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News Section: Local Government

Comp Plan Loses Teeth at Robinson Farms

Published Friday, December 6, 2013 12:07 am

BRADENTON -- The case of Robinson Farms, Inc. v. Manatee County, Florida (12th Circuit) ended Thursday when Manatee County Commissioners voted unanimously to pass the Robinson Farms Amendment (Ordinance No. 13-10), raising the density on a 20-acre parcel that lies within the Coastal Evacuation Area, and Coastal High Hazard Area. Opponents to the decision say commissioners are playing hurricane roulette.


The original request to amend the future land use map for the project was in 2010. The applicant (Neal Communities) was asking for a density change from RES-1 to RES-3, for a proposed 147 residences on 49 acres. The amendment initially passed, but the application was denied.


That proposal faced many obstacles and opponents, and the project was revised to 28 acres. The fate of the Robinson Farms project then awaited a decision from Governor Scott and his cabinet after an administrative law judge ruled that Manatee County was in error in increasing the additional density, as the increase was in violation of both county and state rules. BOCC approval resolved all legal action in the lawsuit between the applicant and the county, even though the citizens who fought and won the ALJ decision weren't party to it. 


Thursday's approval had the development scaled down to 20 acres and 38 dwellings and commissioners said they could live with that, and then approved the ordinance. 


There were two issues on Thursday's agenda that effected the proposed development: Item #6, a Compliance Agreement that allows the County Commission to hold a public hearing on the proposed Ordinance No. 13-10, at will; and Item #7, which allows the ordinance to be applied to the Robinson Farms project.


Opponents sat through the proceedings confident the board would deny the request, citing Comprehensive Plan Policy: forbidding any amendment to the Future Land Use Map that would result in an increase in allowable residential density on sites within the Coastal High Hazard Area Overlay District.


Policy: was also cited: prohibiting any amendment to the Future Land Use Map density changes in Coastal Evacuation Areas as well. 


"The vote is to deny if we don't want to put people in harm's way," said Ed Goff, adding, "38 units are 38 too many. You are also putting all of the infrastructure in harm's way too."


Vice Chair for Manasota 88 Barbara Hines said, "We oppose both items. We have too many vacant properties in Manatee County now. Everything affects everything else."


Larry Grossman said, "The Comp Plan has no meaning. It needs to be consistent. The circumstances presented here suggest turning this down."


Commissioners claim an approval for Robinson Farms doesn't change what other applicants can request and receive without their approval; opponents say, that's the problem.

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