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Date of Issue: October 27, 2005

Hunters Hill proposal unveiled for Cortez

Peter Thurell detailed his Hunters Hill project for Cortez at a neighborhood meeting and met no opposition, though it is the third major real estate enterprise outlined there in as many weeks.

The small historic fishing village has fiercely fought off any overtures for development for most of its existence, but apparently found this one something it could live with.

Within the past three weeks, Bradenton Boat Club has detailed its proposal to turn the old 4.7-acre C&C Marine Sales into a 330-boat dry-storage facility of four large buildings not far east of Hunters Hill, and the five-acre waterfront Cortez Trailer Park at the west end of the village has been put on the market for sale.

Thurell is a charismatic Swede who splits his time between Cortez and his seaside home and pharmaceutical business in Sweden.

His father-in-law discovered Cortez in 1980 and lived there part time, and the Thurells adopted the historic village early on and ultimately built a large home on the western point of the village, just south of the Cortez Bridge.

Hunters Hill is a large parcel Thurell put together on the north side of Cortez Road just east of the bridge. On it Thurell's "very early" proposal is to build 31 single-family homes and four duplexes with two interior roads, a perimeter walkway patterned after Coquina's BayWalk on Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach, and a new waterway designed to be manatee-friendly. That waterway will make for healthy water flow and also make most of Hunters Hill an island, he noted.

It reflects the environmental and wildlife concerns ingrained in him from his Swedish heritage, he said, for his native land has strong commitments to nature.

Counterbalancing his adding traffic to Cortez Road, he said, is his taking out of Captain John's Marina, which has room for 130 boats. "We want to cut down traffic on the canal," he said, referring to the navigable waterway that borders his property on two sides.

He said he also acquired considerable canal-side mangrove area and in another corner removed an Australian pine grove and planted mangroves there instead. "We won't do anything to any mangroves, I promise."

No final decision has been made on the architectural style of the houses, he said, and Cortezians urged designs that reflect their village. He said he'd do that as far as possible.

The houses will be 1,600 to 2,400 square feet over parking, under tentative plans, but "we may bring that down a lot" for more affordable dwellings, he said. Lifelong Cortez leader Thomas "Blue" Fulford expressed concern that only high-income people could afford to live there. Thurell said he wanted a variety of people but some of the small houses across the road in the historic village are bringing up to half a million dollars and "if I sell under market, the buyers could turn around and resell them for market. I don't know yet how to solve that dilemma."

He hasn't applied for Manatee County permits yet, he said at the meeting, but has discussed it informally with county officials and has encountered no objections.

Aristotle Shinas, the county's principal planner, said that the planning staff would critique the proposal and prepare a report for the county commissioners. He noted that Jane von Hahmann, county commissioner who lives in Cortez, was prohibited by the state Government-In-The-Sunshine Laws from attending the meeting at this stage of development, and said the meeting itself was not required but was voluntary on Thurell's part.