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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Arvida fate may rest with DCA

The future of the Arvida Corporation's planned 898-unit condominium project on Perico Island may rest with the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

That's because the DCA has to rule on a comprehensive-plan amendment passed by the Bradenton City Council that, if approved, could allow the project to proceed without further legal challenges.

Objections to the amendment have been filed with the DCA by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Manatee County and the environmental group ManaSota-88.

"We've objected that this amendment does nothing but allow Arvida to use wetlands that they can't build on to compute the density for their project," said Glenn Compton, ManaSota-88 executive director.

The group presently has two lawsuits against the project: one on the grounds that it does not conform with Bradenton's current comprehensive plan and the other on environmental issues.

Unfortunately, said Compton, if the DCA rules the amendment is acceptable and Arvida conforms to the amended plan, "that could remove our legal challenge against the comp plan."

In other words, Arvida would have clear sailing for its project?

"Not necessarily," observed Compton. "We still have the environmental lawsuit, but a revised site plan could conform to the amended comp plan and that challenge goes out the window." He said he wouldn't be surprised to see Arvida submit a new site plan in the very near future, even without any DCA decision.

With a greater density allowance, Arvida could construct more buildings on the north Perico Island property, but not as high as the 10-story structures. They would still end up with the same 898 units that would add an estimated 2,000 people to the Perico Island population.

"At a minimum, we would request public hearings if the DCA approves the amendment," said Compton.

"We are assuming it will be approved, but we are in a 'wait and see' mode."

Generally, the DCA renders a decision within 60 to 90 days after a comp-plan amendment is submitted, Compton noted. The DCA could approve the amendment, add conditions, reject the amendment, or return the proposed amendment to Bradenton for more public hearings, he said.

One thing does seem clear to Compton.

Arvida seems set on developing the property and the City of Bradenton seems determined to add an Arvida condominium complex to its tax rolls.

Arvida-Perico Island history
The controversy surrounding the Arvida project began in 1998 when the City of Bradenton annexed Perico Island.

This allowed Arvida to avoid paying any county impact fees on its project, and two years later, the corporation submitted a site plan and received Bradenton City Council approval to proceed.

A legal battle with ManaSota-88 and a group of citizens, as well as a suit filed by Manatee County and the three Island cities, ensued and the project has been tied up in court since that time.

Arvida's current site proposal calls for 898 condominium units, some in 10-story buildings, on ex-farmland owned by Whiting Preston located just east of the Perico Harbor Marina on the north side of the Palma Sola Causeway.

Arvida withdrew plans for a proposed retail-office center in the present site plan and Florida Department of Transportation representatives have said they expect an additional 2,000 residents in that area to have minimal impact on the two-lane Palma Sola Causeway.

Evacuation of Anna Maria Island won't be a problem during hurricane season because of the Perico Island population, Arvida has claimed, because most of the condominium buyers are likely to be seasonal and not live in their units during the June-to-November hurricane season.

That's a claim that has been called "rubbish" by the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

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