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Realize Bradenton



by Carol Felts
January 6, 2021

Dear Commissioners,

I would like this e mail included in the general public comments section of the upcoming Land Use meeting as I am unable to attend in person.

I have taken the time to read the agenda for the upcoming Land Use Meeting, and every public comment submitted on every item on the agenda.

What I find appalling and glaringly consistent is not only the lack of public comment entered in the record on these items, but the fact that in spite of the public comments that are received in total opposition, these measures are consistently approved.

We have already brought to the county’s attention that the current system of public information on rezoning changes may adhere to state guidelines, with obscure little yellow signs and legal notices in newspapers no one reads, but is inconsistent with the county’s own policies, process and procedures, not to mention inadequate use of the county website, “Citizens Advisory Commitees”, “Neighborhood Registries” and of course “social distancing” while battling a dual “health crisis” of a pandemic and don’t forget,  “racism”.

In our current concerns about “Sunshine Laws”, consider this. I believe this state requires a 30 day public notice. But when the county publishes a notice and places a small sign on a property, but cannot see fit to put it on a pending agenda at the same time, nor publish the documents associated with the item for public review, you have denied us our rights to full disclosure, transparency and adequate time to respond intelligently.

When an item on the agenda has no public comment, our county staff is not doing its job for the people that pay their salaries and getting that information to the public.

When items on the agenda are consistently approved by our BOCC in spite of public comment in opposition, you are not representing your constituents as you were elected to do.

When our BOCC is laden with a suspicious public due to our contentious elections and obvious bias toward their campaign sponsors, its time for all to step back and rededicate yourselves to helping us help you, help us.

When our BOCC has been asked repeatedly to consider, at the minimum, a rezoning moratorium, in order not only to address the inadequacies of the system, but also to direct our attention to the “health crisis”, our infrastructure, our phosphate industry and our economy, and yet consistently ignores any issues brought up by citizens to be put on the agenda, you have silenced the voices a few months ago passionately campaigned for you with great hopes.

We can be better than this, require public input before anything comes before the board. Our county staff needs to have an incentive and methodology to work for us as hard as they do for the applicant paying those fees. We need a true Citizens Advocate to level the playing field in a quasi judicial system where ordinary citizens must face a litany of well paid and well connected “experts” and legal teams. The Commissioners have a “County Attorney”, the citizens do not.

We need a BOCC with the integrity to admit that without the developers dollars and party affiliations, they would not be sitting in those seats on the dais, but behind the podium for three minutes of abject frustration.

We need a BOCC with the integrity to admit that for the most part, they are leading a woefully uninformed and uneducated public. Where is the honor and integrity in that? A dog can be trained to herd sheep.

By all rights and purposes, the county probably has violated “Sunshine Laws” by posting legal notices but not following through with posting the items on the agenda in the same time frame.

But I guess it would take a convicted felon with the ACLU to prove that one?

Nope, just one citizen that has taken the time to actually read and compile a statistical analysis of our county commissioners and staff activities over the last few years. Numbers don’t lie. We spend an inordinate amount of time on items pertinent to an elite few, and ignore public sentiment and common sense.

Redeem yourselves. Listen to the people and consider the advantages and the sense it makes to promote just a rezoning moratorium at this time.

At the very least, you should all recuse yourselves from voting on any measures on this current agenda until it can be ascertained by our Inspector General (hahaha)  that proper protocol and procedure has been followed, which we have already proven and brought to your attention on just one item that it has not.


Carol Felts



October 2, 2020

Note:  Some of the candidates we recommend may or may not be on your ballot depending on the District you live in or the relative significance of the race.  All races are important and voters should use the Bradenton Times or other media to research candidates.

Representative in Congress, District 16 – Margret Good

State Attorney, 12th Judicial Circuit – Betsy Young

State Senator, District 21 – Anthony “Tony” Eldon

State Representative District 71 – Andy Mele

State Representative District 73 – David Reeves Fairey

Supervisor of Elections – Charles N. Williams Jr
County Commissioner District 1 – Dominique Brown

County Commissioner District 3 - Matt Bower

County Commissioner District 5 – Chris Gilbert (Write-In)

County Commissioner District 7 (At-Large) – no recommendation

Justice of the Supreme Court – No (for Muniz)

District Court of Appeal –
        No (for Atkinson)
        Yes (for Silberman)
        Yes (for Sleet)
        No (for Smith)

County Judge, Group 4 – Melissa Gould

School Board Member, District 3 – Mary Foreman

Mosquito Control District Group 2 – Rodney O’Quinn

Manatee Fire Districts – Use your own discretion on all

For a printable PDF copy of the above click here.


October 1, 2020

There are six “Constitutional Amendments” on the ballot for the November election.  We agree with the League of Woman Voters of Manatee County in voting YES on Number 2 only and NO on the other five.  Number 2 deals with Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage.

We also agree with the LWV on the Manatee County Bond Referendum on "Water Quality Protection, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation, and Park Ad Valorem Tax and Bonds". Vote For Bonds

Click this link: https://www.lwvfl.org/amendments-2020-2/ to see the full text of the League of Woman Voters rationale for their (and our) decisions.


September 28, 2020

Local candidates with huge campaign contributions (Big Money) usually indicate support by an organization that will benefit financially if their candidate is elected.  If voters are undecided, “Our Manatee” recommends not voting for Big Money candidates who, if elected, generally do not act in support of taxpayers and common citizens.

The Supervisor of Elections website, by law, has to list candidate names and amounts of all contributions.  You can identify Big Money candidates by looking at the total contributions for each candidate in any given race.  For example: one candidate for District 3 Commissioner has raised $10,755.00 while the other has a total of $108,381.80 (Almost $100K more!!!).  We recommend voting for the candidate with the smaller amount (Matt Bower).
Click this link to see the list of candidates along with total contributions:

If contributions are similar in any race, we recommend reading candidate information online in the Bradenton Times.

September 17, 2020

Impact fees are a one-time fee imposed on all new residential and commercial construction by local governments to defray the cost of growth’s “impact” on vital services such as schools, parks, roads, ambulance and fire services and other infrastructure needs.

Florida statute 0163.31801 allows Manatee County to calculate impact fees based on the “most recent and localized data”.  That data is collected by extensive impact fee studies which are periodically updated to account for inflation and other factors that affect actual costs.  School impact fees pay for the cost of new schools and related costs because of new residential construction which results in a larger student population and need for more schools.  In Manatee County the school impact fee is 100% of that calculated by the school impact fee study.

The county impact fee pays for new infrastructure required only because of new development both residential and commercial.  New roads, parks, police facilities and equipment, libraries, and other infrastructure are some of the costs calculated by the impact fee study.  Manatee County collects only 90% of the calculated fee.  That has resulted in a $3-4-million shortfall per year annually which in turn results in a hidden “impact fee tax” on county taxpayers.

To be clear you will not see this tax listed on your trim form or tax statement.  Nonetheless, it is a real tax that takes money out of taxpayer’s pockets.

This is how it works.  The Impact Fee Study determines what new infrastructure will be required by new development.  That is translated into a cost that must be paid by developers to pay for infrastructure that is REQUIRED ONLY BECAUSE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT.  Great care is taken to make sure developers pay only for costs associated with the type of development for example, residential development or commercial development.  In other words, a new office building would not have to pay a school impact fee because it would not result in an increase in student population.

Great care must be taken to make sure only actual projected costs are included in impact fee calculations. Developers have opportunities to question fees before final tables are established.  It is a very long and costly process but the final tables are as accurate as possible.  The most recent impact fee study for Manatee County was done by TishlerBise, Inc., a very reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the nation.

NOW THE PROBLEM.  After a huger effort and a lot of expense to produce impact fee tables that tell the County the amount of impact fees to charge, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners changed the rules.  In 2018 they approved ORDINANCE 18-07 which caps collection of impact fees at 90% of the amount recommended by the State of Florida mandated impact fee study. The ordinance states in part: "WHERE AS, it is in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of Manatee County to amend Section 1102.3.A of the Impact Fee Ordinance to cap impact fees at the current level of ninety percent (90%) of the impact fees set forth in the adopted Impact Fee Schedule to facilitate a strong economic climate in the County and to assure the continued legal defensibly of the County's Impact Fee Ordinance and impact fees, while also providing sufficient funding for capital facilities needed to accommodate new development."

Basically, this ordinance says, we are afraid to charge the developers what they really owe because if we did, they would sue us and that would cost a lot of money.  That sounds like blackmail to me.

The developers should pay what they owe and nothing less.  When they don’t pay in full, the required infrastructure must still be built and built to the “level of service” in the rest of the county.  That means that the county can’t take shortcuts or cut corners but MUST provide the required infrastructure to the same quality level and proportions as similar infrastructure as is in the rest of the county.  For example, it can’t build a two-lane road where a four-lane road is required.

During the last fiscal year, the county did not collect $3.65-million in impact fees that could have been legally collected but wasn’t.  Nonetheless, the required infrastructure had to be provided and paid for with our tax dollars.  That is the “Impact Fee Tax”.
But it is worse.  When you take $3.65-million out of the county budget, that leaves a shortfall which means that county projects must be eliminated or more taxes must be collected.  That means that a $3.65-million discount for the developers results in a $7.30-million tax increase for Manatee County taxpayers. That is the hidden IMPACT FEE TAX.

Some commissioners have suggested that if the developers are required to pay 100% of the calculated impact fees, they will stop building in Manatee County or sue us.  That is not likely since people come here because of the warm winters and the beaches and not because of the houses and…if the developers pull out you can be sure there are many others who would be very happy to replace them.  In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to encourage more construction companies to branch out here. As far as suing the county, on what basis?  And, even if they did, we have a whole legal department staffed with super lawyers THAT WE ARE ALREADY PAYING!

The bottom line is that we need to elect commissioners who will work for us, the taxpayers, and not for the developers who care more about their bottom line than our quality of life.

NOTE: The above article first appeared in the "Bradenton Times" on September 13, 2020


July 19, 2020

Matt Bower recently changed his party affiliation from Republican to “no party affiliation”.  He will be running as an “Independent”. That means that he will only be on the ballot in the November Election and not on the ballot for the August primary election.

The November ballot will include candidates for county commissioner in Districts 1, 3, and 5.  The “contributions” to Republican candidates in those districts as of July 17 are:

District 1 - $66,029.04
District 3 - $94,481.60
District 5 - $77,620.20
District 7 - $121.435.00

These totals (from the Supervisor of Elections website) for individual Republican candidates are unprecedented. They are a kind of “insurance” that the developers seem to think will “insure” that their candidates win. Yet, those “contributions” are small in comparison to the benefit developers receive by having their candidates elected to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.  For example, developers do not pay 100% of the calculated impact fees.  Impact fees are supposed to compensate the county for the cost of infrastructure that the county must provide because of development. Impact fees pay for expansion of multimodal transportation, parks/natural resources, law enforcement, public safety, and libraries. etc. When developer’s impact fees fall short of the costs, and they always do, the taxpayers pay the rest.

Manatee County property taxes are higher to compensate for the millions of dollars the county could collect but doesn’t because the Board of Commissioners voted to give the developers a discount on Impact Fees.  We at “Our Manatee” don’t think that is fair and Matt Bower agrees. 
The developers are using a small portion of the money they didn’t have to pay in impact fees to “contribute” to candidates who, if elected, will keep giving them impact fee discounts, and the much larger portion of the money not used for that, the developers keep.  It is a scheme that has been going on in Manatee County for decades, and we need to stop it by not voting for those candidates who may be identified by looking at who contributed to their huge campaign treasuries. We need to vote new commissioners in, commissioners who will represent us, the taxpayers of Manatee County who have worked hard for their money. We should not have to pay the developer’s business expenses.

For more information on impact fees, the environment, and other data that may help you decide your vote, scroll down.

May 23, 2020

Matt Bower is now officially a candidate for Manatee County Commissioner District 3 thanks to all those residents who signed his petition.  But… he won’t be on the ballot in November because his opponent is also a Republican, and the August primary will pit Matt against his Republican opponent.  No one else is running for District 3 commissioner.  The winner of the Republican primary will be the new District 3 commissioner, since no one else is running.

If you want to vote for Matt, you will have to live in District 3; AND you must be a registered Republican.  If you are a Democrat, you can’t vote in the Republican primary; but there is a legal way to get around that problem.  Change your registration to Republican now and change it back after the primary.  It is perfectly legal and done all the time.

So, if you want Matt to win and you are not already registered as a Republican, you need to change your registration right away. Don’t wait because time is short, especially if you vote by mail.  The deadline for making changes for the August primary is July 20, 2020. Click on the link below to go to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website and start your change in registration.

Register or Update


April 30, 2020

Matt BowerManatee County District 3 will elect a new commissioner in November.  See map. Matt Bower has a proven record of service not only to Manatee County, but also to his country.  If elected, he promises to:

--Reduce traffic congestion
--Improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists (especially kids and casual cyclists)
--Fix our aging and failing infrastructure
--Protect our environment including wildlife and mangroves
--Require developers to pay 100% of their impact fees which will help reduce property taxes
--Promote changes to our comp plan and land development plan to give citizens more control in county growth
--Weed out wasteful spending
--Improve our quality of life and make us proud to live in Manatee County

Matt can make these promises because he is the only candidate not tied to developers.  He has the courage to take on the status quo with thoughtful thinking, common sense, and the tact necessary to put people first.  As a former planning commissioner, he always was a voice of reason and truth.  We support Matt Bower because he is “Hands Down” the very best candidate for us, the residents, and tax payers of Manatee County.  Please take a minute to sign his petition, so he may run for county commissioner.  You will be happy you did. Click here to go to petition.   Thank you.


January 27, 2020

On Thursday, February 6, 2020 (9:00 AM start) at the Land Use Meeting of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners, Carlos Beruff is asking for removals of two of the Stipulations that were part of his approval.


Stipulation 17.A – Subsequent residential dwelling units, upon completion of the first 750 residential dwelling units, shall require further approval by the Board of County Commissioners at a Public Hearing prior to, or as part of, Preliminary Site Plan approval, in increments of 750 units or more.  Any approval shall be in conformance with Stipulation A.16.

According to former Manatee County Commissioner, Jane VonHahmann, Stipulation 17.A allowed us to see after the development begins the physical building size and number, our only real win, which he wants removed!!!  Stipulation A.16 requires Carlos to submit a Hurricane Evacuation Plan.

It is in our BEST INTEREST to be present at this meeting and make it known that these STIPULATIONS are an insurance policy, if you will, that will enable us to know the density and intensity of the buildings and provide us with a first hand visual of their impact on the shoreline and surrounding area and require additional approvals to continue.

As Commissioner VonHahmann notes if this is accepted by the Board, our Public Voice will be silenced and we will be taken out of the loop and agreements by Carlos are broken.  We must voice our opinion and

We must be prepared to deny Carlos and the Board from taking away this one small piece of security that we have as citizens on this project as it moves forward.

Please attend this important meeting on February 6, 2020, post it on Facebook and share it with your email/other lists.

The Agenda will be posted on January 30, 2020 and more information will be sent out as to time and format.  Meanwhile, mark your calendars.

November 7, 2019

Manatee County received a $511,000 SUN Trail grant from FDOT for a short section of the multi-use SUN Trail along Erie Road near the new high school.  In a memorandum from the Director of the Parks & Natural Resources Department, Charlie Hunsicker stated, “Unfortunately, the initial field investigation and design work has determined that the impacts to wetlands would require millions of dollars more to complete construction along this specific segment.”  So, without a formal study, the county gave the grant money back to the state.

Plans have been in place for many years for the trail to follow the CSX/FPL railroad right-of-way from Willow (near the Hillsborough County line) to Palmetto.  FPL agreed to allow the FREE USE of its 100’ wide right-of-way for the trail. The tracks are used only occasionally and are 5’ wide which leaves 95 feet for the multi-use trail which is planned to be 12 ft. wide. There would never be less than 40 ft. on one side or the other of the tracks for the trail to stay within the right-of-way.  No land would have to be purchased.

Hunsicker mentioned, “Another portion of the SUN Trail, the Gateway Greenway, is under development with SMR (Lakewood Ranch developers).  The current plan is to construct a multi-use path as part of the proposed Bourneside Blvd., connecting University Parkway to SR 64 in east county.”  That would require the purchase of a large amount of private property and construction of two long bridges over major highways (SR64 and SR70) at approximately $3M each.  Clearly this would cost millions and millions of dollars for the land alone and even if the land were donated by the developers, they could demand inflated credits to offset impact fees which are already discounted millions of dollars per year. The railroad, western route, requires NO BRIDGES over major roads, thus making it much less expensive than the SMR eastern route,

Sun Trail West

After a thorough review of the railroad right-of-way using Google Maps, Manatee GIS Server, and, Google Earth including historic imagery plus live on the spot checks we found NO wetlands that would be impacted within or near the railroad right-of-way thus no unusual mitigation would be required.   However, we did find new or planned developments (opposite each other) on both sides of the railroad right-of-way that have common ownership.

Some have speculated that eventually the railroad will sell the right-of-way at bargain-basement prices possibly to the developers who could combine land on both sides of the tracks.

We believe the bottom line is that SMR developers want the SUN Trail to go over their land because multi-use trails near homes increases their value significantly and SMR could sell land for the trail to the county at inflated prices.  Any multi-use trail through SMR property would cost several times more than a trail on the FREE railroad land through Parish and Palmetto and the western route would serve more people and provide more safety for citizens of Manatee County.  Palmetto, Holmes Beach, and the City of Longboat Key have already made plans and spent large amounts of taxpayer and grant money in anticipation of the SUN Trail going their way soon.  In addition, Sarasota is planning to connect the Legacy trail to the SUN Trail on Longboat Key in the near future.

It appears that the developers convinced the county to return over a half-million dollars in grant money because it would be cheaper to build the SMR route which clearly is not true.

The Federation of Manatee County Community Associations, Inc. (FMCCA) endorses the western route for the SUN Trail and suggests that impact fee revenue be used to construct an eastern route since it would only be needed because of new development.

March 11, 2019

One year ago, the BoCC approved ORDINANCE 18-07 which caps collection of impact fees at 90% of the amount recommended by the State of Florida mandated impact fee study. The ordinance states in part: "WHERE AS, it is in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of Manatee County to amend Section 1102.3.A of the Impact Fee Ordinance to cap impact fees at the current level of ninety percent (90%) of the impact fees set forth in the adopted Impact Fee Schedule to facilitate a strong economic climate in the County and to assure the continued legal defensibly of the County's Impact Fee Ordinance and impact fees, while also providing sufficient funding for capital facilities needed to accommodate new development."
prove it

The problem is that this is not a true statement and it was never proven to be true before the ordinance was approved. How can taking $3,650,000 out or our county budget over the past year to pay for infrastructure required ONLY because of new development be "in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of Manatee County"? No proof of this was ever given nor was there ever any proof that the Impact Fee Schedule produced by the State of Florida mandated study was in error.

This ordinance was initiated by developers for developers and is not in the best interest of the taxpayers of Manatee County and should be rescinded unless there is irrefutable proof that the people of Manatee County benefit by paying $3.65M for developer required infrastructure. Where is the proof?


January 5, 2019

The Federation of Manatee County Community Associations (FMCCA) or just “The Federation” as it is often called, is a public service organization that was founded in 1964 to assist home owners and their organizations (HOAs, Condo Associations, and other residential organizations) with legal and other issues that concern those groups or their members.

Over the past 55-years the FMCCA has assisted countless individuals with issues they have with their owners’ associations and conversely, those associations with problems with the local and state governments, developers, property issues, and numerous other concerns.  And, this is all done without cost to those receiving advice from the Federation.

In addition, the Federation hosts public meetings every month (except summer) open free to the public.  Generally, the meetings consist of a presentation by individuals of interest to the general public.  Recent meetings have hosted candidates for various offices, elected officials, police representatives, public employees, and others who have specific knowledge about issues concerning home owners.
The Federation is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates or promote any political agenda.  It does provide input to various governmental organizations at the local and state level and encourages legislation that promote the health, welfare, and safety of the people of Manatee County and visitors.

The Federation strives to promote integrity in government.  It is a watchdog of Manatee County.  We speak as our members’ representatives.
We are always seeking new individual and association membership.  The dues paid by each association or individual member is minimal, 50 cents/member of an association up to 100 (no extra charge over 100 members so $50 maximun) or $10 for an individual. The Federation website may be found at:  http://www.thefmcca.com

Robin DiSabasino, former County Commissioner, will be the speaker at our next public meeting on January 15th (Tue.) . Meetings are held at the First Baptist Church in downtown Bradenton, 1306 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205. Turn north (toward the river) on 14th Street and park behind the church. Walk south between the two church buildings to the doors (left building) to the meeting rooms. Meetings start at 6:45 PM Everyone is welcome, free!

To contact the Federation email to: fmccasupport@aol.com


November 18, 2018

Last March the Board of County Commissioners amended the Land Development Code to cap collection of Impact Fees at 90% starting April 18th instead of going to 100% as previously scheduled. 
Impact Fee Amendment
That means that the County is not collecting enough impact fees to pay for the infrastructure that is required to support new development as determined by the TishlerBise Impact Fee Study.  It has been suggested by at least one county official that if enough funds are not collected, the needed infrastructure is just not provided.  You can imagine how the developers would react if the county didn’t provide required roads, or fire protection, or police patrols, and other services that require infrastructure needed by new development.

It has also been suggested that if the developers don’t get an impact fee discount, they will sue the county and legal fees will cost the county huge amounts of money.  First, since when has the county been in the business of paying protection?  Second, there would have to be some legal reason for the developers to sue the county which there is not.  TischlerBise, the company that did the impact fee study has done over 900 impact fee studies and has NEVER been sued successfully.  There is no reason to believe that TishlerBise would do anything that would jeopardize their stellar reputation.  Fourth, representatives of the developers have suggested that jobs would be lost if they had to pay 100% because they would have to raise the price of their houses which would result in fewer sales.  That is nonsense.  The developers are selling record numbers of houses and they can’t find enough workers as it is. Also, the added cost would be less than $1 per day on a 30-year mortgage which would never deter a buyer of a $250,000 or more house. People move here because of the climate and beaches, not because they can save a dollar a day on a new house. And fifth, the county population is exploding.  Growth is out of control.  Traffic congestion is ridiculous because there isn’t enough revenue to improve existing roads because we are giving the developers millions of dollars and tax increases can’t keep up.

