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Bradenton: Manatee County defeats future sprawl

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Manatee won't move '89 boundary


MANATEE COUNTY -- Since the county commissioners last updated their comprehensive land-use plan nearly seven years ago, more than 21,000 acres of farm land have been rezoned for suburban development.

Now, as folks migrate here from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, the pressure is really on. Developers continue to eye green space for new homes.

Although the county commissioners haven't found a way to slow the pace of development, they say they are determined to stop suburbia from spreading farther east, at least for the next seven years.

Manatee and Sarasota counties are grappling with the line on growth as they update their comprehensive land-use plans, under a state requirement for a thorough review every seven years.

On Tuesday, Manatee's county commissioners talked about a line on their comp plan maps that separates rural and suburban development.

Sarasota's county commissioners will talk today about whether a similar boundary in their comp plan ought to be moved.

Sarasota County has historically kept a tighter rein on sprawl than neighboring Manatee. Its "urban service boundary" generally follows Interstate 75.

Since 1989, Manatee's "future urban boundary" has been roughly 3.3 miles east of the hamlet of Parrish.

South of the Manatee River, it has encompassed land east of Lorraine Road where Lakewood Ranch will eventually expand.

Areas east of Manatee's future urban boundary are generally restricted to one home per five acres. Areas west of the line can qualify for suburban densities, generally three homes per acre.

The Manatee commissioners say they won't move their county's urban boundary, set in 1989, during this comp plan review.

"The future (outlined in that 1989 plan) is now," Commissioner Amy Stein said.

Developers continue to submit subdivision plans for areas west of the boundary, Stein noted. Because there's still plenty of room to develop in the suburban zone already designated, she and other commissioners see no reason to open more rural land.

"People don't like the growth" that's already happening west of the boundary, Commissioner Joe McClash said. "People don't want it to look like the urban side of town."

The commissioners contend there's little they can do to slow the growth that's already happening. Based on the line drawn in 1989, rural landowners have vested rights to subdivide their properties for housing developments.

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