By Steve Newborn
In 1950, Manatee County had 34,000 people. Today, there are around 400,000. In another generation, it's expected to have more people than Sarasota County. A forum was held Thursday at Bradenton's Pier 22 on how to plan for that growth.
On average, 6,000 people move into Manatee County every year. Planning for all those new people has created some friction among long-time residents.
One of the speakers at the Manatee Tiger Bay Club event was George Kruse, of the real estate firm Pursuit CRE. He said the first thing the county has to do is stop listening to people who say they may be "inconvenienced" by the building of multi-family apartments and the widening of roads and bridges.
"We need to house people. We need to get people in here, we need to get first responders in here. We can either prepare for it today or prepare for it in a way you're not going to like tomorrow," he said.
Several of the speakers said the county needs to promote walkable communities, where businesses and stores are zoned within walking distance of new homes.
County Commissioner Misty Servia agreed.
"We really need to focus on urban planning in our community, and start planning very walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods," she said, "so that we don't have so many people that have to drive."
Manatee County has started a community visioning plan called Back to the Future, they already have around 5,000 comments from residents about what they want to see in the future.