Gamble Creek Village
By Mimi Sheffer
Parrish has grown in a spontaneous, ad hoc way over the past 25 years. Developers have purchased parcels of land and built various neighborhoods haphazardly throughout the area. With all the current and future growth, our town is in danger of becoming a jumbled sea of urban sprawl and cookie-cutter homes crammed together in disconnected neighborhoods without any identity or sense of community. However, PLANNED DEVELOPMENT and interconnected growth strategies can help us manage the housing explosion while achieving our goals of maintaining the character of our beloved town.
This is exactly why the Parrish Civic Association (PCA) exists, to help plan for the future well-being of the entire community by proactively planning for the future developments and land use in our town. The PCA wants to cultivate connection by fostering a sense of community, through shared experiences and town events (like the Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 14th), community gathering spaces, like public parks and a wide, walkable main street area full of local shops and flavor. The PCA works closely with the County, developers and builders to promote the ideals of collaboration and fostering community in future developments.
The November 14th vote by the Manatee County Planning Commission against a master-planned “rural village” proposal called Gamble Creek Village is angering many locals who are in favor of creating a comprehensive plan for the growth that is overtaking the town. It would be similar to a Lakewood Ranch-type development with years of planned growth and a carefully-crafted arrangement to create a village environment.
“Gamble Creek Village is a unique opportunity for Manatee County to plan for future development in a meaningful way. The current zoning actually encourages suburban sprawl -- disconnected, small developments that place high demands upon county services. The rural village concept, which Gamble Creek Village embraces, is the antidote to urban or suburban sprawl. It is meant to be a self-sustaining village complete with schools, employment and retail spaces and a variety of housing styles and types, all with walkable ‘complete’ streets. Water and sewer services, provided by the developer, would eliminate the more than 800 septic tanks and wells that now are permitted on the land. This type of village has to be planned well in advance and before suburban development fragments the land into parcels too small for a unified community. It will be too late when the current available land is built out,” said Robert Lindsay, a partner in L3 Farms, owner of the property.
Located on State Road 62, across from the Florida Power & Light power plant sits the 5000+ acre tract of agricultural land that could one day become Gamble Creek Village. This is the last privately-held large-scale tract of land in Manatee County…and therefore this is the very last chance we have to create a conservation community and maintain the pastoral, rural beauty that Parrish has always know. The owners have been approached numerous times about splitting up and selling off the land in disjointed, fractured pieces but they have resisted, opting instead to design and imagine a thoughtful, planned development that preserves nature and enhances the lives of its residents and the community by bringing people together.
Many residents believe it is exactly the kind of development needed in our area – a master-planned community that cultivates a sense of connection and is integrated into the agricultural environment, providing an oasis of green space and connected living. According to its creators, the Gamble Creek Village concept is loosely based on the town of Serenbe, GA, a hugely popular rural town located right outside Atlanta and a model community for many city planners across the country. The owners of the property, L3 Farms, envision a vibrant, intergenerational community with clustered housing to create a sense of connectedness. As for the look of the community, imagine the homes and shops looking like the Joanna Gaines’ inspired modern farmhouse – simple, clean lines with classical, timeless elegance and charm. Cozy front porches with wide, walkable streets will promote a sense of community and help foster relationships among neighbors.
Gamble Creek Village includes plans for the conservation and preservation of native habitats, recreational areas and open spaces, cultivating the look and feel of a small town. The self-sustaining development will marry the concepts of a rural farming community with the accessibility of contemporary village neighborhoods. It is a nature-focused development, with 47% of the 5000+ acres earmarked for parks, nature preserves, walking trails and recreational areas. Future growth planning has been incorporated into the plan with 123 acres already allocated for elementary and middle schools and school-related recreational areas.
In addition, 107 acres is earmarked for a private sewer system and wastewater treatment facility that will be provided at no cost to the county. A central water system and potable water treatment plant have also been planned in the proposal. Almost 400 acres are to be permanently designated for agricultural purposes, in addition to the hundreds of acres earmarked for parks, recreation, trails and nature preserves.
This planned development is important to the future of the Parrish community because it is an opportunity for practical, proactive planning for the development of our town and it ensures that we are able to maintain the small-town, friendly character that we all love and value so much.
To move this project forward, a few map and text amendments will have to be made to the county’s comprehensive land use plan before any site plans or zoning changes can be considered - but those are small matters in light of this master-planned nature-focused community that will help cement Parrish as the best place to call home. To voice your opinion, email your County Commissioner and/or attend the County Commission Meeting on December 5th. Meetings take place at 9 am at the Manatee County Government Administration Building, located on the 1st floor in the Patricia M. Glass Chambers.