Environmentalists try to save sensitive land off Braden River
Written by WSLR News on Saturday, September 9, 2023
But they only managed a brief pause to the Manatee County Commission’s rezoning routine
By Johannes Werner
Original Air Date: Sept. 8, 2023
Host: Environmentalists in Manatee County briefly disrupted the routine of turning agricultural land into more subdivisions. Our news team listened to the proceedings of a Manatee County commission land-use meeting in downtown Bradenton yesterday.
Kevin van Ostenbridge: No one is on the board for discussion. We’ve held public comment. Motion by Kruse, second by Rahn. We can cast our votes at this time. [silence] Madam clerk, item No. 3 passes unanimously with a 7-0 vote. We now go to item No. 4, Mrs. Napp. … Madam clerk, item No. 4 passes unanimously with a 7-0 vote. Mrs. Napp, we can now go to item No. 5. … And Madam clerk, item No. 5 passes unanimously, by a vote of 7-0. Moving on to public hearings and presentations scheduled…
Johannes Werner: Thursday was another busy day on the job for Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin van Ostenbridge, and for Commissioner Mike Rahn, who replaced him after a break. They presided over eight votes to approve rezoning requests.
One of them was about protecting thousands of acres of mostly county-owned land spread all over Manatee, by labeling it conservation zoning.
However, seven of the rezones went the opposite direction, and four of them were about turning agricultural land into more suburbs. These projects cover a total of 1,040 acres and 2,000 homes.
That kind of routine led one resident, Lisa Pring, to ask the commissioners the big-picture question.
Lisa Pring: At what point, ladies and gentlemen, do we have enough homes in Manatee County? It seems that you are siding many times with the developers, instead of listening to all the people who have shown up here, who have signed a petition. And a lot of people can’t come to these meetings. They work.
JW: Pring and a half-dozen fellow activists were there to disrupt the routine and talk against one of the seven rezone applications. The one they were concerned about was filed by a national homebuilder that wants to build housing on land considered sensitive for the protection of the watershed.
Homebuilder D.R. Horton plans to build 99 homes on 45 acres at Linger Lodge Road, just east of I-75, and asked for a rezone to make that possible. The company argues that the area has already been largely developed. However, regional environmental groups Manasota-88 and Suncoast Waterkeeper called supporters to come to the meeting, wearing blue, and speak out against the plans.
The activists handed the commissioners a petition with 2,791 signatures opposing the project. They argued that the project is not suitable. It’s too close to Braden River and the Lake Evers watershed, which provides drinking water. They argued that the land is subject to soil erosion, flooding, and water quality issues. They said that construction would affect gopher tortoises and migrating birds.
But the planners assured everyone that the county went through all the required motions. They told the developer to provide all the necessary environmental assessments. One commissioner pointed out that it’s about satisfying market demand. So on the commission went, and voted.
KvO: And Madam clerk, it passes by a vote of 5-2, with commissioners Bearden and Kruse in opposition. All right. So that concludes item No. 6.
This has been Johannes Werner for WSLR News.