The fact is, our tax dollars are used to buy 10% of the required developer necessitated infrastructure to the tune of $10,000 per day, every day even on weekends and holidays for an annual total of $3.65-million or over $10-million tax dollars over the first three years.

The Land Development Code is very specific in regard to amending that code.  It clearly indicates that any amendment to the Land Development Code must be “in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare of Manatee County”.  The capping of impact fees clearly is not in the best interest of the people of Manatee County.  In fact, using tax dollars to pay for infrastructure necessitated ONLY because of new development is “misappropriation of public funds” which is a criminal offense and should be halted immediately, all tax dollars already expended under the terms of ORDINDNCE 18-07 as amended should be refunded and returned to the Manatee county treasury, and those responsible should be indicted.

The point is, we don’t want our tax dollars subsidizing the developers and we don’t want our quality of life declining because of that.  The Brookings Institution agrees. Based on a study they did, communities that collect full impact fees prosper more than those who don’t.  The county should collect the full impact fee the developers owe.  If county officials refuse to make the developers do that, to pay for infrastructure required because of new development, they should be indicted for misfeasance.

October 22, 2018

Last March the Board of Commissioners voted to amend the Land Development Code (LDC) to give the developers a 10% discount on Impact Fees.  That means that the developers don’t have to pay $10,000 per day (every day) but we, the taxpayers of Manatee County have to pay $10,000 per day (every day) for Infrastructure that is REQUIRED ONLY BECAUSE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT.   That means that $3,650,000 per year is taken out of our County budget to subsidize the developers.

So, what are the developers using all that money (our money) for?  A small part of it is used to finance their chosen candidates for the Board of Commissioners.  So far, Misty Servia has received $113,813.00 and Carol Whitmore has received $100,378.44.  So. the total is $214,191.44 (over 75% from developers and their “friends”) most of which the developers contributed because they didn’t have to pay 100% of the impact fee study recommended amount.

In effect, the developers are using YOUR TAX DOLLARS to pay for the campaigns of their selected candidates.  What a scam!!!!   And think about it, $214,191.44 is less than 6% of the total they take out of OUR COUNTY BUDGET.  So, what happens to the other 94% ($3.43-million).  Well, they keep it.  They put it in the bank and use it (our tax dollars) to buy whatever they want…

If you want this scam to stop, don’t vote for the developers’ hand-picked candidates, Whitmore or Servia.  It is as simple as that.  Stop the pillage of our tax dollars.  Elect candidates that will represent us, the taxpayers, and not give our hard-earned dollars to the rich developers.  Instead, vote for Melton Little (Dist. 4) and Candace Luther (at large, Dist. 6).


October 11, 2018

As we said on our FaceBook page, you don't have to agree with our recommendations. But, we want change because we don't like our schools being 40th in the nation, phosphate mining polluting our water and putting nutrients in the Gulf causing red tide outbreaks, the developers not paying impact fees they owe because the commissioners including Whitmore voted to give them a $10,000 per day discount (every day) which taxpayers have to pay, traffic congestion because of poor long-term planning, flooding because of over building without expanding storm water drainage, high pressure injection of "treated" waste water down deep wells without knowing where it will end up, building tall towers in parks and neighborhoods without public hearings, overpriced indigent care, animal mistreatment, commissioners who ignore the public, giving millions to Sarasota for THEIR rowing facility, lack of bridges over the Manatee River and out to the islands, 7-year suspension of collection of school impact fees resulting in a new school debt of $350,000,000 for new schools required in new development areas, lack of safety facilities such as bicycle/pedestrian pathways that would help keep people and bicycles out of the streets (all our neighbor counties have them, why don't we?), high property taxes and sales tax, two candidates for the Board of Commissioners, Whitmore and Servia, have received almost $200,000 is campaign contributions (mostly from the developers), and more.... THAT IS WHAT WE DON'T LIKE AND THAT IS WHY WE NEED CHANGE.

October 8, 2018

The Our Manatee team has produced "Our Manatee Voting Recommendations" for the 2018 Mid-Term Election. Although we feel very strongly about the recommendations we have made, we are not trying to tell anyone how THEY should vote. We spent many hours weighing the options and studying the Constitutional Amendments. We are very disappointed that many of the amendments bundle two or three unrelated or only remotely related issues into one amendment choice. We think that is wrong. For example, one amendment may contain three issues one of which you really agree with. What do you do, vote "yes" to get the one you like and also get the two you don't like or vote "no" and not get the two you don't like but also not get the one you like? We think this is a trick to get people to vote for certain things they might otherwise oppose. So, when unlike issues were bundled into one amendment we voted "no". We don't like being tricked and we don't like the wording that is unnecessarily complicated, sometimes including double negatives.

We have put the recommendation in a pdf format that may be viewed on-line or printed out. We hope you use this document when you vote and share it with other voters. We believe that Manatee County has been going the wrong way for a long time and that it is time for new commissioners who will not be controlled by the developers. We don't like it that Carol Whitmore voted to give the developers a discount on Impact Fees that is costing the county $10,000 per day, every day, even on weekends and holidays. That works out to $3,650,000 per year and is very likely to increase every year for the foreseeable future. Misty Servia also has publicly announced that she favors Impact Fee discounts. We recommend that you don't vote for either of them.

The full copy of our recommendations may be found by clicking HERE or by following this URL: http://ourmanatee.com/Voting-Recommendations.pdf


September 17, 2018

Hurricanes Harvey and Florence were unlike most hurricanes we have experienced here in Florida.  Both hovered over the same area for days dumping not inches but feet of rain.  Once the ground was saturated, virtually all water had to runoff into inadequate storm water drainage systems.  When they reached capacity, the water backed up flooding vast areas some of which had never been flooded before.

Manatee County’s storm water system was designed and built decades ago.  Since then, tens-of-thousands of new homes have been built along with roads, shopping centers, schools, and more. Many new developments have already been approved for the future.  All of these structures cover areas making them impermeable to rain water. They also increase the amount runoff, and the rate of runoff.

We got a clear warning in August, 2017 when south Manatee subdivision, Center Lake was flooded after a heavy thunderstorm.  https://www.wfla.com/news/centre-lake-neighborhood-submerged-homeowners-dealing-with-ongoing-nightmare/994820158
Center Lake
New development adjacent to Center Lake reduced the amount of permeable land and homes were elevated with fill which exacerbated the problem.  Inadequate stormwater canals had not been well maintained and vegetation in the canals further slowed the runoff.

Imagine what would happen to Manatee County if a storm like Harvey or Florence were to hover over our area for days dumping feet of rain.  With Mosaic destroying wetlands and leaving thousands of acres of land less able to absorb and hold rainwater, Manatee County is set for a super disaster such as those in Houston and the Carolinas.

Our Board of Commissioners has been irresponsible in not foreseeing such a disaster which will eventually happen if we continue over development. It is time we vote out developer puppets such as Carol Whitmore and not vote for developer candidates such as Misty Servia who has already accepted well over $50,000 from the developers for her campaign.

It is time to stop the disaster before it happens.  Don’t vote for developer puppets Whitmore or Servia.

September 5, 2018

Neal Communities, Benderson Development, Medallion Home, McClure Holdings LLC, Neal Land Ventures LLC, North River Partnership LLC, and many many more “non-people” have contributed to certain candidates and also contributed under other names.  All of those contributions are $500-$1000.  Misty Servia has received $79,000.00 in those contributions which represent 91% of her total campaign finance$86,363.00 (9/4/18) and only 87 total contributions.  That is not Democracy especially when most of them aren’t even people.  They are not representative of Manatee County voters yet their donations are far beyond a common person’s ability to donate and will have an unfair impact on the election.

Carol Whitmore has similar donations, many from the same companies and rich individuals as Ms. Servia.  Her total campaign treasury amounts to $92,978.44 (9/4/18).  Of that, $70,349.40 was for $500-1000 or 76% of her dollar amount from 168 donations, mostly companies.  Is that Democracy?

The question is, should a small handful of individuals and companies (some the same) have a huge impact on OUR election.  In a Democracy, actually a Representative Democracy, OUR elected “representatives” make decisions that represent the will of the people.  That is not happening here in Manatee County.  It has often been said that “the developers control Manatee County” and that is true.  It has also been said, “If you don’t like it, don’t vote for developer candidates.”  

Unfortunately, many voters, too many, don’t have the time to study the candidates’ positions on the issues or to determine their funding sources so their vote is often influenced by the number of billboards, yard signs, campaign flyers, or robocalls to which they are exposed.   Those things are greatly determined by the amount of campaign money candidates have received most of which is contributed by the development companies, developers themselves, and other rich individuals.

So, what can the average voter do.  One thing is to NOT VOTE FOR candidates who are heavily funded by companies because they have agendas that are not in our best interest.  They want favors and special exceptions to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code and they think they can buy votes with massive advertising and they are right if we let them.

One easy way to learn about candidates is to check the League of Woman Voters website, http://www.lwvmanatee.org/ which will have a special guide as election day approaches,  The Our Manatee website, http://ourmanatee.com/ will also have recommendations,  and the Bradenton Times is a good source of information.  You can also go to candidate forums talk to people you respect about the candidates and their positions on various issues.

Voters may also Vote by Mail or Absentee by signing up online.  The ballot will be sent directly to you and you will have time to sit down with your ballot and references and make your vote in a more leisurely way. But you must register and request the Vote by Mail option first.  To be sure you don’t miss the cut-off date you should do that as soon as possible.  Now might be a good time.

This year’s ballot will be unusually long because it will include revisions to the Florida state constitution which are very important.  We will have more on that in a different article.  For now, just keep in mind DON’T VOTE FOR WHITMORE OR SERVIA as they are supported by developers who clearly want to buy your vote. Don’t fall for their misleading propaganda.


August 24, 2018

Tuesday, August 28th, is PRIMARY ELECTION DAY. It you haven’t voted yet be sure to vote on Tuesday for change in Manatee County. If you don’t like it that our tax dollars are being used to pay the developers’ impact fees DON’T VOTE FOR CAROL WHITMORE because her vote made the difference in the vote to cap impact fees. Yes, one vote by one commissioner is costing the taxpayers of Manatee TEN vote countsTHOUSAND DOLLARS PER DAY. That is $10K out of our budget to pay for infrastructure that is required only because of new development. That works out to $3.65-million per year. It is time to say NO, no more giveaways to developers. And while you are at it, don’t vote for Misty Servia who makes no secret that she also favors impact fee discounts for the developers. It is time to take our county back and vote for candidates who will represent us and not give our hard-earned money to the rich developers. Your vote can make the difference.





August 3 , 2018

The developers (and other profit seekers) are contributing tens of thousands of dollars to two School Board candidates.  In 2009 the developer-controlled School Board suspended collection of School Impact Fees, that over the next seven years saved them more than $100,000,000.  It was a windfall of cash that they now dearly miss.  They want to control the School Board again so they can reduce or suspend impact fees again, keep tens of millions of dollars in their bank accounts, and make the tax payers pay their impact fees.  That is why they have given two Rick Scott-appointed School Board Candidates, John Colon and Scott Hopes, huge amounts of cash for their campaigns.  See the table below which is based on data from the Supervisor of Elections website.  Colon and Hopes are developer puppets and if elected will be instrumental in reducing or suspending impact fees the first chance they get.  That is why you should avoid voting for those two candidates.  After reviewing all candidates and the gross campaign contributions the developers (and other profit seekers) have given them (see table below), we have determined that the best candidates (in our opinion) for our School District, our students, our teachers, and for us, the taxpayers of Manatee County are as follow:

District 2 – Charles Kennedy
District 4 – Joseph Stokes
District 5 – James Golden

Every voter, regardless of where he/she lives, gets to vote for one candidate in each of the three Districts listed here.  This is THE ELECTION, not the primary.  Any of the candidates who gets the majority of the votes on August 28th will be on the School Board for the next four years.



July 8, 2018

Although November is considered the big election month, in Manatee County “Primary Day” in August is also election day for the School Board which controls 900-MILLION of your tax dollars.  Here are some things you should know.

School Board Election

For the sake of our students and your pocketbooks, every registered voter should PATRICIPATE in the AUGUST ELECTION/PRIMARY.

May 18, 2018

We have seen what happens when voters vote straight party-line in elections at all levels.  We often don’t get what we expected as powerful interest groups have hijacked our political system for their own benefit and at the expense of the common citizen.  That is not the way Democracy is supposed to work but when voters abdicate their responsibility to understand what candidates stand for, we often get unexpected “representatives” elected.

Knowledge is Power

That is what has happened here in Manatee County.  Some of our elected officials regularly act contrary to the wishes of the majority and instead support interest groups who financed their election.  We often hear disgruntled citizens complaining about higher taxes, traffic congestion, deteriorating infrastructure, and more while elected officials squander tax dollars on private enterprise that has little or no benefit for the public.

In recent years our elected officials have acted contrary to promises they made during the campaign and contrary to the best interests of the electorate.

How many times have we heard that “it is our own fault” for electing or reelecting officials that have a bad track record.  Unfortunately, it is true that many voters use name recognition or false promises as voting guides.  We know that candidates want to sell themselves so how do you identify the candidates who will best represent you?

There are quite a few things you can do but one of the best is to check to see who is financially supporting each candidate.  Be aware of candidates who are supported by interest groups who stand to financially benefit from having a “friend” on the Board or in another position of power.

The best source of information about campaign contributions in Manatee County is https://www.votemanatee.com the Supervisor of Elections website.  Once there, click on “Candidate Information” (left column) and then “Local Candidates & Committees” (in the dropdown menu).  Click on the candidate’s name to get more information.  Take a look at this now and you’ll get a good idea about donation amounts, click on the report dates to see individual contributions.  We think you’ll find it quite interesting.  We’ll give you sources for identifying individual contributors next time.

$10,000.00 PER DAY
April 25, 2018

On March 20th, four of our commissioners (Whitmore, Benac, Bough, Smith) voted to amend the Land Development Code (illegally) to cap impact fees at 90% of the amount recommended in the TischlerBise impact Fee Study. This will cost taxpayers over 10-million-dollars over the next three years. That is $10.0000.00 per day. And now they are talking about increasing taxes.

The chart below shows how Manatee County taxpayers are forced to pay 10% of the developers impact fees. Just think about the good uses that noney could be put to instead os subsidizing the wealthy developers. Think about that when you vote in November.

impact fee chart

Click on chart for a large printable image.

April 15, 2018

Manatee County impact fees are based on an “Impact Fees Study” done by a reputable firm that specializes in doing such studies.  The most recent study done for Manatee County and the Manatee County School District was done by TischlerBise, Inc. at a cost of $171,000 (+50K for the schools).  TischlerBise has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the U.S. and Canada.  Although some of those scam alertstudies have been challenged by developers, none has ever been successfully challenged.  That means that the impact fees set by those studies are accurate.  There is no reason to believe that the impact fees charged by Manatee County aren’t also accurate.

As per the State of Florida Impact Fee Act, impact fees pay for “infrastructure necessitated by new growth”.  The TischlerBise Study covered both school infrastructure and county infrastructure.

School infrastructure includes new schools that are needed only because of new development and capital expenditures for infrastructure that would not be required except for that new development.  Existing residents will not benefit from that infrastructure and should not have to pay for it.  School impact fees pay for school buildings themselves, land on which the schools are built, school buses for those schools, athletic fields including spectator stands, storm drainage systems around the schools, classroom equipment for science labs, computer labs, technology/occupational shops and more.  School impact fees are currently collected at the impact fee study recommended rate, 100%.

The TischlerBise 2015 County study (an update of their 2013 study), included capital expenditures for infrastructure necessitated for Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Multimodal Transportation, Parks & Natural Resources, Libraries, and Administrative Services.  County impact fees are presently collected at the 90% rate and were scheduled to go to 100% on April 18th.  On March 20, 2018 the Board of Commissioners voted, without justification, to cap county impact fees at 90%.  That means that the County (the taxpayers) will have to absorb the other 10% which amounts to over $10-million over the next three years.

There are two categories of impact fees in Manatee County: residential and nonresidential.  Residential rates are determined by the size of living space in square feet (per residence) and the location of those structures within the county.  Nonresidential rates are based on size in square feet and the type of structure (10 types) such as manufacturing, nursing home, office & other service, and lodging).

There are also “Facility Investment Fees” (Ord. 6-88, 10-70, and 15-22) in Manatee County which include water, sewer (wastewater), and fire service.  “..consultants retained by the county have recommended amendments to certain provisions of Article VIII of Chapter 2-21…” “The County retained the services of Public Resources Management Group, Inc., and McKim & Creed Engineers P.A., to prepare a report entitled “Manatee County, Florida, Water and Wastewater Facility Investment Fees” Dated July 27, 2006 (“Facility Investment Fees Study”)…”  It further states, “The Facility Investment Fees established in this article are based on the facility investment fees study and additional calculations by the staff.”

FIFs are less well-known fees and do not fall under impact fees in Manatee County. In some other Florida counties water, wastewater, and fire services are included under impact fees.  Ordinance 15-22 suggests that current facility impact fees (FIFs) are based on a twelve-year-old study (partially updated in 2015) plus “calculations by the staff”.

Impact fees require an annual audit while nothing is said in Ordinance 15-22 about an audit for FIFs.  Information stated here suggest that water, wastewater, and fire service should be included with Impact Fees and that Facility Investment Fees may be grossly under charged (because part of the study is 12 years old) and should be investigated by an independent outside authority. 

The cap on county impact fees was approved without justification which is contrary to the Manatee County Land Development Code.  This should also be investigated by an independent outside authority. 


April 10, 2018

Land Development Code Ordinance 18-07 was approved by the Board of commissioners on March 20, 2018.  That is an amendment to the LDC which April 18, 2018 allows the impact fee rate to stay at 90% instead of going to 100%.  That change, over the next three years, will cost the taxpayers of Manatee County at least 10-million-dollars.

The amendment provisions of the LDC (Section 341.2.F) specifically state:

Board of County Commissioners Review. At the hearing, the Board may:

1. Determine that the proposed amendment is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and promotes the public health, safety and welfare, and adopt the proposed amendment as proposed, or with such modifications as are necessary to assure consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and to promote public health, safety and welfare;

2. Refer the matter back to the Planning Commission for further consideration; or

3. Determine that the proposed amendment is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan or does not promote the public health, safety or welfare, and deny the proposed amendment.

Clearly the Board chose option 1 indicating that they believe that the amendment promotes public health, safety, and welfare.  We think using $10M tax dollars to pay for infrastructure required only because of development is not in our best interest and does not “promote the public health, safety or welfare”.

In fact taking $10M out of our tax revenue precludes using it to improve our safety, health, and welfare.  For example, the Sheriff has publicly stated that he needs 50 more deputies.  Using those tax dollars to hire at least some of those officers would promote our safety and welfare and making sure our first responders had adequate NARCAN kits could prevent overdose deaths,  In fact there are hundreds of uses for those tax dollars that put it to better use than giving it to the developers.

Those Board members who voted for the developers instead of the people of Manatee County clearly do not represent us the taxpayers and citizens of Manatee County.  In fact, what they did is contrary to the amendment provisions of the LDC and likely unlawful.  We have already contacted the State of Florida’s Attorney General’s Office for clarification.

And, while we are on the subject, who requested that this amendment to the LDC be considered by the BoCC?  We know it came out of a workshop session but a Freedom of Information Act request of meeting notes did not include the names of those who brought up the topic for consideration.  Do you think that was an oversight or intentional?

The bottom line is that we cannot trust our Board of Commissioners to do the right think.  With an election coming up in November one issue needs to be forefront, impact fees.  How do the candidates stand on impact fees?  There is no valid reason why we should support any candidate for either the Board of Commissioners or the School Board who does not favor collection of 100% of the recommended impact fees. Vote them out!!!


March 25, 2028

The Board of Commissioners voted last week to have county taxpayers, pay 10% of the developers’ impact fees.  No justification was given by the four commissioners who voted to take over ten-million-dollars out of our county revenue, over the next three years, and use it to pay for infrastructure that is required only because of new development.   

After giving developers discounts on impact fees since 2008, they were scheduled to end on April 18th but that all changed with the Board vote to amend the Land Development Code and vote to cap impact fee collection at 90% thus continuing the impact fee discount indefinately.

The Land Development Code (LDC) has specific rules for amending the Code.  It States:






At no point during the hearing did any member of the Board mention how amending the Land Development Code to cap collection of impact fees at 90% (Ordinance 18-07) promotes the public health, safety and welfare.  They did not, and they could not, because they cannot justify their vote.  They should therefore immediately rescind their vote and allow the rate of impact fee collection to go to 100% as stipulated by LDC Section – 1102.3 prior to this amendment.

An Open Letter to the Board of Commissioners and the People of Manatee County
March 14, 2018

If impact fees are capped at 90%, it will cost the County more than $10-million over the first three years.  That figure is based on the impact fees actually paid during fiscal year 2016-2017 which was $24,117,181.61 (from Freedom of Information request).  That amount was collected at the 80% and 90% rates. 80% from Oct. 1, 2016 through April 17, 2017 and 90% from April18, 2017 through Sep. 30, 2017.  Click HERE for full calculation.

By calculating the 100% amount for each of those two periods and adding them together, we got the total amount that would have been democracypaid during FY 16-17 if impact fees had been collected at the 100% rate. That works out to $28,623,075.04.  In other words, the developers saved $4,505,893.47 because of the reduced collection rates during FY16-17.

While the developers saved over $4.5M that fiscal year, the county lost that same amount because it had to provide 100% of the infrastructure necessitated by new development to meet “concurrency” requirements and the “level of service” in the rest of the county and not just the 90% the developers paid for.  Providing less or inferior infrastructure is not an option. That means that $4.5M had to be taken out of the county’s other revenue and was not available for projects that would directly benefit taxpayers.

If impact fees had been capped at 90% during FY 16-17, the shortfall would have been $2.86M (not $2M as suggested in the Planning Commission meeting and which was based on older data).

