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Tara residential development proposal doesn't pass commission

A group of Tara residents opposed the project, which wouldn't be part of the Tara HOA.

Jean Myers, Ralph Pusheck, Barbara DiPalma and Susan O'Brien are most concered with the traffic impacts a residential complex would have on the intersection of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70.
Jean Myers, Ralph Pusheck, Barbara DiPalma and Susan O'Brien are most concered with the traffic impacts a residential complex would have on the intersection of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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If the seats in the Manatee County commission chambers are filled with citizens wearing red shirts, it often can mean a project in the Tara community has come up for review. 

The organized group of neighbors also bring custom signs (no bigger than what’s allowed in the chambers) and their lawyer, Robert Lincoln. 

The unified front celebrated a win of sorts in June 2023 when the county paid $3.6 million to settle a lawsuit with Lake Lincoln that ensures 45 acres of land and wetlands won’t be developed in the community. 

Neighbors staved off a development attempt of a different site in September 2023 when a proposal for 156 multi-family residential units was sent back to the drawing board. 

That revised plan came back May 23 but wasn't passed through by commissioners. The parcel is located on the southeast corner of Tara Boulevard and State Road 70.

Lake Lincoln is the owner of the parcel, but appointed ZNS Engineering as the applicant. From 2023 to 2024, ZNS downsized the project from 156 units on 7.5 acres down to 72 units on 5.99 acres. 

Residents repeated the phrase, “Stick to the plan,” because Tara is a Development of Regional Impact. Lakewood Ranch came along in the 1990s, but Tara was the master planned community of the 1980s. 

The plans were laid out 40 years ago in the DRI process. Tara is now in the final stage of its build-out. The parcel in question was designated as commercial, so residents want it built out as commercial.

A med spa, hair salon and dog grooming business were a few uses that residents said would be preferable to residential units that would not be a part of either of the established homeowners associations and would add congestion to the roads.

The project was passed unanimously by the Planning Commission on May 15 with a general consensus by the board that residential was a better fit than the commercial options that are currently allowed under the DRI. 

Commissioners Mike Rahn, George Kruse and Amanda Ballard also voted to approve the project on May 23. 

“The uses on this commercial today, without even showing up here to talk to us because it’s already approved, are gas pumps and a gas station, car washes and a drive-thru fast food place,” Kruse said. “This could conceivably be a Taco Bell that opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast and is open until one o’clock in the morning on Friday nights with endless cars coming in and out of it.” 

Kruse also mentioned car services, lumber and building materials and a school as approved uses. 

“One more that (Kruse) didn’t mention is a drug rehab center,” Ballard said. “So just think a little bit about the acceptable uses of this land without coming before this commission.”

But residents see a major problem with building a Tara community that wouldn’t be governed by a Tara homeowners association or be privy to Tara amenities.

“That’s going to cause conflict that we have to manage ourselves,” resident Joe DiBartolomeo said. “We’re putting a pickleball court on the corner of Tara Boulevard and Stone River Road. Everybody plays pickleball. Now, we’ve got to get into conflict with neighbors – ‘No, you can’t play.’ It’s a neighborhood, all of us together.” 

DiBartolomeo said the complex would be an “outlier.” Homeowners also pay to maintain the landscaping along Tara Boulevard, but this one community wouldn’t be footing bills or entitled to any amenities. 

Neighbors are also concerned with adding more traffic to an already busy intersection. 

“There is definitely a traffic safety issue in that area right now,” resident Glenda Wolf said. “It would be actually dangerous if traffic gets backed up there.”

George Deacon, a traffic expert representing the homeowners associations, said that a commercial use wouldn’t add to traffic at the intersection because most of the trips would be coming from inside Tara, whereas residential use would have more cars coming in and out from State Road 70. 

Commissioners Ray Turner, Jason Bearden and Kevin Van Ostenbridge voted against the project, but one thing was made clear before the votes were cast to leave the issue deadlocked at 3-3. 

“Unless the county is going to buy another parcel within Tara, this is going to be a site that’s going to be developed,” attorney for the applicant Scott Rudacille said.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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