- February 13, 2019
The upcoming widening of Lorraine Road has topped the county’s infrastructure priorities, but a recent need to acquire more homes to build stormwater retention ponds placed county commissioners on pause on Dec. 6.
Scott May, a Manatee County engineer, presented the project revisions to the commission and said a new development planned since the engineering work began, as well as another landowner losing interest in selling their property, resulted in the need to consider new land acquisitions, two of which would directly impact homeowners.
“This is a big one,” said District 2 Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge.
District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who oversees the area, voiced concern about approving the changes, saying she had not been properly briefed on the material.
The project, set to widen Lorraine Road from State Road 64 to 59th Avenue East, joined the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan in July 2021 and will be accelerated through $232 million in bonds acquired in Sept. 2022.
Currently, construction is slated to begin in Oct. 2023 and end in Oct. 2025.
The scope of the new road alignment includes additional or alternative stormwater ponds, as well as the addition of turn lanes for two plant nurseries along the road, Mariposa Nursery & Retail Garden Center, and Ralph Taylor’s Nurseries.
May said two new land acquisitions will directly affect homeowners and include properties just to the south of State Road 64 and on the west side of Lorraine Road. The address would be 2906 Lorraine Road, as well as a choice of either 2912 or 2920 Lorraine Road.
The retention ponds which would be built on those properties had originally been planned for a property slightly to the north which directly borders State Road 64.
However, May said plans by a land developer for 1,000 to 1,200 multi-family homes, as well as commercial uses, on that property resulted in the need to seek out new pond locations.
May said the county’s decision on whether to purchase 2912 or 2020 Lorraine Road could depend on which homeowner wants to move away from the area being developed.
The developer would have charged the county $1 million per acre for the property, said May, which was too cost prohibitive. Additionally, he said, the developer’s planned retention pond was smaller than the one the county required, which meant that a joint use agreement, where the county and developer would share impact fee credits and hold individual easements, would not be possible.
May said another change in plans came about because the owners of a property at the northwest corner of Lorraine Road and Rangeland Parkway decided not to sell.
The county would instead like to buy a portion of a parcel on the northeast corner at 5505 Lorraine Road.
Some aspects of the original alignment remain unchanged. One is a parcel which borders a property owned by the School District of Manatee County, directly across from Chabad of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch. He said the school district is interested in pursuing a joint use agreement with the county for a retention pond.
Also still included in the plans are full and partial land takes on vacant land near 4304 Lorraine Road, north of Rangeland Parkway.
After substantial discussion, the commission chose to postpone a decision. Although discussions ended with the commission favoring a postponement to January, the item was placed on the agenda of a land use meeting on Dec. 15, an option which had also been considered during the meeting.
Public Works Director Chad Butzow said before any properties entered eminent domain, the proposal would return once again to the commission. He said the county would approach property owners with friendly acquisitions, on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
May said Public Works hoped to gain approval for the new alignment in order to pursue these properties, but said friendly discussions with homeowners would still possible with the current alignment.
District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she had not received communication regarding the extent of the revisions.
However, she emphasized her prior commitment to seeing the project get started.
“I’ve got to tell you, I have (discussed) Lorraine Road for several years,” she said, noting that the more the county developed, the more concerned she became that the road needed to be widened.
At-large Commissioner George Kruse said while the conversation on the alignment was not a pleasant one, land acquisitions would only increase in expense and in number moving forward.
“At the end of the day, Lorraine is still a massive problem for East County,” he said. “It’s going to become more of a problem as more developers come on. There’s not going to be less homes there, there’s going to be more.”
Baugh said she agreed with his points, but also said she did not want to go on record supporting a project she did not understand.
Kruse initially made a motion to approve the plans, which he offered to withdraw if Baugh would be willing to hold the discussion in January.
District 2 Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said he did not want to vote for any item that was not supported by a district commissioner and put forward the idea of a motion that would allow Baugh more leeway in determining land acquisitions.
Commissioner James Satcher made a motion that would approve the plans while allowing the greatest flexibility possible to the administration. The motion was seconded by District 4 Commissioner Mike Rahn but declined by the majority of commissioners after County Attorney William Clague called it overly loose in its wording.
One feature of the new proposal was the addition of turn lanes, which would create more ease of access to Mariposa Nursery and Retail Garden Center and Ralph Taylor’s Nurseries.
Previously, the proposal contained a road median beside the supply entrances for those businesses, which meant large vehicles could not cross the road to enter the property.
Francois Brun-Wibaux, owner of Mariposa Nursery, had previously said he would not be able to operate the business without a turn lane.
Mendy Bukiet, a rabbi Chabad of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, said the expansion project overall was a necessary move.
He called it an “awesome concept” that would move the traffic appropriately. He said the hope of the organization was that it would allow drivers to turn into and out of the property more smoothly.
“I just hope they look at it from a broader perspective, not just what the county needs, but also what all the different organizations, churches, synagogues, and other businesses need as well,” he said.
He said in the past, it was “a pleasure” to work with county on road improvements.