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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Save Perico
Flamingo Cay residents, from left, Paula Liesch, Karen Schirmer, Laura Flannelly and Barbara Beury demonstrated against the Arvida project outside the Bradenton City Hall June 9 in opposition to the proposed Arvida project. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Perico-Arvida fight: Round 2 to Arvida

Despite the Bradenton City Council's approval June 9 of a revised site plan from Arvida for its Perico Island condominium project, opponents - and supporters - shouldn't expect the long-running battle to be over.

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said the county attorney is studying the new Arvida site plan for compatibility with Bradenton's comprehensive plan and will present a report June 22.

"In my opinion, they still have a plan that does not comply with Bradenton's comprehensive plan, but we will wait for our attorney's report," McClash observed. "My position is that it's not over," despite the latest approval.

Bradenton and Arvida officials claim the revised site plan meets the city's comp-plan requirements. Arvida's original plan called for 31 buildings and 898 units. The new plan has just 13 buildings and 686 units, but most of the structures will be 10 floors high.

There's also the question of water supply to the project, something McClash and other commissioners believe the county is not obligated to provide, despite an agreement with Bradenton on water service.

"That agreement didn't include 686 condominiums and about 1,700 people on Perico Island," McClash said.

Supplying Perico with water would lower the water pressure to Anna Maria Island, unless the county makes some major capital improvements at its expense in the system, he said.

"We could negotiate with Bradenton on the water issue, but we still want to see a site plan and buildings that conform with the comp plan," McClash added.

If the county refuses to supply water to Arvida, the City of Bradenton could install a water pipe from 75th Street West to Perico Island at its own expense, or sue the county to provide water.

ManaSota-88, the county and the Island cities sued Bradenton and Arvida in 2000 over the original site plan, claiming it didn't meet Bradenton's comprehensive plan requirements.

While that litigation is still pending, the revised site plan might render it moot.

In a last-ditch effort to save Perico from the clutches of Arvida's development, county commissioners June 8 approved a motion to pursue a possible purchase of the property from the current land owner, Manatee Fruit Company.

But the county's efforts for a purchase may prove too little and too late.

Whiting Preston Jr. of Manatee Fruit Co. did not appear interested at the Bradenton City Council meeting in talking to the county about any potential purchase. A motion by Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey to table discussion of the site plan until Manatee County has had a chance to discuss a purchase with the owners failed for lack of a second.

Efforts to reach Preston for comment were unsuccessful.

With approval by Bradenton, Arvida may now have the green light to begin construction unless legal action to halt the project is swiftly enacted. McClash said the county attorney's report won't be ready until the June 22 commission meeting.

The environmental group ManaSota-88 was part of the 2000 lawsuit against Bradenton, and executive director Glenn Compton said his organization will not stand idle.

"It was obvious the city commission had made up its mind before the meeting. They are not even interested in having Manatee County talk about a purchase. I'm extremely upset, but we are going to take a long, hard look at legal action. We'll certainly see what Manatee County does and I'll talk to our board about what to do."

But finances are always a consideration in any legal action.

"We're just a small environmental organization. Arvida has the money for the high-priced attorneys. They can afford to continue this in court until they get what they want. We have to rely on donations and we have other issues we are dealing with," Compton noted.