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Side of Ranch

Seeking clarity on major Manatee County issues in 2023

The fate of a county administrator, a major development and Premier Park are among the Manatee County items that will draw attention this year.

Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House is on its way to Waterside Place in 2023.
Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House is on its way to Waterside Place in 2023.
Courtesy photo
  • East County
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Another year, and we already have drama in Manatee County with the hiring of Mitchell Teitelbaum as deputy administrator six weeks ago, before he said never mind a couple of weeks later, followed by commissioners saying never mind Jan. 10.

The commissioners rescinded their job offer to him Jan. 10 due to a harassment claim filed against him by a Manatee County employee. They didn't need to do that since Teitelbaum already had sent a letter saying he had withdrawn from the job offer.

Would you expect anything else from our wild west Florida home?

So let's hope for clarity on a host of other issues as 2023 creeps forward. Here is a look at a few things that I hope will emerge in East County.

Fate of administrator

Back in the day at another newspaper, I watched as my company hired a hatchet man as a high-level executive.

He chopped off the so-called dead weight in approximately a year. It was, indeed, a dirty job, and he was perfect in that role.

But even those who remained after his reign of tyranny disliked him. They certainly weren't going to go above-and-beyond to work for him.

He lasted two years before that company fired him.

It will be interesting to see how Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes fares in 2023.

Hopes arrived in May 2021 (after two months as the interim administrator) to begin a restructuring program that included dumping some well-liked personnel. You can't handle that kind of job if you aren't tough emotionally and able to bring some dictatorial qualities to the table.

In December, Hopes announced that his restructuring was pretty much finished.

It's now up to Hopes to run the ship he designed, directing personnel who might hold a bit of a grudge if he hacked one of their friends in this transitionary period.

Will he continue to have the backing of the commission if he rules with an iron fist? I'm not so sure.

Even though he pretty much has executed the commissioners' plans from the very beginning, the commissioners will hold a workshop Feb. 21 to give him some goals and directives.

My feeling is the administrator will toe the line, at least for a while, to make it through this year. That being said, he is one major oops away from being walked out of the administration building.

We will see.

Premier Park

Money appears to be the biggest issue in dragging out construction of the amenities at Premier Park for what figures to be more than a decade.

The land was purchased in 2017 with many of the proposed amenities announced at the time. As we go into 2023, nothing has materialized, although the library is nearing completion.

Now I don't know about you, but I don't consider a library to be a park amenity. It's just being built on the land.

The aquatic complex and the pickleball courts are on the way, so that is something. And I am sure that other plans are being formed.

Here's to the hope that in 2023, the public gets a good look at the plans for the park so the residents can offer suggestions. What we hope to avoid is a case where the plans get to the Commission, and we find out the pool lanes are too short so we have to change the plans at the last moment. Yes, that already has happened.

Are we going to have an events facility that not only will host those lucrative summer, indoor tournaments, such as basketball, but also a facility that can host indoor concerts or shows, or act as a mini convention center? Can it host FFA and 4-H programs that are so popular in our area? Will there be a baseball field? Check out Ryan Kohn's story on Page 17 of this issue that says the county doesn't have room for a 40-and-over league that is forming in the Lakewood Ranch area.

How about the long discussed amphitheater? It seems like it should have been a fairly simple design. What is the hold up?

Of course, we are told financing is the problem, which is annoying to hear, since it wasn't long ago people were complaining about the county having a half a billion dollars in reserves.

Considering how the county's tax base has increased with the enormous growth in East County, you would think the incentive would be there to complete a first class park, like they have in the west side of the county in G.T. Bray.

Please let's move forward.

State Road 64 corridor

So what is the State Road 64 corridor going to look like by the end of 2023?

We've seen a ton of development, which is encouraging if you like fast food, donuts, storage facilities, grocery stores or car washes. But Lakewood Ranch's northern border hasn't taken the look of The Green at State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, or the incoming Center Point complex at Lakewood Ranch Road and University Parkway. I expect we are going to see a sit-down type restaurant such as Miller's Ale House at the Costco development, but it has been a long wait so far.

Waterside Place

Waterside Place continued to build in 2022 with Good Liquid Brewing and KorĂȘ Steakhouse being the only anchor restaurant to have their doors open. We should see the addition of Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House, Agave Bandido and Osteria 500 in 2023, and that should create an even bigger buzz.

Race on Lorraine Road and Upper Manatee River Road

The commission is doing what it can to fast-track improvement projects (widening) of Lorraine Road and Upper Manatee River Road. It will be interesting to see the race between those improvements and the vast development that is occurring in those corridors.

My guess is that by the end of 2023, we are going to be experiencing regular gridlock in those areas as new homes continue to be built and more motorists hit the road.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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