Impact fees during this FY (2017-18) are being collected at the 90% rate but are scheduled to increase to 100% on April 18th. If they are capped at 90% the cost to the county will be in excess of $3M.  That takes into account expected increased growth and inflation and will continue to increase every year.  If impact fees are capped at 90%, the county can expect to spend over $10M in the first three years to compensate for non-payment of 10% of the recommended impact fees by the developers.

That is $10M out of our county revenue that can't be used for projects such as road repair and improvements, low-cost housing, more emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire trucks, sidewalks, and many other projects that will go underfunded or unfunded if the developers are not required to pay for all of the infrastructure that is necessary only because of their new development.

The bottom line is that the developers are selling record numbers of houses and are making record profits.  Manatee County, on the other hand, has not fully recovered from the "Great Recession".  The Sheriff, for example, recently reported that he was short 50 officers and even if he had them he doesn’t have the patrol cars to accommodate them.  The Public Works Department does not have enough funding to construct sidewalks needed so citizens don't have to walk or ride bicycles on busy roads.  The county is struggling to find funding for indigent care and for affordable housing, repair or replace deteriorating infrastructure, and much more.

It just does not make sense to use much needed county revenue to pay for infrastructure that is required only because of new development, especially when the developers are making record profits and they could pass impact fee costs on to home buyers.

Section 341 of the Land Development Code addresses "LDC Amendments". Paragraph 341.2.F states in part that, in order to approve an amendment to the LDC, the Board of Commissioners must, "Determine that the proposed amendment is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and promotes the public health, safety and welfare...".  The amendment to cap impact fees at 90% does not meet that test.

Taking over $10M (over three years) out of the county revenue to pay10% of the impact fees of private companies is not in our best interest and does not "promote public health, safety and welfare".  Using those funds for projects that directly benefit the people of Manatee County as mentioned does meet that test and does not violate Section 341 of the LDC.

The developers will argue that capping impact fees will allow them to sell houses for less thus increasing sales.  They have used that argument before but there is no proof that they ever reduced the prices of their houses or even built more houses when impact fees were discounted.  It is well known that prices of house are “market driven”.  If the developers can get more for each house, they will.  If sales are slumping they may reduce prices regardless of impact fees.

They will also argue that when they sell more houses, the tax base increases. That is true but it is well known that property taxes do not fully pay for the services the county provides to each home. That means that the county actually loses money for every new house built. And, since a “cost of services study” has not been done in Manatee County in over 30 years, the cost to the county is doubtless much higher than costs based on a thirty-year-old study.  However, it should be noted that future tax receipts have no bearing on the cost of infrastructure required by new development so the developers’ assertion is not even relevant.

There is also no proof that lower impact fees create more jobs.  With unemployment rates at the lowest level since 2000, there is a shortage of employees and considering that most of the house construction in north of I-75, many employees come from other counties where they live, spend their money, and pay their taxes which has no positive impact on Manatee County.

At previous hearings, some developer representatives have referred to impact fees as “unfair taxes”.  Impact fees are not unfair and they are not taxes.  Impact fees may be used only to provide infrastructure that is necessitated because of new development.  Impact fees pay for roads, emergency vehicles, parks, libraries, and a multitude of other infrastructure that is needed only for new development and does not benefit the rest of the county.  Impact fees are not taxes and anyone who calls them taxes at a hearing is misinformed or if knowingly misrepresenting them as taxes, risks serious legal consequences if under oath.

Some have suggested that buyers of older homes didn’t have to pay impact fees but they neglect to note that there are roads, parks, schools, and other infrastructure in those areas that were funded by the original owners and those costs are included in the price of those homes.

Unlike taxes, fees are used to pay for specific services or physical materials that directly benefit the fee payer.  Impact fees are a cost of doing business just like the cost of plumbing, electric wiring, windows, and roofs.  They are required for each home.  Imagine what a home would be like if it didn’t have a roof.  Likewise, imagine what a house would be like if there were no roads leading to it or no fire station nearby in the event of a fire.

The State of Florida passed the “Impact Fee Act” because communities were going broke providing infrastructure for new developments.  It isn’t fair to make the county pay for that infrastructure or even part of it.  Impact fees should be paid by the developer and passed on to the home buyer as part of the cost of each house.  Why are developers complaining if they are doing that?

Impact fee rates are set by Impact Fee Studies that are required by the Impact Fee Act.  TishlerBise, Inc. did our last study at a cost of $171,000.  TishlerBise has done over 900 Impact Fee Studies all over the nation and has a stellar record of never being successfully sued for not recommending accurate impact fee rates.

The developers are likely to “hint” that they will sue the County if Impact Fee rates go to 100%.  They know that there would be no basis for a lawsuit since they were free to have input as the study was being conducted and again after the new county sales tax was approved but, they have threatened to sue before.  Some, including our own county lawyers, may suggest that the cost of a lawsuit would be prohibitive to the county.  First, the probability would be extremely low considering TishlerBise’s stellar record and, second the cost of a lawsuit would be dwarfed by the loss of over $10,000,000 over the first three years if the 90% cap is imposed or $5,000,000 if a 95% cap is approved.  There should be no gift of capping Impact Fees for the developers.  They are having record sales and record profits while the County has still not fully recovered from the “Great Recession”.

Studies show that counties that collect impact fees at 100% prosper more than those that don’t (Brookings Institution). I therefore respectfully request that you vote "NO" on "ORDINANCE 18-07 LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE TEXT AMENDMENT/CONSIDERATION OF IMPACT FEES AT 90%" or any other rate less than 100%. 

 Sincerely, Ed Goff


March 3, 2018

In a “memorandum” to the County recently obtained through a Freedom of Information request, we learned that the County “mistakenly” did not collect over $2M in non-residential impact fees between October 11, 2011 and October 31, 2016.

Non-Residential or Commercial impact fees are calculated manually, unlike other impact fees which are computed automatically.  The oopsmemo from the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller was an “Impact Fee Revenues Follow-up Audit” and reviewed a sample of only 269 commercial permits from a total of 2,192 using “statistical and judgmental sampling”.  Exceptions were found in impact fee assessments in 33 (12.27%) of the permits tested.  All were undercharges.  No overcharges were reported.  It is not known if there were errors in the other 1,923 permits!

Management has taken corrective action including hiring an additional employee, moving the function, organizationally within the County to allow for direct reporting to the Infrastructure & Strategic Planning Official, and the Financial Management Department will conduct quarterly reviews of the manual impact fee assessments.  An impact fee consultant has also been contracted to revise the Impact Fee section of the Land Development Code.

So, what about the detected $2M+ of undercharges and the other 1,923 permits that weren’t in the “sample”?  Well, “Management does not intend to pursue the collection of any under-assessed impact fees.  It is their belief that once permits have been approved and issued, the County is obligated to honor the impact fee assessments at those amounts.”

It looks like the taxpayers lose again.  Nothing was said about legal action or what happened to the employees who were responsible for those “mistakes” that always favored the developers.


February 20, 2018

On January 4th we wrote to the Manatee County Impact Fee Administration Office requesting information about impact fee collection.  A number of citizens had asked us how much money 10% of Impact Fees represents.  If Impact Fees were capped at 90% how much 10M-Dollar billwould the county have to pay to make sure the developers have the infrastructure they required for their developments?

We received an immediate response form manager Dwaine Guthrie who seemed to want to help.  His email was also copied to John Osborne, Elaine Barker, and Kathleen Thompson.  Over the next several weeks we exchanged emails with various county employees who referred us to others or told us to be more specific about exactly what we wanted.  These emails clearly were efforts to prevent us from getting the information we had requested in our first email.

Finally, we were referred to Debbie Scaccianoce at the public records office.  We were directed to the “Public Records Requests” website but didn’t have an account so we requested one and were able to access the totally inadequate website where we made a number of requests for information.  That was on January 30th.  We made one request and seven more on February 5th.  None have been answered as of this writing, Feb. 20th.

We feel that the county is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Florida Sunshine Law.  We are now working with a lawyer gathering information for possible action.

Finally, from a different source, we were able to get one of our requests answered.  We were told that the Manatee County collected $24,117,181.61 in Impact Fees for fiscal year 2016-2017 which started on October 1, 2016 and ended on September 30, 2017.  This amount does not include any credits the developers may have received for infrastructure they provided, “donated” land, or other allowable credits.

Our goal was to calculate the amount of Impact Fees that would have been collected if the developers had been charged 100%.  Since the rate of collection changed from 80% to 90% on April 18, 2017 we used the number of days it was at each rate (199 days and 166 days) to estimate the proportion that was collected at each rate.  That came out to $13,148,687.414 and $10,968,494.196 respectively.  By dividing these amounts by the rate in effect when they were collected we were able to get the 100% amounts for each period (80% and 90%).  By adding those values together, we got $28,623,075.04 as 100% of the amount that could have been collected for FY16-17.

At the Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 8 one of the commissioners asked what 10% represented in dollars and was told 2M-dollars.  Our figures indicate 2.86M-dollars based on 100% collection last year.  Assuming increased construction and inflation we suggest that 10% this year will be in excess of 3M-dollars which will only increase over the next three years starting on April 18th (the date the collection rate is scheduled to go the 100%).  We therefore conclude that over a three-year period it will cost the county over $10,000,000 if impact fees are capped at 90%.

So, what does all this mean?  Well, first it means that last FY the developers paid $4.5M less than the recommended 100% which means that our tax dollars made up the difference. It also means that if the Board of County Commissioners decide to cap impact fees at 90% even though the developers are having record sales and record profits, we tax payers will have to make up the difference which will amount to over $10M over the next three years.

Just think what could be done with that money.  Streets could be repaired, safety improvements could be made, help with indigent care, qualify of life could be improved, etc.  We are sure the commissioners could think of a multitude of ways to spend that money rather that give it to the developers who are already making record profits.

The fact is that Ordinance 18-07 (capping impact fees at 90%) is contrary to the Land Development Code Section 341.2.F.1 which states that the Board of Commissioners may “Determine that the proposed amendment is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and promotes the public health, safety and welfare, and adopt the proposed amendment as proposed, or with such modifications as are necessary to assure consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and to promote public health, safety and welfare;”

Clearly using $10,000,000 to pay for infrastructures that the developers (private companies) should pay for does not “promote the public health, safety and welfare” of the people of Manatee County and therefore, is not in compliance with the provision for amending the LDC.

Please contact your commissioner and come to the public hearings on March 1st and/or 20th to voice your opinion on this issue.  The developers have not paid their share for over ten years which has severely hurt our county.  It long past time for them to pay their fair share.


January 15, 2018

It would seem that the developers are having financial problems since they have asked the County to cap the collection of impact fees at 90%.  Of course, they will probably argue that the impact fee study done by TishlerBise, Inc. was flawed, and they will sue the county if impact fees are finally returned to 100% on April 18th for the first time since 2008.  The most recent discounts were approved by the 100 %Board of Commissioners on December 3, 2015 with Ordinance 15-43.  The new rates recommended by the TischlerBise study went into effect on April 18, 2016, giving the developers a 20% discount of the recommended rates.  That discount was reduced to 10% last April 18th and is scheduled to go 0% on April 18, 2018.  That is why the developers are in such a twit. In the over nine years since 2008, they have gotten accustomed to keeping a portion of the impact fees they legally owe and they don’t like paying what they owe,

The 1st public hearing concerning this issue is scheduled for February the 8th Planning Commission meeting.  The Board of Commissioners will meet on March 1st and March 20th concerning the issue with the vote taking place on April 5th. There is little doubt that we will hear from the usual multi-millionaires, Pat Neal and Carlos Beruff, about how thin their profit margin is and how they provide hundreds of jobs to local workers.  We’ll probably also hear from Rex Jensen, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO, who will argue that we need to encourage economic development to be competitive with other counties.  He won’t mention the traffic congestion caused by uncontrolled over-development or the deterioration of existing infrastructure, neglected because of lack of funding or the lower quality of life in Manatee County, as compared to other counties.

We’ll probably also hear from some local sub-contractors who were “encouraged” to go to the hearing by the developers.  They will say that impact fees are unfair taxes that reduce how much they can pay their employees even though the developers are very kind and fair and always pay them fairly and promptly.  Someone from the community will inform them that impact fees are NOT TAXES and that communities that charge impact fees prosper more than communities that don’t. (Brookings Institute and others)

We’ll likely hear from County Administrator, Ed Hunzeker, who will reiterate how he ”has never transferred property taxes into the Capital Improvement Program to pay for infrastructure” but will neglect to say that $100M in infrastructure bonds issued by the county are paid back including interest with tax revenue, including property taxes and sales taxes, which we all have to pay.

Ed Vogler, omni present developer attorney, will hint lawsuit without mentioning the term while giving praise to the commissioners who are “doing a wonderful job” and who he knows will do the right thing for everyone especially the developers who have given so much to the county.
There will be the usual back and forth among the commissioners.  Betsy Benac (aka “developer puppet”) will claim that the impact fee study is not exact, it is not a science, it is just an estimate and if it is wrong, Our legal fees to defend 100% collection of impact fees will be huge.  We are better off capping them at 90% to insure the developers don’t sue us.  She will ignore the fact that TischlerBise, Inc. has NEVER lost a challenge to any of the over 900 impact fee studies they have done all over the nation.  The probability that they made a mistake in Manatee County is 0%.  Not being one to give up easily, she will probably suggest a 95% cap which is probably what she actually wanted anyway.

Some of the other commissioners will be in favor of 100% impact fee collection.  These include DiSabatino, Smith, and probably Whitmore who is up for election in November.  Benac will favor a discount although she’ll try to make it look like she is wavering.  That is part of the game.  You have to find out how the other commissioners are going to vote before you make a commitment. She wants to vote for a discount but will only do that if there is a question of it passing.

Whisenant Trace is still somewhat unknown.  She is a thinker and will see through the developer’s rhetoric.  She’ll weigh the pros and cons; but in the end, we think she’ll side with the taxpayers, even though the developers may withhold funding if she runs for re-election.  The voters, on the other hand, are likely to reward her for doing the right thing. Jonsson could hold the swing vote.  Generally, he goes with the majority; but if that is not obvious, we think he’ll side with the developers.

Whatever the vote, it’s likely to have a long-term effect.  It is a change to the Land Development Code (LDC) which is permanent for all future impact fee studies.  It could represent hundreds of millions of dollars that the developers will not pay even though the impact fee studies recommend that is what they owe.

Ideally, the impact fee rate would be set at 100% permanently.  If there is any valid reason why the developers shouldn’t always pay what they own, we would like to know what it is.

October 22, 2017

Florida Greenways and Trails wants the SUN Trail to run through Manatee County and the State is putting up $25-million per year, shared among all the counties, to fund grants for this project.  Unlike bicycle lanes, multi-use urban trails are for pedestrians, slower moving bicycles, and other non-motorized modes of travel and are completely separated from roads by wide “green zones” and in some cases the road may not even be visible.

After blocking any trails in Manatee County for many years (other than in parks and preserves) the developers are suddenly interested and have managed to get an “eastern trail” on the list of priority trails for Manatee County and are trying to get our #1 trail deleted from the 2018 FGTS Priority Map.

For almost twenty years county residents have been advocating multi-use trails for safe and healthy exercise and commuting. Two comprehensive studies (2002 and 2013) recommended that the #1 priority trail should run between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island generally paralleling the Manatee River.

The developers want it to run east of Interstate 75 and they are willing to donate some land to encourage the deal and make county officials jump at the opportunity.  But, it really isn’t free because the trail would have to go through or by existing or planned developments thus enhancing developer land values. An eastern trail would have to cross several state highways including SR62, SR64 and SR70.  And much of the trail would be routed under Florida Power and Light high-voltage electric lines, not exactly scenic views! And, when it gets to the Sarasota County line it ends.

It would be called the “Wilderness Trail” because much of it is out in (you guessed it) the wilderness, no shade, no water, no toilets, no stores or other services, nothing but scrub.  To be fair, there are a few “nice” areas but this trail does not meet the minimum SUN Trail requirements to be safe, to be scenic, to have connectivity to points of interest, to serve the local and visiting populations, and to be ready for construction.  If the Florida Greenways and Trails System wants a trail to bypass Manatee County and all its attractions then the Wilderness Trail is it.

TrailOn the other hand, the “Western Coastal Route” has it all.  It connects many population centers in the County including Parish, Ellenton, Palmetto, the City of Bradenton, West and Northwest Bradenton, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, and Longboat Key where it will connect to the Legacy Trail in Sarasota County.  In addition, it connects points of interest including three preserves: Riverview Pointe Preserve, Robinson Preserve, and Perico Preserve.  It is also mostly shady and most of the route is already owned by the County or is wide right-of-way. 

Points of interest along the route include the Railroad Museum, Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Emerson Point Preserve, Palmetto Historical Park, Riverwalk, South Florida Museum, Old Main Street (Bradenton), Desoto Memorial, Palma Sola Botanical Park, three preserves (Riverview Pointe, Robinson, Perico), and two public beaches (Manatee County Beach and Coquina Beach) directly on the Gulf of Mexico.

There are numerous public restrooms already in place along the way with water fountains, benches, shady picnic tables, and even a camp ground in Robinson Preserve. This all means lower cost.

Parts of the Coastal Route are already “shovel ready” including the western edge of Perico Preserve and the northern portion of Robinson Preserve along the Manatee River. 

The Cities of Palmetto, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach are already committed.  They realize that most of the funding for this trail will be provided by FGTS and local investment will return as much as 9 to 1 on that investment.  For every $1 invested, the community will earn $9 according to the Florida Greenways and Trails, Foundation. 

The City of Bradenton probably has the most to gain because the trail will provide easy commuter access to downtown areas via bicycle and foot which is almost impossible now because of SR64 (Manatee Ave.) and the Wares Creek bridge are a dangerous choke point.  This western trail will not have to cross any major roads and because it will parallel the river there will be very few cross-streets.

And, the Coastal Trail will provide the backbone of a trail network serving at least nine schools, numerous neighborhoods, and other trails already in the county master plan especially trails that will service our less fortunate citizens who depend on bicycles to get to work and home again.

To squelch the Gulf Coast Trail, the developers have influenced the MPO to “Delete 2018” the portion of the trail running along the Manatee River in the City of Bradenton, west and northwest Bradenton as indicated on the DRAFT copy of the “FGTS Opportunity and Priority Trails Map”.  Instead, the County has substituted a one-mile-wide “swath” along Manatee Avenue that will be “studied” for a possible future route which is nonsense since we already have two comprehensive studies.  Those two studies (2002 and 2013) both recommend the Riverview-Robinson Preserve route, why would our MPO request that our trail be “Deleted 2018” so they could do yet another study?  Click HERE to see the map provided by the Sarasota-Manatee MPO. Note the red X's on the DRAFT Plan (2nd page).

Obviously, the deletion is a thinly veiled effort by the developers to take the Gulf Coast Trail out of consideration.  Deleted-2018They want the SUN Trail to go out east because it will increase the value of their property and be one more amenity to entice home buyers.  It is ironic that the developers vehemently opposed any trails in Manatee County for over twenty years because it would increase impact fees and now they favor them.  Well, they were successful.  Manatee County has zero miles of multi-use trails except those in parks and preserves.

All our neighbor counties have extensive trail systems and a dedicated bicycle/pedestrian trail coordinator.  Manatee County has none but now that the State is providing funding, developers want the trails so they can make more money but they only want them if they go east of the Interstate where most of the new development is.

We need to tell Florida Greenways and Trails that we want, need, and deserve the SUN Trail to take the western route along the Gulf Coast.  Please help by doing one of the following:

1) - Attend a Public Workshop in North Port on October 26 (Thurs.) at the:
Morgan Family Community Center
Meeting Room A/B
6207 West Price Blvd.
North Port, FL 34291
4:00-7:00 ET

If you would like to attend’ email OurManateeCounty@gmail.com for carpool information.

2) - Click on the link below and fill out the form and mail it in:
FGTSPlanCommentForm REVISED blank.docx

3) -Email Samantha Browne at:

How ever you decide to send your ideas, please make sure you mention that you are in favor of the “Western Coastal Route for the SUN Trail along Riverview Blvd. in Manatee County”.  Make sure you tell Ms. Browne why you favor that route.

Please take a few minutes to help stop the developers from taking our trail away.  We need and deserve it. The only way we can get this trail is if many people in Manatee County let Florida Greenways and Trails know what we want.  Please write to Ms. Browne.  samantha.browne@dep.state.fl.us

The article above was produced by “Friends of Manatee Trails”

September 27, 2017

On September 11, 2017 Hurricane Irma’s eye passed east of Manatee County as a category 1 storm.  Hurricane force winds from the north downed hundreds of trees, removed roofs, and cut electricity to most of the county.  The 75+ mph winds from the north emptied Palma Sola Bay. 

Had the hurricane turned later as predicted and come up the west coast of Florida it would have been devastating for Manatee County.  With counterclockwise winds, Irma could have produced a storm surge of 10’ or more as winds of well over 100 mph from the south center lakepushed water into Palma Sola Bay.  NW Bradenton would have been inundated as the storm water surged through neighborhoods crossing from Palma Sola Bay over to the Mantatee River and then again into Snead Island and Palmetto. Further south, water would have been funneled into Sarasota Bay and would have surged into Bayshore Gardens, Long Bar Point, and Tidy Island.  Longboat Key, Cortez, and Anna Maria Island would also have been inundated as the storm moved north and the winds shifted more westerly pushing seawater up the Manatee and Braden Rivers causing high storm surges well inland.

Yes, we were very lucky but we can’t depend on luck to save us. We must stop ignoring FEMA predictions and start controlling construction in coastal areas.  Keep in mind that predictions are based on only Category 1 hurricanes and that our (Florida West Coast) peak hurricane season is October and November when storms originate in the Caribbean where the water temperature is still in the 90’s.

