everywhere, especially in East County.

Lisa Wenzel, a planning section manager for the county’s Building and Development Services Department, said there is approximately 20,000 acres of land west of the boundary that could be used to build around 100,000 apartment units or homes.

“Based on population projections, we’ve looked at the population we have today and the projections for the next few years, and it would take 40 years to fill those units west of the FDAB,” Wenzel said.

After learning there is space to develop west of the boundary, some Myakka City residents said the boundary does not need to be moved now.

“At some point in time, the county will need to put the brakes on because this whole area will be nothing but concrete and houses,” said Norman Stockton, a Myakka City resident.

The portion of Manatee County's Future Development Area Boundary that is south of State Road 64 is located on Bourneside Boulevard. The land east of the line is protected from urban sprawl.
The portion of Manatee County's Future Development Area Boundary that is south of State Road 64 is located on Bourneside Boulevard. The land east of the line is protected from urban sprawl.

Meredith Barcomb, a Myakka City resident and public relations director for Preserve Our Wildlife Environment and Resources, said the county has time to take a step back from considering moving development east and find other solutions. POWER is a nonprofit working to preserve and protect rural and agricultural lands from overdevelopment and more.

“I think what this really shows the commissioners and our community is we have time to stop talking about moving out east and actually focus on building our urban core,” Barcomb said. “We can come up with a long-term plan for East County and Manatee County as a whole.”

Myakka City resident Charles Cole said he doesn’t want the boundary to move, but he doesn’t believe it can be stopped.

“It’s the commissioners’ duty to control what happens through zoning,” Cole said. “I think they do the best job they can, but they’re in a hard place because they have people moving down here every day, so where are you going to put them? … I’m not happy with the way things are going, but at the same time, there’s nothing I can do except wait for it to come and sell my property and move.”

Myakka City resident Carol Felts said the commissioners need to have a different approach when it comes to Myakka City because people there have a different lifestyle.

Felts suggested starting a citizens action committee for rural lands and citizens who would be tasked with defining smart growth and looking into possible solutions for managing growth within the county.

Myakka City resident Garrett Ramy said that in 2018 the question the county had was how to make it grow, but now the question is how to manage the growth and have smart development for the entire county. 

“I think our biggest fear out here is it’s uncontrolled, it’s rogue,” Ramy said. “It just seems like there’s no oversight. They only look at it on a per project basis. They don’t look at it as a whole. It’s disturbing that we don’t have a plan, we don’t have a vision for the future. What do we expect? We’re just going to get closed in and every square inch of Manatee County will be built out?”

Ramy said the workshop felt like a reelection campaign for the commissioners as he said the commissioners “twisted” residents’ concerns and statements into ways that could benefit their perspectives.

Myakka residents Elizabeth Arnold and Carol Felts are concerned about development encroaching on the area surrounding their homes.
Myakka residents Elizabeth Arnold and Carol Felts are concerned about development encroaching on the area surrounding their homes.

Although Manatee County commissioners agreed that more studies, collaboration and discussions need to be done with the county and Myakka City residents before deciding whether to move the line, some made their positions clear.

“There’s zero chance on the planet that anyone will ever convince me to move this line,” Commissioner George Kruse said. “That would make no sense in Manatee County. At the end of the day, the line serves two purposes: One is urban sprawl, and the second is just the economics associated with it. It’s not my job, it’s no one up here’s job, to maximize profit for developers or anybody for that matter. At no point in time am I moving this line and then taking the taxpayer responsibility on infrastructure and utilities further out east.”

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh wants to preserve the diversity that Myakka City brings to Manatee County including its agriculture and wildlife nonprofits.

“We deserve to be able to have Myakka as we know it because that’s why you moved here, that’s what it’s all about,” said Baugh, whose district includes Lakewood Ranch and Myakka City. “You get west of I-75, and it’s a whole different ball game. You have beautiful beaches, so many sports performance things going on there. … Out here we have a lemur preserve, we have elephants, we have bears, and that’s what Myakka is all about.”

Others said they need more information and continued conversations with county department officials and Myakka City residents.

Commissioner Misty Servia said the county needs more incentives for redevelopment along with higher densities in the urban core.

“I’m not somebody that’s going to tell you we’ll never move the line because the line will move, but does it have to move now or is later a better option?” Servia said.

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said the decision is more complicated than simply whether to move the line because the commissioners have to take into consideration the housing shortage and housing market, the population growth in Manatee County, environmental factors and more.


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