BRADENTON – The court battle over a controversial plan to move a neighborhood park in Bradenton to allow construction of a 521-unit apartment complex has not ended, despite a judge’s order that the members of Stone Soup Community Unity Inc. do not have standing to contest the situation.
The group’s attorney filed an appeal in the case on June 2.
Glazier-Gates Park is in the East Bradenton area and is approximately 4.85 acres, with playground equipment, barbecue grills, a covered gazebo and a walking path, among other amenities.
In addition to being a neighborhood park, Glazier-Gates Park has historic significance as the “seat of Southwest Florida,” Kim Youngshepherd, president of Stone Soup Community Unity, told the Florida Record. “Settlers came here from Tampa."
She also has concerns that the area’s water supply could be affected when developers start digging in what is now the park. Glazier-Gates sits on an extremely deep aquifer, she said.
“The aquifer feeds the whole area of Eastern Manatee, and we’re afraid that if they start digging, they could seriously disrupt the flow of the spring,” Youngshepherd said. "It will completely destroy the aquifer."
These aren’t Youngshepherd’s only concerns, though. She said that Glazier-Gates Park is the only park in the neighborhood and that the new park, when Glazier-Gates is relocated, will not be accessible to the public.
“The bus stop is four blocks from the new park," she said. "You won’t be able to drive there, and there won’t be parking at the park."
According to court documents, the new location for Glazier-Gates Park is larger than the current park - the new location is approximately 5.66 acres.
The developers, Bradenton Land Group LLC and O'Reo Farms Two LLC, Atlanta-based developer Hatfield Development Co. and local contractor NDC Construction have an agreement with the city to put $500,000 worth of improvements at Mineral Springs Park in Bradenton, but Youngshepherd and Stone Soup Community Unity Inc. Vice President Barbara Elliott both think that’s a bad plan.
“Nobody wants it developed," Youngshepherd said. “We gathered 5,000 signatures stating ‘we don’t want it.’”
Elliott says the $500,000 worth of improvements amount to a splash pad.
“I seriously don’t think they want a splash park,” Elliott told the Florida Record. "We already have one in Rossi Park."
Mineral Springs Park has historic significance, too, Youngshepherd said.
“Mineral Springs was the first black settlement in Florida, established in 1821," she said. “We’re not against development. We know things have to change."
Elliott noted that the group expected to fail in its challenge to the development. The lawsuit, she says, is less about development, but more about being heard.
“We would like to be heard,” Elliott said. “We want not to be shut down in Manatee County. I knew we would lose here, but we deserve to be heard.”
The 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida ruled in May that Stone Soup Community Unity did not have standing to sue the city over the project because it failed to object to the city’s change of use for the land at Glazier-Gates Park in court and because they failed to object to the comprehensive plan amendment that changed the land use limitation originally. Youngshepherd calls this conclusion incorrect.
“They had voted on it in the public works department, but it had not come to a final vote. We thought we were supposed to wait until the final meeting,” Youngshepherd said. “We thought we were within our rights – within 15 days.”
Calls to Stone Soup Community Unity’s lawyer, Ralf Brookes, and to Ed Vogler, attorney for the developers, were not returned as of press time.