Developers use the term “vertical re-zoning” to describe filling in low areas to bring them up from Coastal High Hazard Areas to higher flood evacuation zones.  The problem is that by developing that land they decrease the amount of permeable land by covering it with buildings, roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalk, etc.  The result is faster runoff thus flooding  now-lower surrounding areas.  A good example is the Center Lake neighborhood here in Manatee County that was totally flooded in August by a heavy rain storm because surrounding developments had elevated the land. http://wfla.com/2017/08/28/centre-lake-neighborhood-submerged-homeowners-dealing-with-ongoing-nightmare/

Tides End a new Neal development under construction in NW Bradenton brought in thousands of truckloads of fill to bring that property up out of the Coastal High Hazard Area.  Time will tell what destruction that will have on nearby neighborhoods. http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20161006/commissioners-ok-tides-end-38-home-neal-subdivision
Now Carlos Beruff wants to elevate his Long Bar Pointe property called Aqua by the Bay to keep it safe from storm surges and rising sea level.  We can predict what will happen to Tidy Island, Legends Bay, and other nearby neighborhoods in the event of a storm surge that is sure to come eventually, probably long after the developer has banked his profit and departed to wreak havoc on other low-lying areas.

Yes, it is the responsibility for the county to protect its citizens.  Let’s hope they start doing that soon.


July 19, 2017

Read and share the brochure below. It is full of things you can do to stop destruction of our beautiful bay. Beruff wants a marina that will accommodate hundreds of boats. Those boats will destroy the seagrass that took twenty years and millions of dollars to restore. His proposed canal and huge cement seawall will deflect water that will destroy the mangrove forest along the shore and in the event of a storm it will cause flooding of areas north and south of his ill conceived development. He must not be allowed to violate our comprehensive plan. Get involved to help stop him from changing our shoreline forever. Click this link to open a full sized and printable copy of this brochure. brochure






















July 4, 2017

On November 5, 2002, the citizens of Leon County approved making it a “Home Rule Charter” county. The charter, which is the county's constitution provides citizens more direct participation in county government. Specific citizen powers outlined in the charter include:

– Citizens can petition to call for a referendum to consider charter revisions or petition to bring an ordinance before the Board of County Commissioners for an official vote.

Charter Review
– Citizens can review and make recommendations for charter revisions.

– Citizens can remove a commissioner from office for official misconduct.

Below are "Fast Facts" charter advocates produced to help inform Leon County electors before the vote.

Charter fast facts
















Click here for a PDF copy of these Leon County "Charter Fast Facts".

Click here to see and print the petition for charter government in Manatee County. (2 copies, 1 for you and 1 for a friend)


Stuart Smith - For Suncoast Waterkeeper and Sierra Club
June 26, 2017

Developer Carlos Beruff’s scheme to build a linear lagoon and seawall 2½ miles long just behind the mangroves at Aqua by the Bay on Long Bar Pointe endangers nearby neighbors and the Outstanding Florida Waters of Sarasota Bay, but he does not seem to be concerned.

dangerTidy Island, with 96 homes directly west of Aqua by the Bay, lies in the path of any storm surge reflected off the seawall. Mr. Beruff also plans to make the lagoon part of his stormwater system, routing runoff to the lagoon then letting it drain into the bay. But his team has no idea how or if it will work.

The system could well exacerbate the inevitable decline of the mangroves, deprived by the seawall and lagoon of the natural flow of upland sediments which ordinarily restore the soils swept away by every tide.

A weakened forest would compromise storm surge protection for Aqua by the Bay and increase wave reflection from the seawall toward Tidy Island, cutting the causeway which is the only access to the community, making it impossible for residents to evacuate or to return after a storm, and violating Comprehensive Plan provisions 4.3 and 3.3.1 that protect coastal residents from natural disaster. Mr. Beruff has done no storm surge studies.

CB&I, a consultant hired by Manatee County to study the lagoon, said unknown tidal flows could make the lagoon stagnate, not a pleasant prospect for residents of Aqua by the Bay, or rush through the mangroves “undermining the foundation and root systems” and even “adversely impacting seagrass beds.”

CB&I recommended a flushing study more than a year ago. Mr. Beruff has yet to do one. To see complete CB&I Report CLICK HERE.



June 22, 2017

no tax increaseIt is all about money and education. Years ago, the developers realized that both sales tax revenue and impact fee revenue could be used to construct new schools, buy new school buses, add more classrooms to existing schools, and numerous other capital expenditures for the school district. That is why they were so anxious in 2002 to promote the original school sales tax and the 2016 vote to extend it another 15 years.

The developers plan was, and still is, to use as much of the sales tax revenue as possible for capital expenditures required by new development thus making it look like collecting the full 100% impact fee was/is not needed and should not be charged.

What they don’t tell you is that their scheme produces a shortfall in funding for non-new-development-required infrastructure. That is why some of our schools have deteriorated and why we have so many sub-standard portable classrooms, and outdated equipment to name a few. And that is why the school district just borrower $150,000,000 which we will have to pay back plus interest one way or another.

If the school district had been collecting the full 100% impact fees since 2008 we would not be in our present budgetary situation.

The developers, by manipulating elections and county employees, were able to orchestrate the complete suspension of school impact fees for seven-and-a-half years and get huge impact fee discounts for the past two years thus reducing school revenue by over $100,000.000 while keeping that same amount in their pockets. It is no wonder that they have a lot of cash to support their hand-picked candidates and to promote the sales tax. They are using OUR money and now they want more.

If the School Board is successful in having property taxes increased we should say good-by to the developers ever paying what they owe in impact fees which is 100% of what the impact fee study recommends.

There is a better way. Last year, 2016, residential property owners paid three different school sales taxes as follows:

Total School Property Tax – 6.9200 mills

That equates to a tax of $6.92/ $1000 of your house assessment less the homestead exemption of $25K. A house assessed for $300K last year paid a school sales tax of $1,903. If the 1 mil increase is approved, the new tax for that same house will be $2,178 plus the increase in assessment which is capped at 3%. That works out to $2,249, a tax increase of $346.28.

The State allows other school taxes that require voter approval. The School Board could propose a referendum that increased the millage by 0.5 mills and at the same time reduced the “Capital Improvement” tax by the same amount, 0.5 mills. The total school millage would remain unchanged at 6.92 mills.

With increased revenue from the continuing sales tax and School Impact Fees set at 100% there should be no shortage of funds for “Capital Improvements”.

The bottom line is that under this plan, there is no need to increase school property tax and still increase teacher compensation..

Revised May 29, 2017

CharterWith a Charter, the county may change the way it is structured and how it functions to meet the needs of the county without having to go to the legislature for permission.

There are two types of county government in Florida: non-charter government and charter government. Sections 1(f) and (g), Art. VIII of the State Constitution, respectively provide:

Non-Charter Government: Counties not operating under county charters have powers of self-government that are provided by general and/or special law. The board of county commissioners for the non-charter counties may enact, in a manner prescribed by general law, county ordinances that are not inconsistent with general or special law, but an ordinance in conflict with a municipal ordinance shall not be effective within the municipality to the extent of such conflict.

Charter Government: Counties operating under county charters shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law, or with special law approved by vote of the electors. The governing body of a county operating under a charter may enact county ordinances not inconsistent with general law. The charter shall provide which shall prevail in the event of conflict between county and municipal ordinances.

The county and its cities also have more flexibility for ways to collaborate.  Much is being made by the cities of a potential county "takeover" of their prerogatives.  In actuality, the charter counties work with the cities better, because they have more options.  Try doing a search for articles about Florida charter counties- conflicts with their cities due to county preemption of the city's ordinances.  You get zero.  What you do get though, is tons of articles about the state legislature pre-empting both city and county authorities.   

Citizen Advantages

These are some possibilities.  The initial charter would be a “starter charter” that would include the most popular items.  Later as the need becomes apparent, new items could be added (or rejected) through referendums on ballots during regular elections (no additional cost)

BoCC Advantages

There are also significant advantages for our elected officials.  We often see our Board of Commissioners struggle with decisions because State Laws don’t address all situations.  Many of those common issues could be written into the charter so there would be no need for further debate.  This would lead to:

Again, this is just a short list.  There are numerous pros and cons which need to be reviewed and debated before the Board of Commissioners would authorize formation of a charter commission.  Also, Florida Statute 125-61, upon the submission of a petition to the county commission signed by at least 15 percent of the qualified electors of the county requesting that a charter commission be established, a charter commission shall be appointed pursuant to subsection (2) within 30 days of the adoption of said resolution or of the filing of said petition.

On June 14th from 6:00 – 9:00 PM the Board of County Commissioners will meet at the Convention Center in Palmetto to discuss “Charter Governments”.  The public will have an opportunity to speak.

Background on a Previous Attempt at Charter Government

In 2002 there was an attempt to form a charter government in Manatee County.  That attempt was unpopular primarily because a “proposed” charter put too much control in the hands of the county at the expense of the incorporated municipalities, the cities and towns in Manatee County.  That “Charter” was not official and was not written by a charter committee as required by the State Constitution, and was never voted no by the people of Manatee County.

As a compromise a document known as “The Accord” was composed and agreed upon by various incorporated governments in the County.  “The Accord” may be seen at http://ourmanatee.com/Accord.pdf  This document became a “General Interlocal Agreement” with the County and Municipalities that signed it.  It is not and was not a charter.  The Accord is still in effect but does not hold the weight of a charter.

As reported in the SUN, 20 of the 67 counties in Florida already have charter governments.  ALL the incorporated areas (cities and towns) in Manatee County have charter governments. Over 75% of ALL residents of Florida live under charter governments.

The term charter government is derived from the fact that the document that outlines the “rules” of the local government is called a “charter”.  Another term used for “charter government” is “home rule”.

February 18, 2017

Trail Map

Click on map for larger image.

Once upon a time there was a county in Florida called “Manatee”.  It was a wonderful place to live with many gifts from nature including miles of sugar white beaches, a beautiful wide river, abundant wildlife including numerous species of native and migratory  birds, and a large verity of tropical and subtropical vegetation.  The fishing is fantastic both saltwater and fresh.

As the county grew many parks and preserves were built so the ever growing population could enjoy the treasures that nature provided this fantastic county.  Only one thing was lacking that many other Florida counties enjoyed.  For many years citizens and county officials met to plan a network of bicycle and pedestrian trails that would allow non-motorized access to and through our wonderful parks and preserves but none were built.

Finally in the year of 2017 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Greenways and Trails stepped in and said, “Let us help”.

 “We want to give you lots of money to help you plan and build your trails but first we need you to decide which of the many trails you have planned over the years will be the one that will connect Hillsborough County trails to the north through your beautiful county to Sarasota County to the south.  We want this trail to be special.  We want it to be safe by being off-road unlike bicycle lanes along highways.  We want it to be paved and be 10’ to 14’ wide so it will be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists to use at the same time.  We want it to connect your beautiful parks, preserves, beaches and other places people want to go to enjoy your beautiful county.”

Okay, said County officials.  We can do that.  We have many plans to choose from and we will meet with you to look at the options.  So on day 23 of January, 2017 representatives of numerous groups met in the City of Venice, Florida to see what representatives from Greenways and Trails had in mind.  The speakers were many and the PowerPoints abundant.  The message was clear.  A trail called “Sun” was coming to Florida.  Along the Gulf Coast it would be.

The Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail would be “a paved multi-use, shared use path, which will typically be 12 feet wide, but may commonly vary from 10 feet to 14 or more feet wide”.  A successful Trail must meet the “Three S’s Test” said Dale Allen, the president of the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation.

“We can do that chimed in participants including representatives from Manatee County.  We already have the plans.  All we have to do is pick the best ones to connect together.  Our ‘Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator’ will be able to help us with that but alas, we don’t have one.”  “We don’t?”, said some.  “We need a great person who will oversee our beautiful trails and who will coordinate, design, and supervise construction and more importantly who will apply for grants and seek donations so we can build the best Trail System in the State of Florida so our wonderful citizens and visitors will be able to better enjoy what mother nature so generously gave us.”   “YES!” said some but one said “NO!” just give me the money and I will build a wonderful trail in the east that will follow the Little Manatee River and connect Becker State Park, Duette Park, and Lake Manatee State Park.  It could follow the FPL right-of-way and SMR has promised to donate land in Lakewood Ranch and impact fees could be used since this is a developing area.  It would be a great “wilderness” trail.

“No” said another, “The trail should be in the west and go out to the Islands and beautiful beaches.  Most of the trail would be under a canopy of shade trees. The views along the Manatee River are spectacular and the islands provide impressive ocean views. In addition there are already numerous public restroom facilities along the way. It would connect Parish, Palmetto, Bradenton, and Palma Sola as well as the Island cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and the Town of Longboat Key.  It would be better for the people of Manatee County and our visitors.  It would connect interesting and historic places such as The Florida Railroad Museum in Parish, The Gamble Plantation State Park and Palmetto’s trail system, Riverwalk, South Florida Museum, Old Main Street and the Village of the Arts in Bradenton.  It would also connect Warner’s Bayou Park,  Riverview Pointe Preserve, De Soto National Memorial (where Hernando De Soto is reputed to have landed), Robinson Preserve, Perico Preserve, Neal Preserve, Manatee Public Beach, and Coquina Beach.  It would reduce congestion in Robinson Preserve because it would provide an alternate and wider trail for bicycles and pedestrians.  It would help reduce traffic on SR64 as some residents and visitors would choose to ride their bicycles along the scenic trail rather than drive their cars.  Also, because of the larger population along the route it would get much more use than the “wilderness” route and most of the right-of-way is already publically owned with only two major road crossings along the entire forty mile route.

“Well, we must meet and decide”, they agreed.  So, on the 13th of February the gathering took place in the Conference Room of the MPO along with representatives from Sarasota County and a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Recreation and Parks.  After debating the pros and cons of each trail for over two hours it was finally decided that both trails had merit and should be recommended to the Sarasota-Manatee MPO for placement on local and state maps of the SUN Trail and the Southwest Regional Connector.  Long term it is expected that the two trails will form a loop and connect to the Legacy Trail in Sarasota County.

Both trails have been mapped on interactive gmap-pedometer.com at:
Wilderness Trail (east county) at http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5791787#
Coastal Beach Trail (west county) at http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7023014
Be sure to click around on these maps to see different display options.

We are in the process of forming a nonprofit called “Friends of Manatee Trails” to promote these and other trails in Manatee County.  We already have a Facebook Page (since 2014) at https://www.facebook.com/manateetrails/

We are also circulating a petition requesting that the BoCC support construction of a portion of the west county trail.  If you would like to help you may download and print a copy of this petition.  When you are ready to have it picked up call the number below the map on page 2 of the petition.  We can’t get these trails without a lot of help.

Friends of Manatee Trails


February 1, 2017

SUN Trail

Click on the map for a larger version.

On Monday, January 23rd, representatives from Florida Gulf Coast counties met at the Venice Community Center to discuss the SUN Trail that will extend from North Florida to South Florida crossing through Manatee County along the way. Officials from Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA), Florida Greenways and Trails (FDOT), The Trust for Public Lands, and the FGT Foundation outlined general plans for the SUN Trail, explained inter-connecting of trails, and the state-wide trail system that is expected to be a "world class" trail system that will attract visitors from all over the world and will add significantly to our economy.

Representatives from Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties presented PowerPoint presentations which showed existing trails, projected trails, and how trails in each county will connect to trails in adjacent counties. Charlie Hunsicker, Director of the Manatee County Department of Parks and Natural Resources, outlined in his presentation how Manatee County trails are planned to connect with Hillsborough County's trail system north of Lake Parish.

Using maps in the "Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Trails Master Plan" (Section 6.9 and 6.10) study that was done in 2013 and which became part of the MPO Master Plan in 2014 along with information from the three Anna Maria Island Communities, and recommendations from Sarasota's Legacy Trail we, generated this preliminary trail map with mile markers (above). Our restrictions required that we connect with both Hillsborough and Sarasota Counties and the fact that there is only one way to cross the Manatee River on a bicycle at this time which is via the "Green Bridge". A possible, more direct route, from the bridge to Sarasota County was deemed "not feasible" by Charlie for various reasons.

Why the rush you may ask? The answer is FUNDING. The State is anxious to see the SUN Trail progressing so put strict requirements on eligibility for future funding. Each county MUST have a preliminary plan for a complete trail within two months in order to qualify for part of the $25M that will be available for each of the next five years, $125,000,000 total, to be divided up amoung the eligible counties, and we want to be one of those counties. If we don't have our plan ready, we will not be funded this year and will not be eligible for funding again until 2022. That is a lot of motivation. Other requirements for funding include: The trail
- must be safe (can't be bicycle lanes, must be separated from roadways)
- must be scenic
- must be "spectacular"
- must be agreed upon by all stake holders (both incorporated and unincorporated areas)
- OTHER (click for more information)

One huge advantage Manatee County already has is that almost all (90%) of the land for this trail south of Manatee River is already publically owned either as right-of-way, city property, or county owned.

This is a long range project that will have a huge impact on the economy of Manatee County and our quality of life. Many people have already signed a petition for the portion of this trail that will connect Riverview Pointe Preserve to Robinson Preserve in NW Bradenton.

If you are in favor of this trail, please contact your elected officials: your commissioner, your mayor, and your councilmen. We have only two months to get our act together, so now is the time to take action.

January 25, 2017














Good morning Commissioners,

When the huge Mosaic sinkhole opened this past August, it was not an accident.  That sinkhole was the result of negligence and cost saving measures that lead to over 200,000,000 gallons of acetic, toxic, and radioactive water and thousands of tons of solid waste flooding into OUR Florida acidifier.  That was CAUSED by cost saving measures taken years ago when Mosaic set up its dangerous depleted gypsum storage area with an inadequate plastic barrier and NO WAY to determine when and where it started leaking.

The sinkhole was not deep underground and just happened to be under the exact same spot Mosaic picked to put their gypstack.  THE TOXIC WATER IN THE GUPSTACK CAUSED THE SINKHOLE.  To think otherwise is folly.

When the inadequate plastic barrier started leaking it went undetected for many years because Mosaic did not have a leak detection system because it would have cost them too much and if it detected a leak they would have to stop using that gypstack until the problem was corrected.

When the phosphoric acid laden water leaked into the ground below the gypstac through a breach in the plastic barrier it mingled with the groundwater eventually coming in contact with the limestone bedrock.  Acid, including the acid coming from the gypstack, dissolves limestone.  Over time it forms holes and caverns in the bedrock.  Eventually those underground gaps grow in size and join together to form one huge cavern which cannot support the weight of the gypstack above which itself is growing in size and weight as more toxic solid and liquid waste is added.

Eventually the cavern becomes so large that the weight of the gypstack caused it to collapse forming a sinkhole into which flowed millions of gallons of toxic waste which cannot be retrieved.  The liquid flowed into the aquifer and the solids will continued to pollute the ground water for many years.

The water in the aquifer is not static.  The polluted water is only 50 miles from Bradenton and is very slowly moving in our direction.  We will eventually find it in our drinking water.



This is a demand to NOT APPROVE ANY EXPANSION OF MOSAIC OPERATIONS IN MANATEE COUNTY UNTIL IT CAN GUARANTEE THAT THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER LEAKS OF TOXIC WASTE INTO OUR ENVIRONMENT.  This is a reasonable request.  Mosaic has proven in the past that it is not a good steward of our environment.  We cannot approve continuation of their bad practices.  We must insist that they improve their operations to detect and prevent any leaks.  If they fail to make that guarantee they should not be permitted to expand their operations in Manatee County.  If they make those guarantees and then have a leak there should be an immediate shutdown of all operations in Manatee County and a minimum of a $100M fine.

Please take my reasonable recommendations seriously and do not approve any expansion of Mosaic operations in Manatee County without those guarantees from Mosaic.   Failure to do so WILL lead to dire consequences for the people of Manatee County.

Sincerely, Ed Goff

December 7, 2016

Manatee County CharterCharter Government.  And as of 1968, also called Home Rule.   Charter Government is a county constitution that sets out its organization, powers, and policies. 

Differences:  Constitutional form of government  is only allowed to do what the state authorizes.  A Charter County can do anything except what is not allowed by the state or federal gov.    

There are many reasons to adopt a charter—it’s more flexible, offering many options.  It allows for the government to fit the county, rather than the other way around.  It can save money, allowing for streamlining and a lot more collaboration with the cities.   20 counties in Fla have adopted charter, including nearly all of the counties near Manatee County.  I’ll focus on the citizen empowerment options.

Once in the charter it would take another vote of the citizens to remove it.  Many of the county charters include ethics codes and citizen bills of rights.  If you don’t like it that many of our elections end at the partisan primary, many counties have made some or all of their local elected offices as nonpartisan. 

Campaign finance: Counties can also set campaign contribution limits for local public offices.

They may also include growth and environmental stipulations, many of which were the result of citizen initiatives. 

 Some examples: 

In Sarasota County, amendments to the Comprehensive Plan that increase density or intensity of use require a supermajority vote of the County Commission, not just a simple majority (5 out of 7).  And to add land lying outside the Urban Service Boundary to that area, takes a unanimous vote of the county commission.    Duval County’s includes its entire tree protection ordinance.  Alachua County’s and Miami-Dade’s prohibits the sale conservation land or conversion to other uses. 

What else could you do:  You could put stipulations into the charter that protect key environmental features, so that they cannot be changed at will.  You could also structure the makeup of the planning commission, to ensure it represents the people of Manatee County, and not just one sector. 

Two of the biggest expansions of public participation in charter counties are the rights of referendum and recall.   Referendum allows the citizens to place their own initiatives into the charter if approved by the voters.  Recall allows removal officials who violate the rules.  For example, if an official violates the sunshine law, or votes with a conflict of interest, that can be a grounds for recall. In a recall election, a replacement is also selected.

To amend a charter, a county can simply create an ordinance for a ballot amendment, and put it before the voters.  Citizens can do the same, if they can obtain enough petition signatures.  In most counties they will need anywhere from 4 to 10 % of the registered voters. 

How to get charter government.  There are a number of ways to get a charter government established in a county.  The most common is by an ordinance of the County Commission.  That creates the Charter Commission, which will draft the charter.  The public will review and comment throughout the process, then it takes a vote by the majority of the electorate to pass it.

