More than 100 people gather April 29 to protest at the traffic circle at El Conquistador Parkway and 75th Street in unincorporated Manatee County near the proposed 529-acre development site for Aqua By The Bay. Please, see page 4 for more on Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
The 529-acre parcel fronting Sarasota Bay is being readied for Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Key players Jane von Hahmann, left, Stu Smith, Judy Johnson and Joe McClash gather at the April 29 protest to rally support in opposition to the proposed Aqua By The Bay development. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Mark Coarsey marked this aerial photo, where Aqua By The Bay appears on the left and the Legends Bay development on the right, to show where he observed mangrove trimming — the entire stretch of the Legends Bay shoreline. It was unclear from a DEP contact person if the former property owner’s mangrove-trimming permit had transferred to the new owner, Carlos Beruff. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Mangroves were cut within the past few weeks at Legends Bay, a development on Sarasota Bay next to the proposed Aqua By The Bay. Islander Photo: Mark Coarsey
For about two hours April 29, the traffic-calming roundabout at El Conquistador Parkway and 75th Street in unincorporated Manatee County adjacent to a planned large-scale mixed-use development was anything but calm.
About100 environmentalists, commercial fishers and neighbors — protesting in advance of a May 4 Manatee County Commission meeting — chanted “No Way, Aqua Bay,” waved to cars, which honked in support, and spoke to onlookers about the issues.
The meeting is set for the proposed Aqua By The Bay general development plan and rezone.
In addition to an upland large-scale commercial and residential development on the 529-acre site, developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman propose to operate 260 acres of submerged lands as a mitigation bank.
Rally organizers Stuart Smith and Andy Mele of Suncoast Waterkeeper Inc. and the local Sierra Club, and former Manatee County Commissioners Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann hoped to create a groundswell of opposition and increase attendance at the May 4 meeting.
Other groups and neighborhoods represented included Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and Fishing for Freedom, Tidy Island, Legends Bay, Harbor Sound, Coral Shores and the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples.
Mele summarized some of the issues in a position paper widely distributed before the rally.
“Beruff and his agents show one proposal to the DEP to get the bogus mitigation bank approved, with no mention of the dredged lagoon or upland development, another proposal to Swiftmud for wetlands dredge-and-fill permits, and a third proposal to the county.”
The proposed 2.5-mile lagoon and seawalls to run the length of the development are part of the developers’ applications to the county and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. However, the proposals are not in front of the DEP.
The plan submitted to Swiftmud fails to consider the upland development.
The county will not consider the mitigation bank.
Von Hahmann and McClash compared the developers’ 2013 proposal — which included plans to dredge a canal for an upland marina and hotel complex — to Beruff’s latest iteration.
In 2013, when the developers sought to amend the county’s comp plan, Beruff sued the county, challenging the constitutionality of the county’s coastal rules, and lost. The case was decided in 2016.
McClash called it a “dishonest approach” and von Hahmann said it a “very piecemeal.” Both believe it’s part of his plan to develop an upland marina.
Mele concludes: “In the middle of this shell game is one inalienable fact: Our communities do not want this crooked developer or this level of development on this shoreline and demand that critically important mangrove habitat be left untouched.”
‘Time certain’ set for Aqua discussion at county meeting
The Manatee County Board of Commissioners has set a time certain — 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Manatee County Commission chambers, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton — to consider a development on the Sarasota Bay, Aqua By The Bay.
Developer Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman-controlled companies, Long Bar Pointe and Cargor Partners VIII, propose a large-scale, mixed-use subdivision between the bay and El Conquistador Parkway in Bradenton.
The proposed development is a few miles south and east of Cortez and Anna Maria Island, across from Longboat Key.
Proposed are 2,894 homes and 78,000 square feet of commercial space, a 2.5-mile lagoon and seawalls running the length of the site as well as high-rise buildings on the shoreline.
The number of high-rise buildings depends on which Beruff-Lieberman plan they consider.
A county staff report counted two high rises — a 13-story and a five-story building, at 145 feet and 75 feet in height.
The plan submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management District April 12 depicts 24 shoreline buildings, each 150-feet tall.
The developers are asking the county to rezone 191 acres.
A 260-acre mitigation bank for the submerged lands is pending state and federal permits.
People interested in speaking at the BOC meeting may sign up before the May 4 hearing with Bobbi Roy, Manatee County planning coordinator. Her email is email@example.com.
Mangrove fringe cut at Legends Bay development
Is a dead mangrove fringe the future for Aqua By The Bay?
Mark Coarsey, a Cortez commercial fisherman whose livelihood depends on the bounty of fish in Sarasota Bay, recently reported mangrove trimming on the shore of Legends Bay, a subdivision on Sarasota Bay.
It is adjacent to the proposed Aqua By The Bay project.
“It’s only going to get worse,” he said, noting development trends and having seen hacked mangroves April 14.
Sarabay Associates LLLP holds a 2006 DEP mangrove trimming permit for Legends Bay.
The subdivision is mostly owned by a Carlos Beruff-controlled entity, Legend Bay Real Estate LLC, which purchased 80 lots in December 2016. Beruff also is a principal in the Aqua development.
Coarsey said he sees “one developer after another” cut mangroves, adding he reported similar mangrove slashing near Tidy Island in the past year.
“Pretty soon we won’t have a tree left,” he added.
Angela Collins, Sea Grant scientist with the University of Florida extension office in Palmetto, helped Coarsey report the occurrence April 24 to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
She agreed with the fisher and called the cutting “really bad.”
Mangrove trees start dying and birds abandon the mangroves when they’re cut, Coarsey said.
A site visit was arranged April 26 by DEP environmental specialist Andrea Grainger.
“We confirmed the activities at the site were in accordance with the permit conditions,” DEP public information officer Dee Ann Miller wrote in an Apri1 28 email.
“While most of the work at the site involved removal of Brazilian pepper, any observed mangrove trimming was found to be in compliance with the general permit,” she added.
— Kathy Prucnell