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Mainland-bayfront development faces challenges

By Bonner Joy, Islander Editor

Long Bar Pointe, marked in blue and approved in 2008, will return to the county in August with an amended plan that includes a dredged canal and 300-berth marina among other changes. Islander Graphic: Courtesy Manatee County

Manatee County commissioners in 2008 approved plans to develop Long Bar Pointe, a bayfront area on the mainland near the IMG Academy and IMG Golf Club.

Only the road leading to the residential development was finished, including a roundabout at 75th Street West and 53rd Avenue West leading to El Conquistador Parkway in unincorporated Manatee County.

Developers were set to make a new presentation to county commissioners last week, looking for substantial changes to the approved plans, as well as comprehensive plan changes, when stormy weather brought on by Tropical Storm Andrea brought a halt to the June 6 meeting.

The new plans call for a more intense development, requiring dredging and demolition of 20-40 acres of mangrove forest and acres of seagrasses to allow canal entry to a 300-berth marina from Sarasota Bay.

A future land-use map change to mixed-use development and a comp-plan text amendment would allow increased development within areas of coastal and conservation elements in the plan.

The project is being guided through the governmental process by the developer, Berrington Group, and Larry Lieberman, who has owned the property for 13 years. Within the past year, he brought Medallion Homes into the development to help see the project to completion.

Environmentalists, including some islanders, were lined up to fight the proposed changes.

Barbara Hines of Holmes Beach, vice chair of the environmental group ManaSota-88, called the new plan an “environmental disaster.” She said dredging for the marina is in an “area that’s shallow, filled with seagrass and a marine nursery, and they would cut through mangroves.”

She also noted that new housing in a coastal high hazard zone is ill conceived and effects countywide disaster planning, as well as storm evacuation for islanders.

“It will effect all that we hold dear, including effects to commercial and recreational fishers,” Hines said.

The 2008 approval included the maximum number of residential units for the property’s zoning, including:

• 1,667 single-family homes.

• 2,501 multi-family homes.

• 150,000 square feet of commercial development.

The revised Long Bar Pointe plan reviewed by the county planning board includes:

• 1,086 single-family homes.

• 1,687 low-rise multi-family homes.

• 844 high-rise multi-family homes.

• 300-room hotel.

• 300-berth marina and canal.

• Two 36,000-square-foot office buildings.

• 60,000-square-foot shopping center.

• 60,000-square-foot specialty retail.

• 84,000-square-foot conference center.

County staff has said the map amendment change poses no problem, but the text amendment request raised red flags, and they recommended the commission deny the changes.

To obtain recommendation for the comp-plan change, the developer must cite how the property qualifies for development in environmentally sensitive areas, including how to:

• Provide enhanced water-related uses.

• Provide new, substantial, material public benefit.

• Increase public access to waterfront.

• Mitigate all environmental impacts.

• Incorporate innovative design for mixed-use.

• Include minimum land mass of 100 acres.

And it must be adjacent to existing navigable waters and adjacent to arterial roadway.

One of the reasons offered to deny the text amendment is that it affects the entire county, and the developer only justifies benefits of new zoning to Long Bar Pointe.

The amendment allows the most intense mixed use zoning offered by the county.

The neighboring IMG Academy already is experiencing major expansion, including construction of a 5,000-seat multi-sport stadium.

IMG Academy welcomes the resort addition, according to a letter to the county from Chip McCarthy, vice president of finance and operations of IMG Academy.

The Long Bar Pointe plans do not include building designs or a layout of a proposed marina and canal.

The developer would, however, require removal of up to 40 acres of mangroves and more than two acres of seagrass to create a waterway allowing large boats to enter a harbor that would be created on uplands on the property.

The Long Bar Pointe website states the mangrove area will undergo clearing of nuisance trees — Brazilian peppers — where Manatee Fruit Farms operations are “choking off” mangroves, according to the developer’s environmental consultant.

But the county staff says the submitted plan lacks information on how it would mitigate impacts on the 117 acres of privately owned submerged land that includes “significant seagrass beds,” providing habitat for marine life, including areas frequented by manatees.

The staff also reports dredging that adversely impacts seagrass beds is prohibited by the comprehensive plan.

Before the meeting was canceled, environmentalists were already rallying against the development, proposed changes to the county’s environmental policies and the appearance of Sarasota Bay.

A group of concerned residents, including Hines, former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann and Glenn Compton, chair of ManaSota-88, met prior to the June 6 county meeting in Cortez to talk about their opposition to Long Bar Pointe.

5 Responses to Mainland-bayfront development faces challenges

  1. jessica stevens says:

    this is not ok, stop this destruction!

  2. Helena Sponseller says:

    There is a reason we have rules and regulations for zoning. They clearly know they are not within the regulations with the proposed changes. They need to stick to the original plans or come up with something that fits into the zoning plans for that area! Anyone who owns property knows there are zoning laws when they buy the property. So for them to think laws will be changed for them, while causing such a large impact on that area, is crazy!

  3. morgan rothe says:

    This is deplorable. I hope that you stay on top of this one Ms. Bonner.thank you, Morgan

  4. Terri K. Wonder says:

    It is deplorable. There are two other opposition groups who need people to get involved in order to defeat the proposition, which goes to vote on August. One is Bay Life Preservers, which is holding a mass raft-up off Marker 17 in deep water on JULY 20th, 2-4pm. The other group, Save Our Manatee Shoreline. Both have Facebook pages. Emailing will also get you to people involved with both groups.

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