The other way is for citizens to initiate the charter gov. process.  According to state statutes, petitions from 15% of the electorate will trigger the process.  Or it can be a combination.  Once a significant number of petitions are gathered, and commissioners hear from enough citizens that they want this, they may go ahead and start the process with an ordinance. 

Sample Preamble:

THE CITIZENS OF BROWARD COUNTY, joined together in the belief that County government should be reflective of the people of the County and should serve them in achieving a more responsive and efficient form of local government, which will enhance their civic lives; and, in order to empower the people of this County to make changes in their own government, do hereby avail themselves of an opportunity afforded by the Florida Constitution to adopt this Home Rule Charter, conceived in the interest of cooperation with the Municipalities and other governmental units of this County.

December 2, 1016

We the peopel


A Charter is a document that describes the goals, rights, or principles of an organization. The "Charter form of county government" uses the Charter as a "road map" to follow about certain procedures and responsibilities that the County Government has that are not specifically under the jurisdiction of the State Government.

Florida county charters address specifics about the following general areas:

This list is not fixed. A charter for Manatee County might include all of these areas, just some, or additional areas. That would all be worked out by a "Charter Commission" which may be formed by a BoCC resolution (not likely) or by a citizens' petition to the BoCC which requires that the BoCC pass a resolution approving the formation of the "Charter Commission". A future post on this website will include the specific steps to create a charter form of county government.

For more details about the general areas of the a charter listed above click HERE.



By Rosalie Shaffer
President of the League of Women Voters of Manatee County
November 29, 2016

What do Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Polk counties have that Manatee County lacks? We lack the charter form of county government. Our surrounding counties and 16 others have adopted charter, which Home Ruleprovides more options for a smarter, more responsive county government, and allows a county to custom-fit its structure and functions to changing needs and preferences.

What we currently have in Manatee County is called the constitutional form of county government -- the default option under state law. However, charters are not unknown in our county, since all of our cities are charter governments.

The constitutional form our county government was developed when Florida was still mostly rural, and counties were considered to be subdivisions of the state, with specific powers and duties conferred by the state. Charter government, also called "home rule," was first allowed statewide in 1968, and growing numbers of counties have adopted it, or are considering doing so.

The most populous Florida counties have led this transition. The 20 counties that have made the switch to charter represent 75 percent of the state's population. However, even some small counties have converted to charter government. For example, Wakulla County (population 30,877) adopted a charter in 2008.

The differences in the two systems are significant. In the constitutional form, a county only has the powers specifically granted by the state. Under charter, a county has all powers of self-government except those that are pre-empted or prohibited by the state. As a county grows, becomes more complex, and is delegated more responsibilities by the state and federal governments, the options under a charter provide greater flexibility and permit changes that make it more effective and economical to operate.

For example, some structural options that would be available for our county commission include: number of commissioners, length of terms of office, creation of at-large or single member districts, and partisan or nonpartisan elections. Constitutional officers, e.g., tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of court, etc., could be appointed positions rather than elected ones. The reverse also applies, and some currently appointed positions, e.g., county administrator, could be made elected positions.

Under charter, there are also more opportunities for citizen involvement. Citizens, as well as the county, may propose charter amendments for a referendum vote, and citizens may recall elected officials. Many charters include a citizen's bill of rights, significant county policies, or an ethics code for government officials.

Charter counties seem to be well-satisfied with their decision to adopt. While most of them have amended specific provisions of their charters, none has repealed it altogether and gone back to the older form of government.

The development of a county charter begins with the appointment of a Charter Commission. Citizens may also start the process through petition. The public is very involved throughout. County charters are adopted, repealed or amended only by a vote of the electorate.

While county charters vary greatly in length and content, one thing they all have in common is that they reflect the unique history and outlook of their local communities. It has been a long time since we talked about adopting a charter for Manatee County. Perhaps it's time to start this conversation again.

November 28, 2016




















Maybe it's because the charter form of governement allows:

November 4, 2016

When impact fees are discounted, our tax dollars MUST BE USED to pay for the infrastructure required ONLY BECAUSE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT.  When that happens; when tax dollars are SalesTaxused to compensate for non-collection of impact fees, there isn't enough tax revenue left over to maintain existing roads, sidewalks, libraries, pipelines, parks, preserves, wastewater treatment plants, and other infrastructure

That is what has happened here in Manatee County. There isn't enough money left over after subsidizing impact fees to adequately maintain and improve our existing infrastructure. That is why the county wants to impose a half-cent sales tax, so they can maintain and improve our infrastructure and also KEEP SUBSIDIZING IMPACT FEES. We think it would be better to make the developers pay impact fees at the 100% rate so our existing infrastructure may be maintained and improved. If we did that we wouldn't need the new sales tax.

But, just think what we could do if we had both, if we had the money we are now using to subsidize impact fees and had the sales tax too. That is why we are opposed to the sales tax at this time. We want the Board of Commissioners to start collecting impact fees at the 100% rate before we approve the sales tax. If we vote the sales tax down now we may approve it later if the county starts collecting impact fees at the 100% rate from now on. If the county does that, the sales tax could be reconsidered in a new vote next year. A similar option could be available for the school sales tax which does not expire until January 1, 2018.

So, the best option for us, the taxpayers, the county, and our students is to vote against both sales taxes at this time. That would put us in a better position to get both 100% of the impact fees and the sales tax. THE BOTTOM LINE, VOTE AGAINST BOTH SALES TAX REFERENDUMS, NOS. 6 & 7 ON THE BALLOT.


October 31, 2016

When Bill and Nancy visited Florida to look for a new house, they found that they had great choices.  One developer had a design they really liked and offered a lot of options that could give impact feesthem exactly what they wanted and also save them a lot of money.  One of the options was the “Impact Fee Waiver” which saved them over $10,000.  The developer showed them where the new development would be, and they picked out a lot that would give them a good view of the sunset from the lanai and pool.  It would be a while before the house could be built, but the developer promised to send pictures of the progress, and he told them the house would be finished before the start of the next school year.

Bill and Nancy filled out all the paperwork and went back home to Michigan.  The kids were excited that all three of them would have their own room, and there would be three bathrooms and a swimming pool.  It was exciting to see all the pictures the developer regularly sent.  He even allowed them to make a few changes along the way.  Bill was happy that they would have a two-car garage and, for a reasonable extra charge, they were able to add an extra four feet to the garage to provide more storage space and room for a small workshop.

For various reasons, they weren’t able to visit the site during construction, but the pictures and emails they received kept them up to date.  They were well into their moving plans when they received the estimated completion date.  Based on that and allowing a little buffer “just in case”, they made arrangements with the moving company.  They planned to get to Florida a few days before the moving van, so they could walk through the house to make sure everything was okay and to check out the area.

They arrived in Florida after dark so went right to the motel they had arranged.  They planned to meet the developer the next morning to get the keys and see their new house for the first time.

After breakfast the next morning, they went to the development “sales center” to meet the representative, Jim, sign a few papers, get the keys, and follow him to their new house.

They were surprised when Jim turned off the main road onto a dirt road but thought, well it was a new development and the roads weren’t finished yet.  After about a mile or so, they could see their new house down the road and followed Jim into the newly paved driveway.

The whole family excitedly jumped out of the car and followed Jim to the front door where he ceremoniously presented Bill and Nancy with keys to the house on a fancy keychain with the developer’s logo on the end.  They decided that Bill should unlock the door and the kids wanted him to carry Nancy across the threshold but, after a little laugh, they decided to just walk in.  It was beautiful and just what they had been promised.  The kids all rushed to their new bedrooms while Nancy and Bill went to the kitchen.  Bill opened the garage door and was pleased that he had paid for the “extended” garage.  Nancy opened all the new appliances and cabinets and started thinking where she would put all her dishes, pots & pans, silverware, and other kitchen equipment.  She really liked the high-arched, gooseneck faucet with the pullout spray spout, but when she pushed the handle to turn on the water, nothing came out.  She looked at Jim and said, “Isn’t the water turned on yet?”  Just then one of the kids came in looking for a bathroom because he had to “go”.

Jim said, “Oh, you chose the “Impact Fee Waiver”.  That saved you over $10,000, but you don’t get the use of infrastructure provided by impact fees.  Your house isn’t connected to a water main.  In fact, there aren’t any water mains nearby because this is what we call an “Impact Free Waiver” area.  There also aren’t any sewer lines nearby, and you probably noticed the road wasn’t paved either.  That requires payment of impact fees, too.  

Bill’s mouth dropped wide open and he said, “You’re kidding.” 

“No”, said Jim. “When you select the Impact Fee Waiver, you don’t get any options or services that impact fees pay for.  There isn’t a fire station or police station nearby either; and because so many people have chosen the IFW, we have a shortage of police cars and fire trucks, too.  But don’t worry. You are in a fire protection area and police district, but it may take a little longer for them to get here.  You should also know that your kids will have to walk out to the main road to catch the school bus, because there is a shortage of buses; and some schools will be starting double sessions because they are so crowded because of all the new people who have selected the IFW.  And, because this is a new area, there aren’t any schools nearby, so your kids may be on the school bus an hour or more each way.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Bill, looking very irritated.  “Why didn’t you tell us?” 

“Well,” said Jim, “it was on the form when you took the IFW.  Don’t you remember talking about how much you could save?”  Clearly Bill and Nancy didn’t understand everything that is included when impact fees are paid.  They are going to be even more surprised when they discover that there aren’t any preserves or parks nearby, not even a dog park and the nearest library is downtown.  There also won’t be any nearby EMS or things like street cleaning and roadside maintenance.  None of those services we take for granted when we buy a “pre-owned” house are available in new IFW developments unless the existing community pays for it.

That is what is happening in Manatee County, Florida.  The local government and school district for many years have not been charging impact fees or have been discounting them significantly, which means that existing residents have to pay for the new infrastructure.  That reduces the funds available to maintain or improve existing infrastructure and could lead to higher taxes.

Of course, this is a fictional scenario and there is no such thing as an “an Impact Fee Waiver”.  Our purpose is to illustrate exactly what impact fees are and what they pay for.  They actually add value to a new home and are included in the cost basis.  When that home is sold, the original cost basis is used to calculate the selling price; and the impact fees are recouped by the original owner.

It may seem logical for developers to want impact fees to be discounted or suspended altogether, but that would require existing residents to pay for all new infrastructure required because of the new development.  That isn’t fair to existing residents and that is why the Florida Legislature passed the Impact Fee Act that allows local governments such as Manatee County to assess impact fees.  We, the existing residents, must require that developers pay 100% of the impact fees as specified in the state mandated impact fee study.  Vote only for candidates who support 100% collection of impact fees.



October 27, 2016

Vote EarlyIf can't vote on November 8th or just want to get it done you can go to ANY Early Voting Location. Click this link to find a location near you. 
Also, don't forget to take our voting recommendations list with you to help remember who we suggest you vote for. Click this link for your voting guide.
Also please remember to vote against all amendments and referendums.


October 24, 2016

Their flyer states, "Most Manatee County families would pay $5 a month." They also say, "The tax will generate $30 million annually.." Let’s do the math. The County website estimates that the county population will be 349,213 in 2017. The latest censes data indicates 2.6 kids per family so regressive taxassuming two parents, the average family size is 4.6 people. If all people in Manatee County are in a family group (which we know they aren't but the flyer used "family" so we will too) we can divide 349,213 (population) by 4.6 we get a total of 75,916 families in Manatee County. If each family pays $5/month that would raise $5 x 75,213 (families) or $379,580 per month. Multiplying by 12 months in a year results in a total raised to $4,554,960. So, where does the rest of the $30 million dollars come from? If every family pays only $5/month there will be a $25.4 million shortfall. Clearly the flyer is grossly underestimating the cost of this tax to each family. Not only that, it will hurt the poorest people most because it will take away a larger percentage of their meager income. The real cost is almost $400 per year per family and when you add in an equal amount for the school sales tax you get $800/year per family. That may not seem like much to the rich developers who have donated $300,000 to promote this tax but to poor family that is only bringing home $16,744 per year (Florida minimum wage, 8.05/hr), that is a huge amount.


October 21, 2016

Mistry Servia, School Board candidate, works for and is part owner of King Engineering which has a number of large and powerful customers in Manatee County. For example, Carlos Beruff, owner of Long Bar Pointe has a HUGE contract with King Engineering to design LBP conflictwhich will involve thousands of housing units including at least one thirteen story building. If elected how will Servia vote on school impact fees? Will she vote for the schools and 100% collection of impact fees or will she vote for suspension of impact fees that will save Beruff almost $19 million, or will she vote for some rate in between? Even if she votes for a 5% discount, that would save Beruff a million dollars. She could also recuse herself which would deprive her constituents of a voice in the decision. And, that is only one contract with one firm. We don't need another Bob Gause. Our best option is to vote for Dave Watchdog Miner.


October 17, 2016

WE HAVE A VERY GOOD CHANCE TO WIN SOME SEATS ON THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS AND THE SCHOOL BOARD - With only three weeks until the election and many voters already voting NOW IS THE TIME FOR EVERYONE TO PITCH IN. This is it. Do or die. There is no way we can outspend the developers so we are doing a real "grass roots" campaign focusing on educating voters with our "Voter Guide" of recommended candidates.

grass roots

Our plan is to distribute thousands of the Voter Guides all over Manatee County. We have a real chance this time but EVERYONE must help. The Voter Guides may be found at http://ourmanatee.com/VoterGuide.pdf.Please print 20 of these Voter Guides and distribute to everyone you can think of. Here are some ideas that we have already used:
--> Walk around your neighborhood and knock on doors. Tell them you have some information that might help them decide on how to vote. It's more fun if you take a friend with you.
--> Go to a busy intersection where people have to stop to wait for a traffic light. Hold up a Voter Guide. Most will roll down their windows and thank you for helping them decide how to vote.
--> Keep some Voter Guides in your car so when you go someplace where you might have to wait you can hand some out. (I'm taking my wife to the doctor tomorrow and I'll be handing a lot of those guides out while I wait. I'll probably just walk around the area and give them to people I see.
--> Do the same if you have to wait to get your car fixed or wait someplace else
--> We did this with our Long Bar Pointe effort a few years ago and it worked great. We must have handed out 1000 flyers on the corner of Cortez Road and 75th Street W. Remember the dolphins we had. It is actually a lot of fun if you can get a group together and VERY IMPORTANT
--> You could take some to the Dog Park or other park or preserve and just sit on a bench and hand them out to passers by
--> If people aren't home fold them up and put them in the crack between the door and door frame (don't put them in the mailbox since that is not legal)
--> Use your imagination and report back to us at ourmanateecounty@gmail.com

We can do this. We are very close. You may remember a few years ago when one of our candidates lost the primary by 4 votes. Just a little more effort and it would have been a different story. Don't let that happen again.

Get out in this beautiful weather and take a walk, meet your neighbors, hand out a bunch of Voter Guides, and make a difference.






Click HERE for the "Judges Voter Guide"




Otober 10, 2016

We have received a number or requests for recommendations for local offices, Referendums, voter guideand Amendments. We were also reminded about early voting and voting by mail so we put our heads together and came up with a little "Voter Guide". These are "OUR" suggestions based on what we feel is best for OUR county at this time. We have put it in printable PDF format so you may print it and read it easily and even take it with you to the polling place or share it with friends and relatives. Click on the following link to bring up the guide and please share: http://ourmanatee.com/VoterGuide.pdf

October 9, 2016

We know that the school district and the county have serious financial problems and that is why we oppose approving the two sales tax referendums on November 8th. First, the school sales tax we understandruns through the end of 2017, more than a year from now so there will be an opportunity a year from now to hold a special election on a revised referendum that will guarantee that all the revenue raised by the sales tax is used for infrastructure that IS NOT REQUIRED BECAUSE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT. It will also insure that impact fees are paid at the 100% rate in order to provide funding for school infrastructure that IS REQUIRED BECAUSE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT. In addition the term of the tax will be six years, renewable every six years. That will have three advantages; first it will prevent the school district from taking on unnecessary debt, debt that requires a long term obligation. Second, it will allow voters to stop supporting the tax if the school district is being fiscally irresponsible as it has been in recent years. Third, all revenue and expenditures will be controlled in an externally audited account much like impact fees are controlled in the county. There may be other stipulations that may be recommended by a citizens' advisory group.

The county will have similar checks and balances to make sure impact fees are collected at the 100% rate and spent according to the needs as justified by each county department. As with the school district, the term of the tax will be six years and all revenue and expenditures will be controlled in an externally audited account. Clearly this is a simplified version. A more comprehensive plan will involve control of "Facility Investment Fees" and other sources of revenue.

The bottom line is that both the school district and the county will receive the maximum revenue expended in the most efficient manner. Both the county and school district may have to sell unneeded property to provide revenue and reduce debt until the new taxes take effect.

The developers have collected over a quarter million dollars in support of this year's referendums. They are anxious to see this year's referendums approved because they know that the developer controlled School Board and Board of Commissioners will once again reduce or suspend collection of impact fees once the new revenue starts coming in. We MUST prevent that from happening by voting against the two referendums and by voting for new commissioners and school board members who will not be developer puppets.


September 30, 2016

The developers have contributed over $250,000 to promote the two proposed sales taxes that will Stop sales taxcost us over one billion dollars over a fifteen year period. The taxes will allow the county and school district to suspend impact fees just as the school district did from 2008 until 2016. We need control of any revenue generated by sales taxes, control that would prevent use of sales tax revenue to offset non-collection of impact fees, control that would allow us to stop the taxes if they are being misused. If we vote NO now we will have the option to reconsider both taxes in November 2017 if approval includes strict controls that will prevent misuse of the revenue,

We need to spread the word TO NOT APPROVE these taxes on November 8th. Everyone needs to help. We have produced a flyer that you may help distribute. To start we ask that each person who reads this to print 10 copies of the flier and distribute them to friends and strangers. Be creative. Let us know how and how many flyers you have distributed. Give them to friends and relatives. Leave copies in the doctor's office or waiting room while you have your car serviced. If you run out you can always print more. Email us at OurManateeCounty@gmail.com to let us know how many you hand out and any creative ways you use.

Click the following link to bring up and print the flyer: NoSalesTax.pdf There is one flyer per page unless you have a printer that prints on both sides in which case you can get two flyers per sheet in you cut them it two.

Let's stop the developers and their quarter-million dollars from avoiding payment of impact fees. This is a real grass roots effort. Let's see how long it takes us to get 1000 of these out to the public. Print them now and put them in your car and when you come home see if you can come back with none.


September 29, 2016

Since the school district didn’t collect ANY impact fees from 2008 until April of this year, where did sales taxthe money for infrastructure required because of NEW development come from?  The only other sources of school district revenue are property taxes, taxes returned from the State, and sales taxes.  The school also sold bonds to raise large amounts of cash but that increased the debt which has to be paid back plus interest with tax revenue including sales tax revenue.

The school district has sold multiple bonds to raise funds for infrastructure required because of new construction.  One bond, series 2011A, worth 39,850,000 dollars was sold in 2011 at the same time the school district was refusing to collect impact fees.  So far the school district has ONLY PAID INTEREST on that “loan” at the rate of $2.1 million per year.  The school district won’t start paying back the principal until July, 2018 and it won’t be fully paid back until July 2031.  The total amount to be paid back on that “loan” is almost $71M.  The school district plans to use sales tax revenue to pay off that bond. 

Is that where we want our hard earned tax dollars going, to pay off some fat cat who loaned the school district money at exorbitant interest rates while schools were refusing to collect impact fees?  I think not, especially when they PROMISED to “continue the pay-as-we-go policy” in 2002 when we approved the first half-cent sales tax.

And, this is only one bond.  We think there were five or more.  There is no way we should approve extension of the school sales tax for another fifteen years (over half a billion dollars) unless we have a full accounting by an independent accounting firm of every cent they spent since 2003.

There is no question that the school district needs more money, money they should have collected in impact fees but did’t.  That is why we shouldn’t trust them again unless we have written agreed-upon stipulations include 100% collection of impact fees, on how that money may be spent, and a term of no more than six years for the tax.  That short term, instead of fifteen years, would give voters the option to vote it down in 2022 if the school district is not living up to the terms of the agreement.  It would also limit the amount they could borrow.  If voters think the school district is using their money wisely they will have the opportunity in 2022 to approve it for another six years and so on.

Some might argue that interest rates are low now and we need to borrow lots of money to take advantage of those low rates while we can.  That’s the point.  We want the developers to pay 100% of the impact fees now so we don’t have to borrow any more money.  We are already paying over $44 million dollars a year to service the school debt.  It isn’t smart to not collect impact fees and borrow money at the same time.  We need to fix our school finances before we give them any more money.  Vote “Against” continuation of the school half-cent sales tax.

The county is also NOT COLLECTING 100% of the impact fees.  We’ll deal with that FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY in another article.



September 24, 2016




What they don't tell us.





September 9, 2016

The taxpayers of Manatee County deserve accountability. Since the half-cent sales tax went into effect in 2003 the school district has collected $310M. It was also collecting impact fees until accountability2009 when it inexplicability suspended collection of impact fees retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009. Over the next 7+ years it refused to collect impact fees thus forfeiting $87M and saving the developers an equal amount. During that same period when it was refusing impact fee revenue, the School District was borrowing tens of millions of dollars.  On April 18th it resumed impact fee collection but only at the 50% rate and is not scheduled to resume collection at the recommended rate until April, 2018.

Why? Taxpayers want to know why the School District refused to collect $87M in impact fees and who paid for infrastructure required by new development  during that 7+ year period.

I was shocked when school impact fees were suspended and I spoke before the Board of Commissioners a number of times over that 7+ year period in an effort to get the suspension lifted. After one such "public comment" Commissioner Bustle said, "Just the other day the Superintendant told me he didn't need the money".  At the time I was baffled by that remark but now it makes sense.  They REALLY didn’t need the money because they has the sales tax revenue.

With revenue from property taxes, the sales tax, and bond revenue, the School District "didn't need" revenue from impact fees from the developers so the School Board refused to collect it giving the developers multi-million dollar windfalls every year for over 7 years.

