BRADENTON BEACH – Residents are beginning to feel the impact of city rights of way and alleys being reclaimed for city and county water, sewer and drainage projects.
“Manatee County notified us that their infrastructure has come to the end of its useful life and they needed to replace that infrastructure,” City Engineer Lynn Burnett said during the Wednesday, Dec. 13 City Commission work meeting.
Regarding county projects now underway, Burnett said, “The project, for Bradenton Beach purposes, extends from Cortez Road all the way up to the north part of city. It runs right down Avenue C. They are replacing water mains, force mains and sewer gravity lines. The whole right of way is being torn up to put new utilities in.”
At the city level, rights of way in the alleys at the north end of town have been or will be reclaimed for the stormwater and drainage improvements.
Plans also are being formulated to eventually install a bike path down Avenue C to address bicyclist and pedestrian safety concerns along Gulf Drive. The city’s bike path will connect with Holmes Beach’s bike path and may one day complement the Florida SUN Trail, if it comes to fruition on the Island.
During the recent work meeting, resident Anthony Rycerz commented on the work now underway on Avenue C.
“I came home from work and found my front yard was dug up and I wasn’t too pleased about that. We also heard there’s going to be a bike path put in our front yard as well. We have pavers there that are going to be tore up and there’s no plan to put them back,” he said.
Burnett said she sympathizes with impacted residents but there’s more to come: “There are several critical pieces of Avenue C and that part of our city needs to be addressed over the next several years.”
She said that it make more sense for the city to do its stormwater, drainage and bike path projects on the heels of the county projects rather than tearing up county-restored rights of way to do city projects.
“That would be continually ripping the Band-Aid off the wound. We rebuild it once from the ground up and do it right,” she said.
Burnett said population projections are motivating infrastructure improvements. The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research is predicting Manatee County’s population will double over the next 20 years, rising to an estimated 511,800 people in 2040.
“Those numbers will have an impact on us,” she said.
Several commissioners inquired about roadside trees and other objects encountered while working in the rights of way.
“They’ll be removed,” Burnett said, noting that the large tree in front of the Annie Silver Community Center is one such tree.
“Is there room for adjusting some of these models to accommodate these treasured trees?” Commissioner Randy White asked.
Commissioner Jake Spooner asked if some trees could be relocated onto private property.
Regarding county projects, Burnett said, “Their restoration costs do not include relocating stuff in the public right of way to private property. There’s a whole host of liability issues.”
Burnett said if the city starts picking and choosing which property owners to accommodate that opens the city up to potential challenges.
When trees are removed, she stresses the importance of the city replacing them with the right trees and the right soil so they can be properly maintained and their roots don’t do future damage to sidewalks and streets.
Pavers and other items placed in rights of way also will be removed and will not be replaced. Mailboxes will be relocated.