Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Manatee County Slowly Killing the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs


Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD         

If you are relatively new to Manatee County, you're probably starting to ask yourself who's running the show in this County?

The first thing that grabs your attention, is all the development going on in eastern Manatee County.

Add to all of that, the almost unbelievable number of growing dangerous four way stops, poorly lighted and signed intersections, limited turn lanes, and you have all the ingredients of a road infrastructure nightmare.

It seems, that Manatee County’s idea of road improvement is a two-lane road with a four-lane blow out and a couple of short turn lanes into the latest development, that runs the length of the new development frontage, and quickly necks back down to a dangerous 2 lane road.

No plans to expand the road, to make it safer, or capable of handling more traffic just enough to keep the developer happy. Stop lights and controlled intersections are all but unheard of an unseen. 

Manatee County is faced with the age-old conflict between developers and controlled growth.

Back in 2006/2007 then Manatee County administrator Ed Hunsicker made the decision to stop infrastructure development in light of the economic slowdown.  The County continued to collect property tax as development exploded and has yet to begin a serious infrastructure program that deals with that development from a road improvement, water, storm water, and wastewater perspective.

As the economic downturn of the early 2000s began to subside, development in Manatee County literally exploded. Big developers mean lots of jobs, lots of new property tax, and lots of money being thrown around to garner political influence.

The people building houses in Manatee County now are serious about making money. They want to do it their way and only their way, and they want as little County interference as possible.

There are a lot of indications that the big developers in Manatee County poured a massive amount of money into the most-recent County Commission election. It seems that three of the people elected are staunchly in the development side of the County Commission equation.

That's not uncommon in County elections for County Commission, but it does beg this question: if the developers are going to buy a seat at the table, or in this case, several seats at the table is it time that they supported stepping up and building the infrastructure that is needed for their continued ability to develop and build homes in Manatee County?

If all they're interested in is getting the density per acre increased and the ability to build houses 2 feet apart instead of eight or 10 feet apart and let the people figure out how to get in and out of their developments and survive on the roads, then it's time for the County Commission to have the courage to begin to put some limitations on development in Manatee County.

If things continue to go the way they're going now, it's not going to be too much longer before the closely spaced row houses, the massive traffic congestion on the two-Lane roads that connect them, and the inability for the underground infrastructure to continue to support the growing population will strangle the Golden Goose.

Then this area will become less desirable for home buyers rather than more desirable.

That's a situation that the home builders, the realtors, nor the County wants to occur.

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