Why didn't the School District  honor "The Promise" that was made to coerce voters into approving the sales tax in the first place or why didn't they reduce property taxes if they didn't need the money? Clearly it was a pay-back to the developers for financing the campaigns of commissioners and school board members. And this pay-back continues with discounts in county and school impact fees during a time of record construction in Manatee County and in light of a serious need for more revenue to fund new schools required because of development.  Money it would not need if it had collected impact fees over the past 7+ years.

Of course we care about the kids and education and we want great schools.  But, we don’t want to pay the developer’s bills.   We want them to pay their fair share. We will pay our properly taxes and the sales tax but we refuse to continue to subsidize the developers.

The taxpayers of Manatee County are madder than hell that the developers aren’t paying 100% of what they legally owe.  Until developers pay 100% of the recommended impact fees, taxpayers are not likely to approve continuation of the school sales tax or the proposed county sales tax.


September 7, 2016

In last week’s Primary Election two County Commissioners were elected.  In District-1 Priscilla Whisenant Trace will replace Larry Bustle who is retiring.  Vanessa Baugh was re-elected in District-5. 

Runoff candidates were determined for School Board Districts 1 and 3.  In the November 8th election Edward G. Viltz will run against Gina K. Messenger.  District 3 will see Dave Watchdog Miner compete against Misty Servia.

Only 27% of registered voters voted in the Primary.  That means that roughly three out of four who could have voted didn’t.  We need to do better.  Please vote on November 8th to make sure your voice is heard.


August 30, 2016

Your vote countsTODAY two county commissioners and two school board members WILL BE ELECTED. We have a chance to decide who will represent us for the next four years. Please vote. We recommend:

District 1 - Corie Holmes
District 5 - Kathleen Grant

Linda Schaich
Dave Watchdog Miner





August 29, 2016

If you haven't voted yet, tomorrow is "do or die" day. Tomorrow two commissioners will be elected Please Votefor a four year term. If you live in District-1 we recommend Corie Holmes. If you live in District-5 we recommend Kathleen Grant.

We all get to vote for 2 school board members. We recommend Linda Schaich and Dave Watchdog Miner. All four of these candidates support 100% collection of impact fees and and are not supported by any interest groups so will represent us not them.

Aug. 28, 2016

All you have to do is look at how much the developers have contributed to certain candidates vote smartto know WHO NOT TO VOTE FOR. It is disgusting to see how they are trying to buy votes. Click on the following link to see who is supported by the rich developers and who we recommend
(see * after names of recommended candidates) you vote for. Click the link below:


August 21, 2016


We have updated the list of "Total Donations" received by each candidate. Check it out to see who is probably supported by "interest groups". Be sure to look at page 2 also. CLICK HERE


August 19, 2016

We are making recommendations for your votes in the Primary Election which will be on Tuesday,primaryAugust 30, 2016. Our selections are based on each candidate’s stand on the issues especially impact fees, the sales tax referendums, and perceived special-interest group influence. We need Every vote to help win back control of Manatee county from special-interest groups. Please vote. CLICK HERE or on the image to the left to see our recommendations..


August 15, 2016

Candidates running for the School Board or the Board of County Commissioners must support 100% collection of impact fees to be considered for our votes. Most candidates completed the 100%"Candidate Survey" form provided by Our Manatee and returned it for publication (CLICK HERE). Some candidates explicitly stated that impact fees should be collected at the 100% rate; others intimated that, some hedged, while one, Misty Servia, stated "generally about 95% of the recommended fee" would be her choice. Her justification is "protection from lawsuits". She further stated that "There is substantial case law on impact fees around the country." We have requested that documentation.

Giving the developers even a 5% discount on school impact fees would be very costly to the school district. The 100% school impact fee rate is $6,574 per home. 5% of that is $328.70. In the past year 2,394 permits for "New Residential" housing units have been issued. A 5% discount on each of those homes represents a total of $786,907.80. Over a 15 year period that would total almost $12M. That is quite a price to pay on the remote chance that the developers might challenge the calculations done by TischlerBise which has NEVER lost a lawsuit that questioned any of the over 900 impact fee studies they have done.

There were numerous hearings with TischlerBise representatives prior to the Board putting their stamp of approval on the new impact fee schedule. Developer representatives were there. They asked many questions which were thoroughly answered by TischlerBise. The developers were relentless but failed to uncover any issues with TishlerBises's methodology or calculations. The developers know that it would be fruitless to initiate a lawsuite and that is why they are trying to get candidates elected who they have been able to deceive.

We recommend that voters do not consider voting for any candidate who advocates giving the developers any discount on impact fees. We have been down that road before and won't be fooled again.

August 9, 2016

The results of the "Our Manatee" Candidate Survey are in and are now available on our website. We had a very good response from the candidates and thank them for their participation. Please do not use these surveys as your sole source of information. Remember that candidates want to win and may "slant" their responses to gain votes. Next week "Our Manatee" will make recommendations that may help undecided voters. The survey results may be found HERE.


August 2, 2016

Why has the Board of Commissioners and the School Board consistently given the developers huge impact fee discounts?  Here are some of the excuses they have used:

None of these are valid.  There is no evidence that developers passed on to buyers any “savings” Proseritythey received from reduced or suspended impact fees.  And, even if the developers kept the “savings” the extra cost to buyers of the school impact fee is only $0.81 per day on a 30 year mortgage for a $250,000 house.  That wouldn’t deter anyone from buying a $250K home.

There is no evidence that more homes have been built creating more jobs because impact fees have been reduced or suspended.  People move here because of the warm climate and beaches not because the can save 81 cents per day.

Both the county and school impact fee studies were done by TischlerBise a reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies and none have been successfully challenged.  It is ridiculous to give the developers discounts that amount to millions of dollars on the very remote chance that they might sue and win.

It is true that more houses in the county increase the tax base but it is also true that the cost of services required for those new homes is more than the increase in the tax base.  The result of all the growth is a net loss and our quality of life is declining, just look at the traffic, lack of repair of infrastructure including roads and public buildings as well lack of funding for improvements.

Now, here’s the kicker.  A study, “Paying for Prosperity: Impact Fees and Job Growth”, done by the Brookings Institution, one of Washington's oldest and most reputable think tanks concludes, “…impact fees can directly fund vital infrastructure improvements, while increasing the supply of buildable land, improving predictability in the development process, and indirectly promoting local employment at the same time. Faced with the growing demand for investment and the public resistance to tax increases, localities in growing regions that institute impact fees may become more prosperous in the long run than communities in such regions that do not have them.”

The bottom line is that our present elected officials (with a couple of exceptions) are putting us more and more in debt every day by not charging the developers impact fees as recommended by the TischlerBise impact fee studies for which taxpayers paid $222,000.

What can you do?  Vote ONLY for candidates who support 100% collection of impact fees in both the Priamary (August 30, 2016) where some races will be determined and the General Election (November 8, 2016).  EVERYONE must do their part.  Get out and vote.


July 29, 2016

In 2002 the developers were instrumental in promoting passage of the half-cent school sales tax referendum. They weren't just being altruistic. They had a plan unknown to the public. They knew scamthat the sales tax may only be used for "capital costs associated with the construction, reconstruction, or improvement of school facilities and campuses that have a useful life expectancy of five or more years, and any land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs associated with such facilities and campuses" (Section 212.055(6), F.S. ). Interestingly school impact fees cover most of the same costs. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Since school impact fees were not collected from the end of 2008 until April of this year ($87M loss) it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why "The Promise" wasn't kept. And, certainly the School District had capital costs that were required only because of new development; Costs that would normally be covered by school impact fee revenue. So it appears that our sales tax dollars have been used to subsidize the developers. That is wrong and disgusting.

The only way to stop this misappropriation of funds is to vote NO on continuation of the school half-cent sales tax. And the only way to prevent the County from doing the same thing is to vote NO on the county half-cent sales tax.

We also need to vote only for candidates who favor 100% collection of impact fees both county and school. Once we have elected candidates who will truly represent us we can revisit the sales taxes and consider if they are justified and if so, for how long. The school sales tax sunsets at the end of 2017 so there is plenty of time to reconsider either or both taxes but as long as impact fees are not being collected at the 100% rate there should be no sales surtaxes, none!


July 10, 2016

Most people think the election is in November but for some positions the August 30th Primary Election will determine the winner. In every election a certain number of voters go to the polls to vote only to discover that they aren't registered any more for various reasons. Check today to make sure you are registered to vote NEXT MONTH. You can check on-line. CLICK HERE  Do it now. It only takes a few seconds.


June 29, 2016

There are a lot of players when it comes to impact fees including developers, home buyers, builders, sub-contractors, and taxpayers. Until 2009 impact fees were always paid at the 100% rate for both county and school impact fees. Then in 2009 the developers convinced the county and the school board that a discount in impact fees would benefit the local economy. School impact fees were reduced to 0% and road impact fees were reduced to 50%. School impact fees remained suspended until April, 2016. In 2011 a new impact fee study was done and new county rates were set at 100% as recommended by that study. In 2015 new school impact fee and county impact fee studies were done. In April, 2016 school rates were set at the 50% level and county rates were set at 80% of the recommended rate. The full 100% rate is not expected to be restored for both school and county impact fees until April, 2018. The Graph below illustrates school and county impact fees per average 3-bedroom house and does not include commercial and other impact fees.IMPACT FEES

As you can see from the graph, impact fees have been collected at a discounted level since 2008. It is anticipated that collection at the full rate will resume in April, 2018. By then well over $200,000,000 will have been lost by the county and school system.

Clearly when developers don't have to pay impact fees or pay only discounted fees, their costs are reduced. You might think that they would reduce the prices of houses they sell in order to pass their savings on to buyers. There is no evidence that home prices were ever reduced. Developers price their houses at the "market price", the highest price they can get which in many cases is higher than before impact fees were reduced.

You might also think that discounted impact fees would allow developers to pay their builders and sub-contractors more thus providing them with more profit. Talk to any sub-contractor and they will tell you that the developers will pay as little as possible and often don't even meet those obligations for various reasons.

So, who pays for all the required infrastructure if the developers don't? One way or the other it is the taxpayers who bear the burden. It is usually hidden as "debt service". When large amounts of money are needed the county and school district sell bonds which pay interest to the buyers. The principal on the bond plus interest is paid back over a long period of time much as mortgage payments are except in this case tax dollars are used to make those payments. Recently county services have been cut, projects have been delayed, and maintenance has been cut back in order to make the "debt service". So, the taxpayers also lose.

When impact fees are collected at the full rate, the local economy is actually stimulated. Money does not have to be paid by the county to service the debt so that funding may be used for its intended purpose. In addition the impact fees that are collected are used to build the infrastructure that is required by new development. That creates more jobs that put more money into the pockets of employees who spend it thus stimulating the economy.

So, what happens to the money if developers don't have to pay impact fees. Well, they keep it. One local developer actually bragged that he was "earning" two million dollars more per year because he didn't have to pay impact fees.


June 22, 2016

In July 2009 the Board of County Commissioners voted to "temporarily reduce Roads Impact Fees by fifty percent (50%)" for two years. (Ordinance 09-037) The rational for this decision was because of "a severe economic recession." It was reasoned that because of the economic slowdown less road construction would be required but they failed to take into consideration that impact fees are self correcting. When construction slows during an economic downturn, fewer building permits are issue resulting in less impact fee revenue and less road construction.

That resulted in an economic windfall for the developers who theoretically passed it on to home buyers in the form of lower home prices. Lower home prices would create more demand which would mean more construction and more jobs so the theory goes. The flaw in this plan was that developers will sell their houses at the highest possible price as determined by the market. There is absolutely no evidence that home prices were ever reduced even though impact fees were reduced by 50%.

Although the effective date was July 27, 2009 it was "retroactive" to January 1, 2009, for "any Impact-Generating Land Development for which a certificate of occupancy is issued on or after July 29, 2009". During the two year reduction in road impact fees a study was to be done so that new rates could be established in compliance with the State of Florida Impact Fee Act.

following the new impact fee study that was done by Henderson Young & Company the two year reduction in road impact fees was extended to September 30, 2011 and "Transportation Impact Fee" was incorporated into "Roads Impact Fee" thus also reducing Transportation Impact Fees by 50%.(Ordinance 11-20).

The impact fee study done by TischlerBise in 2015 established new rates but the BoCC decided to "phase them in" by giving developers a 20% discount the first year, 10% the second year, and the full amount staring with year three. Why? What is the reason for the phase-in and more importantly, who is going to pay for the infrastructure required by new development if the developers don't? One way or another we taxpayers will have to subsidize the developers. Remember that when you vote in November,

June 5, 2016

In 2002 Manatee County voters approved a referendum that added a half-percent to our sales tax rate to provide revenue for the School District.  Collection started on January 1, 2003.  The accompanying graph shows the first fourteen fiscal years of receipts distributed from the State.  Sales Tax RevenueFiscal years run from July through June.  FY02-03 is for the first six months of 2003 and FY15-16 is projected to the end of June based on the first eight months of revenue.  The tax will sunset on December 31, 2017 if it isn't extended by voter approval.

The total amount of revenue projected to be collected by the end of FY15-16 is $309,855,533.00. The graph above illustrates the revenue received by the School District so far. Click on the graph to see the related data table and a larger graph. It is not clear how those funds have been spent but it appears that a substantial portion has been used to sell “certificates of participation” (COP’s) which use the tax revenue to pay back the bonds.  In other words, those who hold the bonds receive the tax revenue plus significant interest in payments usually over ten or more years.

That means that the school district started spending the sales tax revenue before it had it and paid 5% (+ or -) compounded interest for the privilege.  That essentially threw away tens of millions of dollars.  Had the school district delayed a few years and accumulated a reserve before starting their capital projects it would have better used the sales tax revenue.

A citizen’s advisory committee had been set up to monitor expenditure of the sales tax revenue.  The committee composed of prominent County citizens was eventually disbanded when members resigned in frustration at the lack of corporation from the school district.  Questions went unanswered for months and many were never answered.  As a result there has never been a full accounting of the sales tax revenue.

There has been some speculation that local investors may have purchased the COP’s because of the secure and generous nature of the investment. It would be in their interest to keep the school district in debt to insure continuation of new COP opportunities.

In 2009 the school board inexplicitly suspended the collection of school impact fees.  That has resulted in the non-collection of over $87M over the next seven+ years and insured that the school district would need to issue more COP’s which it did.

If the school board expects voters to approve extension of the half-cent sales tax for another fifteen years it needs to insure that revenue from that tax will not be squandered as apparently has been the case since 2002.

At a minimum the school district must account for every cent of revenue it received from the school sales tax to date, all $310M of it.  That means listing all bonds including COP’s (including repayment schedules) that were issued with sales tax backing, and who purchased them including the end investors.  It also needs to identify all the projects that were funded by the proceeds from the bonds, the cost of each project, and all bids received for each project.  In addition it needs to list all sales tax revenue expenditures that went directly (not funded by bond revenue) to fund capital expenditures.

Finally the School Board must explain exactly why it suspended collection of school impact fees for seven years, three months, and two weeks and why collection hasn't been resumed at the the 100% level. The school district should not expect voters to approve continuation of the half-percent sales tax if it does not answer all these questions and resume collection of school impact fees at the 100% rate.



May 13, 2016

The Manatee County School Board passed a resolution to suspended collection of school impact fees in August 2009 retroactive to January 1st of that year.  The County Board of Commissioners agreed and passed an ordinance that suspended collection of school impact fees for two years.  School Impact Fee GraphThe suspension was repeatedly extended and continued for seven years, three months, and two weeks.  The total amount of school funding refused by the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners is $87,319,905.21.

That figure was calculated using data from the Manatee County website Building and Permitting Search page and the school impact fee rate in effect at the time of suspension, $6,571.83. (Click on the small graph to left to see large graph and data table.)

The School Board, School District Administration, nor the Board of County Commissioners has ever justified refusing to collect over $87-million that is desperately needed to build new schools to relieve severe overcrowding resulting from 13,287 new homes permitted during that time.

On April 18 collection of school impact fees was resumed but with a 50% discount.  In the first two weeks since resumption 175 permits have been issued costing the School District well over a half-million dollars.  Why?  Why isn’t the School District collecting 100% of the amount recommended by the TischlerBise School Impact Fee Study?  No one will answer that question.

When school impact fees are not charged, the infrastructure required by new development must still be provided by the County.  The money has to come from other School District revenue which diminishes the amount available for the actual education of our students.  That is why some of our schools are failing and why our teachers are underpaid.  One-third of our schools are rated “D” or “F” and our teachers are paid 20% less than teachers in our neighbor county, Sarasota.  Our school drop-out rate is 20% and that only represents those who started high school.

Our county violent crime rate was up 12.3% in 2015 while nonviolent crime was up almost 10%.  The murder rate was up 71.4% and 2016 is starting off even worse with three murders on January 1st and the trend is continuing.  During the week ending on April 14th, there 226 crimes in Manatee County.

When schools are under funded and the drop-out rate is high there are more under-educated individuals in the community who can’t get jobs.  The crime rate goes up.  Costs for policing, court costs, and incarceration costs all go up and the human toll is tragic.  We will have to pay the price one way or another.  By keeping kids in school and by making sure they get the attention they deserve we can make a big difference but we can’t do that without adequate funding and we can’t do that if we refuse revenue from available sources including school impact fees.

We must elect School Board members and County Commissioners who are not influenced by powerful interest groups such the developers.  We must take back our school system and our county.  WE MUST NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO RECEIVES HUGE FUNDING FROM THE DEVELOPERS.

We need elected officials who will represent us and act in the best interest of us and our kids.  If we don’t do that we will have only ourselves to blame when our elected officials refuse to tell us why they won’t collect tens of millions of dollars for our schools.

Coming soon: Analysis of the County Impact Fee Discounts



May 7, 2016

On May 11, 2011 the Manatee County School District issued a Certificate of Participation (COP) in the amount of $39,850,000.  A COP is a bond that is guaranteed by some revenue source probably the sales tax revenue in this case although that is not specifically stated.  The interest on this $40M loan is $31M. That is money that is gone and can’t be used by our schools.  At that same time school impact fees were not being collected, hadn't been collected for two years, and weren’t for another five years and are now only being collected at the 50% rate.  The School District was actually refusing millions of dollars of revenue while paying exorbitant rates to borrow money.  Click here to see the Debt Service Table for the COP. 

This bond is a twenty year note that will pay back $71M on a $40M loan but the half-cent sales tax sunsets at the end of next year.  That is a big problem.  If the tax isn’t continued and the District COP 2011Adefaults on payment, the District’s credit rating would end up in the cellar.  That is one reason why the District is so hot to make a deal with the developers to promote continuation of the sales tax even though it will cost the School District $80M+ over a ten year period.

We have no idea what the bond revenue was used for.  The School District must be transparent about ALL their finances, past and present.  Voters aren’t going to support continuation of the sales tax if School District doesn’t comply. Voters absolutely won’t support extending the sales tax under the existing terms where sales tax revenue may be used to subsidize the developers.  The conditions of any new sales tax must stipulate 100% collection (no credits accepted) of school impact fees as long as the tax is in effect.

If the School District goes into default it is likely the State will take over and there will be a thorough investigation.  It is probable that wrongdoing by certain School District employees will be uncovered.  That could lead to prosecutions, fines, and even prison. Maybe that would be the best thing that could happen to the School District and for our kids.


April 30, 2013

The Promise

Click above to see the full cocument.


April 26, 2016

In 2002 an organization known as the Coalition For Quality Schools released a document that listed all the things that “The Half-Penny Will Allow Us To Do”.  Listed at the top of the first page were “Stop Using Portables As Permanent Classrooms”, “Renovate or Replace 42 Existing Schools”, and “Build 18 New Schools including Four New High Schools”.  This document is commonly known as “The Promise” and may be seen here.

The Coalition For Quality Schools (registration number N02000001856) had offices at 6215 LORRAINE ROAD, BRADENTON, FL 34202 (Lakewood Ranch).  The officers of this organization were WILLIAM ROBINSON CJR. (Registered Agent), REX E. JENSEN, ANTHONY J. CHIOFALO, and GENE WITT.  These men were all developers or were associated with developers in some way.  The purpose of their group was purportedly to improve our schools but their hidden agenda was to save the developers millions of dollars by helping them avoid paying school impact fees.

Their goal was to convince Manatee County voters to approve the half-cent sales tax referendum. “The Promise” was produced to convince the public that paying the half-cent tax would make our schools fantastic.  What the public didn’t realize was that the referendum was written in such a way that the income from the tax could be used for capital expenditures necessitated by new development, the exact same thing that school impact fees are supposed to pay for.

It worked!  The voters approved the referendum and the tax went into effect on January 1, 2003 and is set to sunset on December 31, 2017.  Money started pouring in to the School District from both impact fees and the sales tax and some of the promises were fulfilled. 

In 2009 when the housing market took a dive the developers went to the School Board and asked that the school impact fee be suspended.  They argued that it would help them sell houses for less which would mean more sales and more jobs.  That was one big lie but the School Board requested that collection of school impact fees be suspended for one year.  The Board of County Commissioners agreed but made the suspension two years and made it retroactive to January 1, 2009.  After repeated extensions of the suspension and failure for years of the School District  to do a required impact fee study, collection of school impact fees were finally resumed on April 18, 2016 but only at the 50% rate.  During that 7+ years of suspension the school district lost out on over $100M, $17M in the last year alone.  During that time revenue from the sales tax was used to pay for infrastructure that should have been covered by impact fee. That saved the developers millions and millions of dollars at the expense of taxpayers.

The School District now needs six new school to accommodate all the new students from all the new residential development in the County.  The sales tax and impact fee revenue has been squandered and sales tax will sunset next year.  The developers have managed to keep impact fees they should have paid and tax dollars were used to pay for infrastructure those impact fees should have paid for.  There isn’t enough money and the prospects for getting more are poor.

To make things even worse the School Board inexplicably resumed collection of school impact fees at the 50% level for the first year, 75% during the second year, and 100% thereafter BUT they didn’t stop there.  They solicited the help of the developers to get a new sales tax referendum approved by the voters and if they are successful the impact fees will be continued at the 50% level indefinitely. As it stands NOW the developers will get a 50% discount on impact fees forever if a new sales tax referendum is approved by voters.

