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April 13--EAST MANATEE -- Not long ago, there were no hotels at the intersection of State Road 70 East and Interstate 75.

That changed in 2008-09 when Wingate by Wyndham -- later rebranded as Holiday Inn Express -- and Country Inn and Suites opened within a few months of each other.

There could be two more in the near future.

Plans are working their way through the Manatee County permitting process for the latest, a three-story, 77-room facility called the Lakewood Ranch Hotel.

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Despite the name, the hotel would be built on the opposite side of I-75 from Lakewood Ranch in the Tara development.

The hotel originally was approved as a 78-room Manor Hill Suites in August 2006 according to Jim Rigo, Manatee County principal planner.

"That site plan expired and it appears that this is a near duplicate of the '06 plan. This application is clearly intended to revive that plan," Rigo said in an e-mail.

Property owners of the proposed new hotel are Devine Lakewood Ranch, LLC, and Ashit Vijapura of Ormond Beach.

The hotel would be located at 5510 Manor Hill Lane, next to the 79-room Country Inn and Suites at 5610 Manor Hill Lane.

Manatee County Planning Commissioners this week approved Valcorp International's plans for another Tara hotel, a 123-room lodging facility on 3.91 acres.

The Bradenton Herald previously reported that the hotel would be a four-story Woodspring Suites.

Rob Ferguson, corporate sales director for the Even Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites at Lakewood Ranch, located one intersection to the south of Tara, has served as chairman of the Sarasota Bradenton Hotel Committee for 11 years.

"We welcome the new competition that is coming in. It creates a lot of energy," Ferguson said. "Still, that is a lot of new properties at once. There are 1,400 new rooms in Sarasota alone."

New hotels mean more choices for consumers and more competition for hoteliers.

"We are not feeling the downward push of prices right now," Ferguson said, but he added that hoteliers face growing competition not only from new hotels, but from homeowners who rent out their houses and condos.

In response to growing competition, some hoteliers have rebranded and stepped up efforts to improve service and amenities for guests.

Ferguson's Holiday Inn at 6231 Lake Osprey Drive, Lakewood Ranch, has been rebranded as a more-upscale Even Hotel, which puts the emphasis on wellness and service. The company spent $6.5 million on improvements to the Even Hotel .

"The local economy will grow and demand will increase over the years," Ferguson said of how the new hotel rooms in the Bradenton-Sarasota area will be accommodated.

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