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200-home proposal for Long Bar Pointe gets early nod

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Island residents — Holmes Beach in particular — know a little something about development plans proposed more than 10 years ago that return to make new headlines.

That’s the case for a site-plan proposal approved Jan. 16 by the Manatee County Planning Commission for the initial phase of what is expected to be a gated residential community at Long Bar Pointe, situated across Sarasota Bay from the historic fishing village of Cortez.

The first 200 single-family homes were brought before the planning commission after developers Larry Lieberman and Carlos Beruff squared off against stiff environmentalists opposed to a project that would have lowered the number of homes proposed in the early 2000s, but increased density with commercial stores, multi-story residential homes, a hotel- convention center and a dredged canal to a boat basin.

The developers backed away from that concept when it became clear in August 2013 that the Manatee County Board of Commissioners would not approve a map amendment request to make way for the possible project expansion if it included the boat basin.

Beruff previously said he hoped the project would move forward without the marina. Another land-use hearing was planned, but never took place because the developers withdrew their application, noting they would likely go forward with the original residential concept.

The planning commission recommended approval of the splintered project that will transform a small section of the overall 520-plus acres. The plan includes developing 61 acres of Long Bar Pointe into single-family homes, with developers retaining rights to pursue about 1,200 more homes on future site-plan submissions.

The approval didn’t come without objections, although the intensity of the objections did not appear to be as severe as the summer protests and rallies that ultimately won an environmental victory in stopping the amended project.

Some of those protesters opposed the amended proposal and wanted the developers to return to the originally approved residential proposal. Former Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann was among them.

Von Hahmann led a protest rally at the county administration building this past summer with that very intention. Von Hahmann was on the commission when the original plans were approved and said that the past commission worked hard to ensure the plan was environmentally sound.

The planning commission is an advisory board to the board of commissioners and its recommendation for approval will come before the county commissioners for a decision at a later date.

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