The School Board has now TOTALLY LOST THE CONCIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC. The school board needs to collect every cent it can to build the schools that are needed, renovate those that need it, pay our teachers what they deserve, make every school in the District an “A” rated school, and reduce our drop-out rate to zero.  Some will say that isn’t realistic others will say we must try.








The School Board must:

By doing the right thing the School Board may win back the confidence of the public but as long as the developers are not paying 100% of the recommended impact fee there can be no discussion about a half-cent school sales tax after 2017.

Please attend the School Board meeting today, April 26, 2016, at 5:45 to protest the Boards unwise decision to make this bad deal with the developers.

March 24, 2016

education logoDuring the School Board meeting when the Board was considering resumption of the collection of school impact fees Bob Gause suggested linking school impact fees and the half-cent school sales tax.  The result was the following paragraph at the end of School Board Resolution 15-08:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, should the voters of Manatee County approve a referendum providing for the extending a sales tax in favor of the School Board of Manatee County, the School Board recommends that the impact fee be levied at 50% of the Maximum Supportable School Impact Fee shown in Figure 1 of the Study.”

The corresponding paragraph of the Board of County Commissioners Ordinance 16-003 (page A-5) states:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, if at any time after April 18, 2016, the electors of Manatee County shall approve a half-cent sales surtax to fund school construction, the impact fee shall, on and after the effective date of such a sales surtax, be set at fifty percent (50%) of the amount set forth in the above schedule (regardless of any increase pursuant to subparagraph (2) or (3) above) and shall remain at fifty percent (50%) thereafter.”

The influence of the developers on the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners can clearly be seen in these two paragraphs.  What the School Board members and the commissioners are saying is that they don’t care in the least about the education of our children, not now, not forever.  It is clear that the developers don’t want to pay any impact fees at all even if it means that our school system is not able to give every student a fair chance at a good life.  They especially don’t care about our disadvantaged children who need special help under difficult situations.  They don’t care about our teachers who have dedicated their lives to helping others even though they are rewarded less financially.

Clearly the members of the School Board and most of the Board of Commissioners are more interested in pleasing the developers than in doing what is right for those who voted them into office.  And, the developers are the worst of all.  They want more money and more power and they don’t care who they hurt along the way.  They are all morally corrupt.

None of the incumbent School Board members or incumbent County Commissioners deserves to be reelected.  If anyone in Manatee County votes for any of them they will be promoting unethical and amoral behavior and will be contributing to the continuation of a second rate school system, a school system that is failing, a school system that is allowing students to drop out thus dooming them to hard and possibly horrible lives..


March 21, 2016
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We need input from the residents of Manatee County. If you are reading this you probably agree with us that Manatee County is "broken" and needs to be fixed. Please comment on our Facebook page and suggest what needs to be "fixed" in order to make Manatee County a better place to live and work. If someone else has already made comments you agree with please "like" those comments so we can get some idea about how important those issues are.


March 17, 2016

In 2009 both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board justified suspending school impact fees and reducing other impact fees as much as 50%.  They claimed that lower impact fees would allow developers to sell houses for less which would create jobs which would stimulate the elect school boardeconomy and increase the tax base.  They were wrong.  There is no evidence that any houses were sold for less or that more jobs were created.

What we do know is that the developers reaped huge profits which they are now using to purchase more land for more developments and to finance the elections of candidates they totally control.

We also know that existing home prices in Manatee County were driven down because of the flood of new homes on the market. That resulted in home prices going “under water”; many well below the prices owners’ paid and often below what they still owed on their mortgages.  Thousands of homes were forced into foreclosed and many families lost their life savings.

At the same time the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners repeatedly extended discounts on impact fees or suspended them completely.  With the absence of that income, the School District and County had to use other revenue to build new infrastructure required by the developers as mandated by State law.  They also froze pay increases for county employees including teachers and let many county employees go, just the opposite of what they promised.  Many county departments are still under-staffed and teachers are underpaid.  On average, Manatee County teachers earn $10,000 less per year than Sarasota teachers.  Because of those cuts county services have been reduced, the county has taken on more debt, and our quality of life has diminished.  Now our county administrator (who is appointed by the Board of Commissioners) wants to increase the sales tax a full percent which would negatively impact all of us but would hurt those who can least afford it most.

At the same time the School Board wants to extend the half cent school sales tax.  Much of the revenue from that tax has been used to pay for new infrastructure required by new development which further subsidizes the developers.  The School Board even made a deal with the developers whereby the developers would promote continuation of the tax (which is set to expire next year) in exchange for a 50% discount in school impact fees if the voters approve the half-cent sales tax. (See page A-5 of Ordinance 16-003)

The developers could spend millions of dollars to promote extension of the sales tax and still end up with hundreds of millions of dollars more in their pockets because they would only have to pay the school impact fee at the 50% rate for at least five years.  What kind of people are they that they are willing to cheat the taxpayers of millions of dollars and deprive our children of a quality education?  They may be financially wealthy but they are morally and ethically bankrupt.  It is inconceivable that they continue to destroy our county while they steal our tax dollars and all with the help of the Board of Commissioners and the School Board.

In 2011 the BoCC approved Ordinance 11-12 which extended the suspension of school impact fees from two years to four years with an end-of-suspension date of July 27, 2013.  The Ordinance stated in part:

“During the aforesaid four year period the County, in corporation with the School Board, shall conduct a study of the educational facilities impact fee, and at the end of the four year period shall make such modifications to section 2-29-85 as are necessary to assure that the rates established thereunder are based on the most recent and localized data in accordance with the requirements of Section 163.31801, Florida Statutes.”

This ordinance was unlawfully violated when neither the County nor the School District initiated the study that was required to be done before July 27, 2013 and by not restoring the collection of school impact fees as required by law.  Individuals who disregarded Ordinance 11-12 in both the County and School District should be prosecuted for failure to initiate the study as prescribed by Ordinance 11-12.

It is true that new development does increase the tax base but the county also has to provide more services such as fire and police protection, emergency services, water and sewer services, education of more children, street maintenance and numerous other services.  The county has no idea how much those services cost since they have not done a “cost of services” study since 1983.  Research indicates that, on average, local governments collect only $1.00 for every $1.15 spent to provide those services.  That means that the county is actually losing more money with each new house even though the tax base is increasing.

On August 30th we will have an opportunity to elect three new members to the School Board.  We will likely be bombarded by all kinds of advertising trying to convince us to elect candidates who will continue the bad practices of the present and past School Boards.  Many of those ads will be financed by the developers who do not have our student’s best interests in mind nor are they concerned about us, the taxpayers of Manatee County.  We need to be careful not to be fooled by misleading statements.  We must look at the facts and candidates' past performance and then decide who would best represent us and our children and we should vote accordingly.

The voting laws are designed to confuse us.  For example, there will be three School Board seats decided in the August 30th election, one each for Districts 1, 3, and 5.  Each voter in Manatee County will be able to vote for a candidate in each of the three districts even if they don’t live in any of those three districts.  We at “Our Manatee” encourage you to vote for individuals who are not controlled by the developers.  All three incumbents voted in favor of the sales tax/impact fee deal so other candidates should be considered.

For information on the other candidates you may check the “Supervisor of Elections” website or check back here to see what we have to say after we talk to each candidate.



4 March 2016

A community knows it has good growth when it is a better place to live after the growth than before.  The quality of life for residents is better.  There are more permanent well-paying jobs.  growthThe schools have high ratings and low dropout rates.  Traffic moves along with little or no congestion.  Taxes are stable or lower.  There is no urban sprawl. There are new community amenities such as parks, playgrounds, preserves, and bicycle pathways.  The streets are clean, attractive, and well maintained.  Residents may walk or ride bicycles safely to destinations near and far on connected bicycle/pedestrian pathways.  The natural environment is beautiful and protected for future generations. Residents are proud of their community and respect their elected officials. Visitors want to live there.

Growth increases the tax-base; good growth has a positive impact on the economy because the growth in tax revenue is greater than the cost of services demanded by that growth.  A compilation of 83 studies by the American Farmland Trust compared tax revenue from residential and commercial/industrial properties to the cost of community services for those properties.  In other words, for every dollar of tax revenue increase, how much was spent to provide community services for each of those property types?  The study found that for every $1.00 of increase in tax revenue from residential development, it costs a median of $1.15 to provide community services while a $1.00 increase in tax revenue from commercial/industrial development costs a median of $0.27 to provide community services. High value residential property produced a more favorable ratio.

So, how is Manatee County doing?  Although we are quite certain we know, there is no way to know for sure without a Cost of Community Services Study (COCS).  The last one done in Manatee County was in 1983!!!!


Information for Voters - 27 FEB 2016

Everyone knows that the developers control both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board.  That insures that the developers can get just about any land development project approved and can keep impact fees down or absent.  Not even one cent of school impact fees developershas been collected since 2008.  Manatee County has been severely damaged by the unethical practices of the developers under the guise of “growth” and job creation.  They were instrumental in getting the school half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2002 by disguising the fact that much of the revenue from that tax would be used to pay for school infrastructure that should have been paid for by developers in the form of school impact fees.  It is estimated that the developers have profited as much as a half-billion dollars (yes, billion with a “B”) over the past twenty years to thirty years.

So, how have the developers been able to gain and keep control of the County and the School System?  It isn’t that complicated.  By funding the election ...read more




The County Commissioners need to see this.

craneWe don't know what the county is getting for allowing Mosaic to totally destroy huge amounts of land in northeast Manatee County or for polluting millions of gallons of our precious water but whatever it is, it isn't worth it. Look at this slide show and see what they consider "restoration". (Note: Slideshow may take a minute or more to download and open after clicking on the "slide show" link above.)

Lower Impact Fees = Higher Taxes

Suppose someone buys 1000 acres out east in Manatee County and decides to "develop" that land. Prior to his purchase the land was used for agriculture, some tomato and strawberry fields and some cattle. The buyer gets a good price because the land is isolated and the only way to get there is down a three mile long dirt road from State Road 64.

He goes to the County and requests a "land use" change from AG/R (Agricultural/Rural) to MU (Mixed Use). That would allow a combination of uses including residential, small business, light impact feesindustrial, hotel, medical offices, and similar construction. Essentially he is planning a small not-incorporated town with some local shops and services. It is a long process with public hearings and a lot of input but eventually it is approved.

In order for the land to be easily accessed roads will have to be built so the owner works with the County to design roads, plan water and sewer lines and even an elementary school. There will also have to be police and fire protection, emergency services, street cleaning equipment and public parks. In short, there will need to be all kinds of infrastructure to support the planned 5,000 or so homes and businesses on the site.

So, who should pay for all that infrastructure that is required for this new community? Should the existing residents of the county have to pay for it or should the people who buy the new homes and other new buildings in the development have to pay?

Until 1986 there was no way in Florida for local governments to charge for all the newly required infrastructure. Because Florida was growing rapidly local governments had to expend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide the new infrastructure. Taxes were skyrocketing and existing infrastructure was being neglected. Something had to be done.

In 1986 the Florida Legislature passed the Impact Fee Act that allowed local governments to charge developers fees to pay for the cost of new infrastructure needed to support new development. That took the burden off existing residents and put it on developers who passed that cost on to home buyers or other new construction buyers.

The law is very strict and requires that a study be done to determine the actual cost of the infrastructure and the rate that should be charged for each new structure to cover the cost of the needed infrastructure. Studies must be "recent" and based on local data.

There are two types of impact fees; "county impact fees" and "school impact fees" (called educational facilities impact fees in Manatee County). School impact fees cover all new school related infrastructure including schools, school buses, land to build the schools on, interest on bonds sold to finance new schools, etc. County impact fees cover roads, water and sewer lines, parks, emergency services vehicles, etc.

The actual impact fees depend on the type, size, and location (within the county) of the new structure. Impact fees are lower in the south-west part of Manatee County because there is already a lot of existing infrastructure there. Impact fees are higher (as in our example) where there is very little or no infrastructure.

Impact fees are charged when a building permit is issued but are not due until a "certificate of occupancy" is issued after the property has passed all inspections. The price of the new structure includes the cost of the impact fees but developers may charge whatever the market will allow. All the expenses of buying a new house are included in the "cost basis". The impact fee is part of the investment in the new home.

When the original buyer eventually sells his home, the new buyer does not have to pay another impact fee since it has already been paid and is included as part of the cost of the house. Impact fees are a one-time charge and only have to be paid by the original owner. The infrastructure that the impact fee paid for comes with the house much as the a driveway or garage does.

When a community gives a developer a discount on an impact fee or suspends it all together the developer is under no obligation to pass the savings on to the new home buyer and there is no evidence that has ever happens. Developers set the price of their new homes at whatever the market will support. The bottom limit of that price is whatever it cost the developer to build the house including any impact fees plus a percentage profit margin. As you would expect, developers will always try to make the highest possible profit on each house.

So, what if there is a discount or suspension of impact fees. Is some of the infrastructure not built? The answer is no. Some non-essential infrastructure may be delayed but because of State laws it all must be built and essential infrastructure must be ready when the development needs it. That is referred to as concurrency. The infrastructure must be ready by the time the development needs it regardless of whether impact fees were paid.

If funding is not available for the infrastructure, the county sells bonds and pays them back plus interest with tax dollars. That means that everybody pays including those who have already paid their impact fees either directly or indirectly when they buy a pre-owned home.

Impact fees have a positive effect on the local economy because they create jobs to provide the needed infrastructure while keeping taxes lower thus giving taxpayers more cash to spend in local stores, restaurants, and other businesses.

If you have any questions please email us at ourmanateecounty@gmail.com  Frequently asked questions and answers will be added below.


What the developers didn't want us to know

It appears that at least some of the half-cent school sales tax revenue has been used to pay debt service on bonds used to fund new schools, purchase portables, and other capital expenditures that were necessitated by new development. Those expenditures should have been paid for with revenue from school impact fees. In effect, we, those who pay sales tax on just about everything we buy, subsidized the developers by paying for capital expenditures that should have been financed by school impact fee revenue.

This is based on preliminary information and it is not known if any laws were broken. It is Braden River HSprobable that individuals within the School District and the County Government were aware of this arrangement. It would also explain why the developers are so anxious to see continuation of the half-cent sales tax. The less impact fees they pay the more profit they make.

The bottom line is that sales tax revenue that could have been used to improve our schools and help our teachers provide a better education was used instead to pay back bonds that financed new schools, new school buses, and other capital improvements that should have been paid for with impact fee revenue.


A learning opportunity for developers

Developers often cite “excess capacity” as a reason why school impact fees are not needed to build more schools here in Manatee County.  That shows a lack of understanding about how schools operate.  They seem to think that every student seat in every classroom in every school should be occupied 100% of the school day to have full capacity.  Realistically that can never happen.

Bayshore HSFirst, here in Florida we are under the 18/22/25 restriction which refers to the maximum number of students per grades PK-3, grades 4-8 and grades 9-12 classrooms respectively.  But very seldom is the number of students going to equal a multiple of those numbers.  For example suppose an elementary school has 45 students in third grade.  Since the maximum number of students in a third grade class is 18 there will need to be three third-grade classrooms which could accommodate 54 students resulting in an excess of 9 students seats. And, that is just one grade in one school.  Manatee County has a total of 49 schools each with multiple grades.

Another factor developers don’t seem to understand is that ESE students (special needs) require more attention including special equipment and smaller classes.  Those classrooms will appear to have excess capacity.

Middle schools and high schools need special lab classrooms for chemistry, biology, physics and other sciences as well as vocational classrooms, music rooms, and computer labs.  Some classes may have fewer students than the maximum because of scheduling problems or smaller numbers of students in more advanced classes.

Sometimes schools have “floaters”, teachers who float from classroom to classroom, to teach a class in other teacher’s classrooms while they are having their preparation period.  That utilizes an otherwise vacant classroom but makes if difficult for the displaced teacher to do their preparation without their classroom materials.  It is also difficult for the floaters because they have to move all their materials from classroom to classroom.  That is far from an ideal situation but does reduce apparent “excess capacity”.  Avoiding that situation would be better for teachers and students but would result in more apparent excess capacity.

Another issue in Manatee County is the fact that the Manatee School District is divided into five zones (actually sub-districts) to match political boundaries.  If there is excess capacity in one zone, it is considered as capacity in all contiguous zones.  The zones are divided in such a way that each zone is contiguous to three other zones, and one (District 2) is contiguous to ALL the others.  That means that students theoretically could be bussed across the whole county.  That would reduce “excess capacity” but would be unfair to the students.

Portable classrooms have become the norm in Manatee County.  In 2002 when the half-cent school sales tax was approved one of the promises to promote passage was that the School district would “Stop Using Portables As Permanent Classrooms”.  Today we have a total of 208 portable classrooms, at least 50 more than we had in 2002.  Portable classrooms are supposed to be temporary and should not be considered as permanent “student stations”.  Lakewood Ranch HS has 21 portables alone.

When all these factors are taken into consideration, it is obvious that we have an extreme shortage of adequate classrooms in Manatee County.  The School district should collect 100% of the recommended school impact fee to help pay for the six new schools that were recommended by the TischlerBise School Impact Fee Study.

For a more technical analysis of student capacity, click here.



Why isn't an impact fee called an impact tax? Well, a tax and a fee are both used to raise revenue. A fee is to raise revenue to pay for something that specifically benefits the payer. A tax on the other hand raises revenue that may pay for a multitude of things some of which may benefit the payer and some which may not benefit the payer in any way.

Some individuals who are opposed to impact fees may call them a tax but that is not correct since impact fees are usually paid by developers and passed on to buyers of the property who directly benefit from the roads, pipelines, schools, parks, libraries, and other infrastructure that is paid for with the impact fee revenue.

If a local government reduces or suspends collection of an impact fee, the infrastructure is usually funded by selling bonds which must be paid back by taxpayers who receive no direct benefit from the infrastructure.

Ironically, reducing or suspending impact fees has a negative effect on the local economy since it reduces the flow of cash in the community because taxpayers will have less money to spend. Using impact fees to build infrastructure, on the other hand, creates jobs thus stimulating the economy.


Developers have claimed that school impact fees will increase the price of a new home and will drive potential buyers away. They have presented no proof so let's do the math to see if their claim is reasonable.

We'll consider a new home priced at $250,000 where the buyer pays 20% and takes out a 30 year mortgage at 4.00%. We'll look at mortgage payments without school impact fees and with the $6,475.00 school impact fee added. The cost of the home with the impact fee would be $256,475.00.

$250,000 Single-Family Detached House
  No Impact Fee   With Impact Fee Difference
School Impact Fee
Total Cost
20% down
30 year @ 4%
($24.73 more per month)
Per Day
($0.81 more per day)

Clearly a mortgage payment 81 cents more per day would NOT be a deciding factor for for anyone considering purchase of a $250,000 home.


December 6, 2015

Developer representatives met with School Board members (one on one) prior to the November 10th School Board Meeting to influence their decisions concerning school impact fees. Days before that meeting Dr. Green announced that she would seek a phase-in of school impact fees over a three year periods, 50% the first year, 75% the second year, and 100% thereafter. It is not know how Dr. Green arrived at that plan but it is suspected that she was influenced by developer friendly individuals within the school system.

During the Board meeting Dr. Green read her previously released plan. A long discussion ensued while School Board members considered her proposal. What the public did not know was that there was another plan which had been discussed between Board members and developer representatives, a plan that could be very lucrative to the developers. What appeared to be a spontaneous transition from Dr. Green's plan to one that tied in the half-percent school sales tax was actually an orchestrated plan by the developers. The result was a plan in which the School District can not possibly collect the maximum possible revenue (100% impact fee + property tax + half-cent sales tax) while the developers stand the possibility of paying only half the school impact fee. The developers had nothing to lose and the possibility of retaining millions of dollars in discounted school impact fees. And, to sweeten the deal the developers agreed to promote the sales tax referendum. They could invest millions of dollars in that and still come out ahead.

The table below shows the two possible outcomes of the School Board vote and a third possibility if the Board withdraws its resolution and passes a new resolution that requires the developers to pay the full school impact fee as recommended by the impact fees study for which the school system paid $50,000.

School District Revenue



School District

Tax Payers


Half-cent sales tax is extended

Pay 50% of school impact fee thus keeping $10M-$12M*

Continues to get half-cent sales tax, $30M, but loses half of impact fee $10M-$12M
Net revenue = $40M - $42M

Higher school property tax to compensate for lower income from impact fees and sales tax stays the same.


Half-cent sales tax is not extended

Pay 100% of school impact fee: $20-$24M

Gets impact fee but no sales tax revenue
Net revenue $20M-$24M

Higher school property tax to compensate for loss of sales tax revenue but sales tax on purchases is reduced a half-cent per dollar.


Sales tax is extended and developers pay 100% of school impact fee

Pay 100% of school impact fee $20-$24M

Gets revenue from impact fee + sales tax
Net revenue = $50M-54M

Property tax stays the same and Sales tax stays the same.

* School impact fee revenue depends on the amount of new construction and is estimated at $20M-24M per year (updated 6/9/16).

In Scenario 1 the developers pay only half the recommended school impact fee so they come out $10M-$12M ahead while the School district is down the same amount and the tax payers have to pay higher property taxes to cover higher service on bonds that will have to be sold to build new schools required because of new construction.

In Scenario 2 the developers pay the recommended school impact fees so they are even while the School District receives more impact fees but tax payers have to pay higher property taxes to compensate for loss of revenue for the schools from the sales tax but they save money because the sales tax will drop from 6.5% to 6.0%.

In Scenario 3 the developers pay the recommended school impact fees so they are even while the School District receives more impact fees and continues to receive revenue from the sales tax.  The tax payers would not have to pay higher property tax since the School District is receiving income from developers, sales tax and property tax at the same rate.

Confusing? You bet!!! That's the way the developers want it because they think we are too dumb to figure out their schemes to cheat us and our kids. That is why the School Board must withdraw their resolution and consider an option that will give no concessions to the developers. The School Board should not be in the business of negotiating with the developers in any way. They should be in the business of looking out for the best interest of our students and that means getting every cent they can for our school system including 100% of the school impact fee, the half-cent sales tax, and the property tax (Scenario 3). That is what they must sell and if they can prove to the tax payers that they deserve their respect and trust, that is what they will get. The developers have only more profit in mind and couldn't care less about our kids or the tax payers of Manatee County.

