Pal­metto res­i­dents want to re­zone their land in un­usual re­quest

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­han@braden­

A Pal­metto neigh­bor­hood’s re­quest to re­zone their land could be too much of a slip­pery slope for Manatee County of­fi­cials to ap­prove.

Kristi Kita, of Pal­metto, is lead­ing the charge to switch seven parcels of land from res­i­den­tial sin­gle-fam­ily to A-1 sub­ur­ban agri­cul­ture. Her op­po­nents, as well as plan­ning com­mis­sion­ers, said her plan would take the neigh­bor­hood in a back­ward di­rec­tion dur­ing Thurs­day’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion meet­ing.

“We’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced this be­fore,” said Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Mike Rahn said. “It usu­ally goes from agri­cul­tural to res­i­den­tial with clear in­tent. I’m hav­ing a tough time with the down-zon­ing.”

The land in ques­tion is 25.13 acres of land at the cor­ner of 43rd Street East and west of 24th Av­enue East in Pal­metto. County staff said they saw no is­sue with Kita’s re­quest to re­zone from res­i­den­tial sin­gle fam­ily to sub­ur­ban agri­cul­ture, but her neigh­bors said they could find plenty.

Sharon Kreuger called Kita’s pro­posal mis­lead­ing. Her hus­band, Chris Worm­wood, said he only pur­chased a home in the neigh­bor­hood be­cause of its nat­u­ral beauty. Their daugh­ter, John Eliz­a­beth Alemán, is a Mi­ami Beach city com­mis­sioner, who high­lighted a whole laun­dry list of is­sues with staff’s as­sess­ment.

“I un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult it is when you have neigh­bors in

front of you and on op­po­site sides, and I also know from my work on land use that you gen­er­ally rely on the staff re­port,” Alemán told the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. “So with all due re­spect to the staff, who I know work very hard, I’m go­ing to pick on them a lit­tle bit.”

Alemán’s main gripe was that staff rec­om­mended ap­proval of the re­zon­ing, while stat­ing that the char­ac­ter of the neigh­bor­hood would not change. She dis­puted that point.

“What didn’t come out in the staff re­port was a dis­cus­sion of uses,” she said. “Some of the uses in A-1 come over and above the cur­rent RSF zon­ing. They in­clude a breed­ing fa­cil­ity, heavy equip­ment sales rental and lease, ken­nels — so clearly, in a sin­gle fam­ily neigh­bor­hood, es­pe­cially on 2-acre parcels, if some­one had ken­nels or an an­i­mal breed­ing fa­cil­ity, that would change the char­ac­ter of the neigh­bor­hood.”

There are no laws on the books that limit the num­ber of an­i­mals that are per­mit­ted on agri­cul­tural land. How­ever, the Manatee County Sher­iff’s Of­fice has an agri­cul­tural unit that makes sure an­i­mals re­ceive “suf­fi­cient care,” said Dorothy Rainey, a county plan­ner.

A Braden­ton busi­ness owner who lives on one of the seven parcels be­ing re­quested for re­zon­ing spoke to the fact that the area is al­ready de­cid­edly ru­ral. A large por­tion of the sur­round­ing land is al­ready zoned A-1.

“When (Alemán) talked about the ex­pe­ri­ence of the neigh­bor­hood and the ex­pe­ri­ence of the place, that is very much what most of us who have been in Pal­metto for a while — that’s part of why we’re there,” said Lauri Con­tarino. “You go past a bird sanc­tu­ary, you drive past an aviary as you go down to get on that pri­vate road. We have a neigh­bor who’s al­ready part of the agri­cul­tural zon­ing who’s al­ways rais­ing one or two cows.”

Con­tarino said she and six other fam­i­lies fight­ing for the new land des­ig­na­tion just want to be able to have the same rights as their neigh­bors. Alemán ar­gued that she’s not wor­ried about their in­ten­tions for the land, but for any­one else who might own the land af­ter it changes hands.

“If any of the A-1 agri­cul­tural busi­nesses are added, in­clud­ing heavy equip­ment sales, leas­ing and rental, which I’m sure none of the ap­pli­cants in­tend to do, but if they sell the prop­erty to some­one else, that per­son is cer­tainly al­lowed to do, and that heavy equip­ment traf­fic will ab­so­lutely have an im­pact on the pri­vate sin­gle-lane road that’s on the prop­erty.”

Kim Hol­brook has lived in the neigh­bor­hood longer than any­one else and says there’s no doubt the com­mu­nity is al­ready agri­cul­tural. As a mem­ber of Manatee 4-H, her daugh­ter raised a steer on the prop­erty for four years with­out any com­plaints from neigh­bors.

“When we think of agri­cul­ture, we are not think­ing of pro­vid­ing in­dus­trial use to agri­cul­tural or rais­ing mul­ti­ple cows, horses and all of that,” Hol­brook said. “We’re sim­ply en­joy­ing a life­style.”

Con­tarino re-em­pha­sized to the com­mis­sion that she and her neigh­bors aren’t try­ing to rad­i­cally change the neigh­bor­hood.

“The type of farm­ing or agri­cul­tural uses we’re look­ing for are a small flock of back­yard chick­ens to im­prove soil qual­ity for our homestead gar­dens. This is very much like try­ing to make a mini food for­est so we can eat our own pa­paya and mango on our own prop­erty,” she said. “This is not a mas­sive agri­cul­tural oper­a­tion, and nor would the prop­erty prices in that area make any sense in terms of do­ing a busi­ness in­vest­ment be­cause the area is res­i­den­tial with nicer homes.”

In a let­ter sub­mit­ted to the board, the Worm­woods pointed out that the re­zon­ing re­quest comes af­ter they raised con­cerns about the pres­ence of roosters on land be­long­ing to Kita and an­other neigh­bor, which is a vi­o­la­tion of county code ac­cord­ing to the cur­rent land zon­ing.

Con­erly called the pro­posal a “dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion” and said that while he wouldn’t be com­fort­able with the re­zon­ing change if he was liv­ing in the neigh­bor­hood, that’s not the call his board gets to make.

“Our rec­om­men­da­tion is based on two tenets — Is it con­sis­tent with the land de­vel­op­ment code and is con­sis­tent with the com­pre­hen­sive plan?”

His fel­low board mem­bers dis­agreed. Rahn made a mo­tion to deny the ap­proval of the re­zon­ing, even though it was rec­om­mended by staff. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion voted 3-1 to rec­om­mend de­nial of the pro­posal, with Con­erly cast­ing the dis­sent­ing vote.

The Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion, weigh­ing the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tion, at a later date.

TIF­FANY TOMPKINS ttomp­kins@braden­

In this ru­ral area in Pal­metto, res­i­dents want land re­zoned from res­i­den­tial to agri­cul­tural.

A ru­ral area in Pal­metto where res­i­dents want re­zon­ing from res­i­den­tial to agri­cul­tural land. Nearby cows, chick­ens and pigs can be seen on the land.

PHO­TOS BY TIF­FANY TOMPKINS ttomp­kins@braden­

Lauri Con­tarino, owner of Tell­ers in Braden­ton, lives in a ru­ral area in Pal­metto where res­i­dents want re­zon­ing from res­i­den­tial to agri­cul­tural land.

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