The right thing for the School Board to do is to withdraw their resolution, submit a new resolution which requires the developers to pay 100% of the school impact fee as recommended by the TischlerBise study and take the remaining months before the vote on the possible referendum to gain the respect and trust of the voters.


November 30, 2015

County administrator, Ed Hunzeker, thinks developers should have to pay only 90% of the impact fee as determined by the impact fee study done by TischlerBise a reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the United States. The County Attorney's office recommended that the $172,000 study be done to make sure impact fee rates are calculated on the most recent and localized data as specified by the Florida's Impact Fee Act.

ImpactFeeImpact fees pay for infrastructure that would not be required except for the needs of new development. Those fees will pay for Multimodal Transportation (new roads, widening roads, other transportation capacity-increasing requirements), new required libraries, new parks and preserves, law enforcement, and public safety (EMS). These fees will only cover capital expenditures for new infrastructure required because of new development. None of the income from these fees will be used for operation and maintenance of new or existing infrastructure.

The study calculated impact fee rates based on local needs for infrastructure that will be required based on information provided by the County. It is the actual funding that is required based on the best available information. So, why does the County Administrator want to give the developers a 10% discount? "Wiggle room", that is what Mr. Hunzeker said at a recent BoCC meeting. He explained that during his early career (approximately 1975) someone made a mistake calculating impact fees that led to a refund of a portion of the impact fees which apparently was very complicated and took three years.

Well, things have changed in the past forty years. We have computers now to do calculations and to compute refunds in the very remote chance that a mistake was made. It is not worth a 10% discount which represents hundreds of millions of dollars to insure that developers won't have to be given a refund in the very unlikely chance that one of our very advanced computers made a mistake.

So, yes, the developers MUST pay for their fair share of the cost of new development, not one cent less or not one cent more. If the BoCC votes on Thursday to give the developers a 10%, multimillion dollar discount, the tax payers of Manatee County will have to make up the difference. Let's see if they do the right thing on Thursday and, make the developers pay for 100% for what they receive. If they don't we won't forget in November, 2016, regardless of how much money the developers give them for their campaigns. Just do the right thing.


November 25, 2015

If the Manatee County School District does not collect 100% of the recommended school impact fee, there will not be enough money to build five news schools over the next ten years as recommended by the recent school impact fee study. So, where will all that money come from? The School District will have to sell bonds which will have to be paid back by all tax payers in the county. Not only that, tax payers will have to pay interest on those bonds

So, what's the problem? Well, the State of Florida passed the Impact Fee Act in 1986 to help local governments, such as Manatee County, pay for infrastructure that is ONLY required because of new development. When someone buys a NEW house (only new houses) an impact fee may be charged to cover the cost of new infrastructure that is required because of that new construction. There is a separate School Impact Fee that covers construction of new schools, purchase of land for new schools, build additions to existing schools, buy required new school buses, pay interest, and any other capital exp endure required ONLY BECAUSE OF NEW HOME CONSRUCTION.

Impact fees are investments in the community. They are part of the cost of a new house and increase the value of the house. No one would ever buy a house that wasn't connected to water lines and sewer lines or if it didn't have roads and streets leading up to the house, or police cars, fire trucks, or ambulances that service that area or schools where their kids could go and school buses that would pick them up and bring them back home. Impact fees pay for all those things and much more. A house with all those services has a lot more value than one without them. When a new home buyer pays for a new house the impact fee is included in the cost of the house and when the house is later sold the new owner pays the total cost of the house including what the original owner paid in impact fees. The original owners get that money back when they sell their house. That is why the second owner and all future owners don't have to pay a new impact fee. It is included with the price of the house as are the use of all the services paid for by the original impact fee.

When someone doesn't have to pay the impact fee when they buy a new house because it was suspended or reduced , who pays for all those things that impact fees would have paid for? The developers certainly don't pay for them and there is no proof that the developers pass the savings on to the new owners. The answer is that we, the taxpayers, have to pay for all that infrastructure that the new home buyer gets to use and actually gets to sell when the house is sold.

The idea of reducing impact fees originated with the developers.They argued that reduced impact fees would allow developers to sell homes for less but there is no proof that actually happened. The theory goes that more home sales would create more jobs which would improve the economy. That sounds good but it isn't true. Nonetheless the developers were able to convince both the Board of County Commissioners and the School Board that by cutting impact fees the economy would actually improve. THAT IS NOT TRUE!!!!

Cutting impact fees has a negative effect on the economy and here is why. When tax payers have to pay for infrastructure that should have been paid by impact fees that reduces the amount of money those tax payers have to spend in the local economy. The tax payers don't have as much money so they don't spend as much and local merchants and restaurants don't have as many customers. That results in workers being laid off which further hurts the economy.

In addition the County has to pay for the infrastructure required for new construction. That reduces the amount available for normal operations within the community such as street maintenance, repair and up dating of existing infrastructure and a multitude of other expenses. The result is that the maintenance schedules are pushed back, community employees are laid off, and things begin to deteriorate making the community less desirable. You may have noticed more pot holes in the streets, streets not cleaned as often, overgrown areas, unpainted community property and more.

County employees complained last year to County officials that they could no longer keep up with maintenance because of lack of funding and that resulted in a recommendation by the County Attorney's Office for new impact fee studies which were completed last month at a total cost $222,000 (county and school). Contrary to what some county officials are claiming, the new recommended impact fees are about the same as they were in 2007. See the "Staff Impact Fee Presentation to BoCC Very Misleading" article below for more information.

Impact fee collection MUST be resumed at 100% of the recommended rate as soon as possible. Neither the County nor the School District should subsidize the developers any longer. There was no reason to ever do that and there are no excuses for the County or the School District to not charge 100% of the recommended impact fees now. Failure to do that is contrary to the best interests of our county and our schools. For our elected officials to do otherwise is flat wrong and would be a slap in the fact to the hard working tax payers of manatee County.


November 22, 2015

The Board of County Commissioners depends on the "Staff" (employees of the county who are experts in specific areas) to provide accurate information which will help them make decisions on votes they must make (Yes, they must vote and may not abstain). It is very important that all the information the staff provides is accurate and unbiased. That was not the case on November 10th when the staff used a PowerPoint presentation to brief the Commissioners about the recent impact fee study done by TischlerBise, a very reputable firm that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the United States.

Look at this graph from the PowerPoint presentation (click here). My first impression was, wow! this isn't fair. Manatee County will be charging more impact fees than just about any other county and almost twice as much as we are charging now. But, there is a problem. It isn't true. The information is presented in such a way that it appears that Manatee County is way out of line when it comes to charging impact fees. Clearly someone or some group is trying to influence decisions that the Board of Commissioners makes about charging impact fees.

So, what is wrong with the graph? First the State of Florida Impact Fee Act requires "that the calculation of the impact fee be based on the most recent and localized data." The only data in the graph that is both recent and local is the Manatee County data so any comparison to data in other counties is not valid because it is not local and some of it is over fifteen years old (Hillsborough County) and none of it is recent. Also, other counties have very different ways of raising revenue and differ in many other ways such as population and size. Several of the counties in the graph have over a million more people than Manatee County (350,000). Some of the other counties (Pinellas County for example) are totally built out. There is very little if any available agricultural space which means that those counties already have an almost complete system of water and sewer pipelines, roads, and other infrastructure so, of course, any new construction is going to require less infrastructure than Manatee County where new housing is springing up in former orange groves and tomato or strawberry fields which require 100% new infrastructure.That is why impact fees are going to be higher in Manatee County. More infrastructure requires higher impact fees.

The Commissioners will only be voting on Manatee County impact fees so why were school impact fees and Facility Investment Fees (FIF's) included in the graph? Because someone wanted it to look like the fees recommended by the study (at a cost of $172K) were not accurate.

And, why can't you see the PowerPoint presentation on the County website. Because it has never been posted as required by the State Sunshine Laws. You could have seen it on the video of the meeting until Friday when the link was removed. That was illegal too. Fortunately, the video is still on the server and we have the URL. So if you click HERE, you will be able to see the whole meeting including the graphs.

We have taken Manatee County data (only) and have produced a graph that compares impact fee data from 2007, 2009, and 2011 with the most recent data from the TischlerBise impact fee study which cost the County $172,000. That study divides the County into four districts each with its own impact fee rate. That information is graphed along with the average rate for all four districts. Note that the average rate is only $84 more that the 2007 rate. The rates in 2009 and 2011 were lower because the developers convinced the BoCC that it would help sell more houses and produce more jobs during a slumping economy. There is absolutely no proof that even a single house was sold because of reduced impact fees.

You may see the new graph by clicking HERE. As you can see there is no reason why Manatee graphCounty should not charge the full recommended impact fee, 100%, as recommended by the most recent impact fee study and not 90% as recommended by the County Administrator. If they don't, you know who will make up the difference. You, the taxpayer will.




November 18, 2015

Was it the County or the School District or both that totally ignored Ordinance 11-022 which required that a study of school Impact Fees be done before July 27, 2013. Section 3(c) of that Ordinance states in part that:

"During the aforesaid four-year period the County, in cooperation with the school board, shall conduct a study of the educational facilities impact fee, and at the end of such four-year period shall make such modifications to Section 2-29-85 as are necessary to assure that the rates established thereunder are based on the most recent and localized data in accordance with the requirements of Section 163.31801 , Florida Statutes".

After the suspension of school impact fees (called "educational facilities impact fees" in the Ordinance) ended on July 27, 2013, it was anticipated that collection of school impact fees would be immediately resumed, but they weren't. When the County was questioned about that, they responded that resumption "Require that the calculation of the impact fee be based on the most recent and localized data." and that required a recent study (within five years) that had not been done.

That raises the question, why wasn't the study done as required by the ordinance? Who, the person or persons, was responsible for arranging that the study be done? When they failed to fulfill their responsibility to arrange for the study they performed an illegal act by omission and they should be made accountable because they broke the law and cost the School System tens of millions of dollars.

Until these questions are answered and those responsible are made accountable we, the voters of Manatee County, should not approve the extension of the half-percent sales tax.

November 14, 2015

The State of Florida enacted the Impact Fee Act in 1986 to allow communities all over Florida to make developers pay for infrastructure (schools, land for schools, school buses, and more) that is required because of new development. To make sure communities weren't overcharging they were required to do a study that would determine how much the developers should pay.

Before impact fees were allowed, high growth communities were being devastated trying to keep up with new infrastructure required by new development and taxes were going through the roof. When communities such as Manatee County started collecting impact fees the developers complained because that cut into their profit. Their solution was to find candidates they could control and and then finance their campaigns. It worked, candidates elected because of the financial support of the developers started changing the local impact fee ordinances giving the developers huge profits and increasing taxes on tax payers.

That is what happened in 2009 when the Board of County Commissioners in collaboration with the School Board suspended collection of school impact fees. Since then the school system has lost over sixty million dollars because of non-collection of school impact fees and the developers now have that money to finance more candidates but most of it goes directly into their bank accounts.

The ordinance that suspended the collection of school impact fees required that a study be done before collection could be resumed but unlawfully the study wasn't done so the suspension continued. Finally, this year, 2015, the study was done (at a cost of $50,000 to the school system) by TischlerBise, a very reputable and well known company that has done over 900 impact fee studies all over the country. The study results indicate two things: 1)There is a need to collect school impact fees and 2)The amount of that fee is established for each kind of residential construction.


How did this happen? How did the School Board come up with this complex scheme during the meeting. Did they meet with developers before the meeting or was there illegal communication between members of the School Board and the developers. Look at the video on the School Board website. (click on the blue text). It is a long meeting but you may scroll to different parts of the meeting by pointing to the bottom of the video and by dragging the little circle that appears in the gray bar. What do you see? (Make sure you look at 4:08:00 in the video, at Neal and Beruff in the background.) Are there any attempts by any individuals to send text messages during the meeting? Is there any evidence that Board members are reading or writing text messages. Does anyone's phone ring during the meeting. You be the judge.


November 8, 2015

We are OUTRAGED. The developers have, once again, tampered

with the School Board to delay full implantation of School Impact Fees. We just realized that School Board Resolution 15-08 includes wording that will delay 100% collection of School Impact Fees for two years. The first year they would pay only 50%, the second year only 75%, and only during the third year would they pay the full amount. Haven't they cheated our kids enough? Haven't they cheated the taxpayers enough? The School Board MUST amend Resolution 15-08 so that the full School Impact Fee is collected IMMEDIATELY.


September 12, 2015

The City of Bradenton wants to GIVE Glazier-Gates Park to developers so they can
chop down all the 100+ year old trees and everything else and build 531 multi-story
"upscale” apartment units. Click HERE to read more.

Confused About School Impact Fees?
June 14, 2015

Click HERE to view a PowerPoint Show about what they are and how Manatee County is subsidizing land developers at the expense of tax payers.

Our Manatee County Schools Have A
"C" Rating - What Does That Mean?
May 6, 2015

According to the Florida Department of Education, these are the scores Manatee County Schools received in various subject areas to earn the "C" rating for 2014:

Reading - Satisfactory or Higher = 55%
Math - Satisfactory or Higher = 59%
Writing - Satisfactory or Higher = 53%
Science - Satisfactory or Higher = 66%

Isn't it misleading to give the Manatee County School District a "C" rating with scores like that? Can't we do better? Would better funding help? Would the $60,000,000+ in school impact fees the schools didn't receive since 2009 have helped? The suspension of collection of school impact fees ended in July, 2013 but the County (Which is responsible for collecting those fees) has not done so. They are in non-compliance of Ordinance 11-022. Is it time to take legal action? Let us know your thoughts. Send your emails to ourmanateecounty@gmail.com

Manatee County is Giving Home Builders
at Least $10,000.00 Per Day of Your Money
May 2, 2015

Contrary to the wishes of the taxpayers of Manatee County the Board of County Commissioners approved (in 2009) a suspension of the "charging and collection" of school impact fees. That suspension ended on July 27, 2013 yet the County has not collected one cent in school impact fees from home builders since then. Click here to see the ordinance which specifies the specific dates of the suspension (highlighted). The County has claimed that an impact fee study must be done before they may resume collection of school impact fees. That is not true. The State of Florida requires a study be done before a new impact fee is imposed or if new rates are to be imposed but it does not say that a study must be done when collection of an impact is resumed after a suspension. It does say that impact fee "must be based the most recent and localized data". Although the data was collected before the suspension of the collection of the fees it is still the most recent until a new study is done. Click here to see Florida Impact Fee Statute 163.31801.

School Impact Fees Still
Not Being Collected By County
April 18, 2015

Click here to see a PowerPoint Show that outlines how developers, in cahoots with certain County officials, have been able to defraud Manatee County taxpayers of millions of dollars and how they are continuing to do so after more than five-and-a-half years. 

School Impact Fees Not Collected
by County as Required by Law
Feb. 6, 2015

On May 19, 2009, the County enacted Ordinance No. 09-36 to “temporarily suspend the levy of Educational Facilities Fees" (School impact fees). That ordinance became effective on July 27, 2009.

Fee collection was scheduled to resume on July 27, 2011 but on June 22nd , 2011, the Board of County Commissioners passed Ordinance 11-22 which extended the suspension of school impact fees for two more years with a new resumption date of July 27, 2013.  After extensive searching, no further extension of the suspension of school impact fees could be found on the County website, the School District website or elsewhere in the Internet..

As of July 27th, 2013 Manatee County should have been collecting a school impact fee for every permit granted for the construction of a dwelling unit in Manatee County and those funds should now be available to the school district for approved expenditures.

It appears that the County may not have collected school impact fees after July 27, 2013 as scheduled.  It is not known why those fees were not collected as required by law.  If this is, in fact the case, it is not know how the County plans to collect the past-due school impact fees.

No School Impact Fees
Means No New Schools
Jan. 11, 2015

School Impact Fees were suspended on July 27th, 2009 and were scheduled to resume on July 27th, 2013. As of January 10, 2015 collection of school impact fees has not been resumed. The developers get to keep the money and there is no money for new schools or for other capitol expenditures necessitated by new development. Click here to see an image of the County website that was captured in December, 2014 but has since been changed.


15 Reasons Why You Should Not
Vote for Carol Whitmore
October 16, 2014


BoCC Requested to Petition Obama
to Protect Cortez Village and Seagrass
September 20, 2014

On Tuesday, September 16th, a group of Manatee County residents journeyed down to the County office building to attend a BoCC workshop and to request that the Board petition President Obama to declare the Seagrass area of Sarasota Bay south of Cortez Village as a protected National Preserve. See Bradenton Times article here. Please click the link to the right of this article to sign the petition. (After signing and clicking the "Sign Now" button there will be a request from the website for a donation. No donation is required, just close the page.)


Letter to the editor Topic: Just say "NO" to Mosaic!
July 6, 2014

"On 6/3/14 there was a letter in the Charlotte Sun titled "Just say "NO" to Mosaic. The letter asks "Has your community or organization accepted money from Mosaic.  If so, that "gift" comes with strings.  Your group may now be listed on the Mosaic site as a "supporter" of strip mining.  Since you took the money, do you really think you can object to anything they do in the future?  Would you dare?"

His advice was to think twice about taking money from any corporation with an agenda.  He stated individual integrity is worth something and when Mosaic comes around with their checkbook open, turn them down."

If you agree with this letter, please send a follow-up letter to the editor of the Charlotte Sun at letters@sun-herald.com. It can be as simple as "I agree with the letter writer and just say "NO" to Mosaic" or a letter wondering if everything is for sale? 

The point is to get enough letters to the editor to make it a "press event".  You see the commercials Mosaic has on television every day.  We MUST combat their media onslaught with one of our own.
Please blind copy your letter to nophosphatestripmine@gmail.com
so that a response number can be recorded. It is important to generate as many letters as possible, flooding the newspaper and creating a news event.

Please forward this to everyone you know and ask them to also take action.

Remember, unlike us, many people are new to the area.  They think Mosaic grows oranges and creates nature better than what is was.  They have never seen the moonscape of phosphate strip mining. They need to be educated in the truth about this industry."

Long Bar Pointe - Phase 1
Preliminaty Site Plan
Aptil, 2014

On February 6, 2014, Long Bar Pointe Phase 1 Preliminary Site Plan (aka Shoebox City*) was approved with stipulations by the BoCC.  The developers have resubmitted the plans for consideration.  Contrary to standard practice, they ignored some of the stipulations and recommendations and reintroduced some features that had been removed prior to consideration by the Board.  The Planning Services Division has reviewed the “revised” plans and returned them with twelve pages of required changes. 
*Refers to the shape and size of the lots

Long Bar Pointe - It Isn't Over Yet
December 27, 2013

With the developer's letter to the County ( December 19th) we have a temporary reprieve from our efforts to work toward retention of an environmentally sound Manatee county. In case you missed it, the letter requested withdrawal of the Comprehensive Map Amendment "from further consideration or action at this time". Had that amendment been approved the future land use for most of the Long Bar Point property would have been changed from RES-9 (9 residential units/acre) to MU (Mixed Use - which would have seriously increased the use intensity and total population density of the property).

The letter indicated that they, the developers, were reconsidering their options and it suggested that they have not given up on the marina idea. We need to be prepared for another proposed change to the County Comprehensive Plan including a text amendment and a map amendment.

We cannot accept any development that will in any way cause harm to Sarasota Bay, the mangrove forest, or the diverse wildlife population in the area. We also need to be concerned with a significant increase in population (10,000+) in that part of the County and the repercussions that will have on traffic, schools, emergency services, and other infrastructure. And, we must insure that people and property are not put in harms way by building in the coastal high hazard area. We will be vigilant and we will make our concerns known.

Here We Go Again - Long Bar Pointe
November, 2013

The BoCC has rescheduled the Long Bar Pointe hearing to January 23, 2014. At that meeting the Board will consider the “Long Bar Map Amendment – PA-13-03”. If the Board approves that amendment the Long Bar Pointe property "Future Land Use" will change from RES-9 to MU. We are opposed to this change because in addition to residential construction it would also allow construction of hotels/motels, retail stores such as Walmart, offices, light industrial, warehouse stores such as Sam’s Club, conference centers, and more. Click here for a more complete comparison chart.

We believe that if approved it would have a very damaging impact on Manatee County and disastrous impact on the Long Bar Pointe property and Sarasota Bay. If you agree, please click on the link to the right and sign the petition which opposes this change in Future Land Use. This is a new petition directed at PA-13-03 so please sign this petition even if you signed petitions for the August, 2013 meeting. (Continued - click here to see more.)


The Truth About Long Bar Pointe

Last summer the developers made a number of erroneous statements about Long Bar Point which we refuted. To see the TRUTH and how we set the record straight click here.

We Will Not Forget

Who should you vote for? That is a question many people ask before they go to the polls. Often voters are swayed by glitzy ads, billboards, information they receive in the mail, and name recognition. Unfortunately that information is frequently biased and one sided. Often candidates don't have equal financial support. That gives some an unfair advantage. Candidates sometimes receive significant contributions because a large number of voters support them. Other times candidates are supported by well-to-do beneficiaries who expect reciprocation once elected.

We don't think that is fair and in the best interest of Manatee County. That is why we plan to provide information on all candidates that is unbiased and fair. For example, we understand that it isn't always easy to remember how elected officials voted on issues a year or two ago. Some incumbent candidates count on our forgetfulness to get reelected. Well, we will help with that. We will be your memory, we will not forget. You will be able to come to this website and see who voted for or against the issues that are important to you . For non-incumbents, we will report how they stand on the the issues. If you have questions we will do our best to get answers.

We are not interested in telling you how to vote. Our goal is to provide true and honest information that will help you decide. That is what this website is all about. We will give all candidates equal treatment. We will report information on all candidates including recognition and honors received, tax information, work experience, education, and anything else that might help you decide how to vote.

We will search public records to find information, good and not so good, on all candidates. If you have information on candidates that is important for voters to know, please share it with us. We will verify any information we receive and report it only if it has been 100% verified true.

Our email address is ourmanateecounty@gmail.com. Please email us if you have questions, comments, or information.

Next Story

Coming soon.

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