Anna Maria Island traffic is expected to tighten along the main artery of Gulf Drive and associated side streets as construction on the $7,427,500 underground waterline replacement project begins in two weeks.
Preliminary work began May 29. Actual construction should begin by mid-June, said project spokesperson Trudy Gerena, of the community outreach department with Manatee County. Community outreach delivers information to the public and media on 70-plus taxpayer-funded programs.
Motorists can expect temporary delays, daytime lane closures, possible flagging operations and detour routes down side streets and over a block, Gerena said.
The primary contractor is Westra Construction of Tampa and Palmetto.
“The contractors are very experienced in doing this type of work,” Gerena said. “The main thing as far as the community is concerned is coordination of lane closures and detours. They will cause as little inconvenience as possible.”
Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he is confident traffic disruption will be minimized. There is no other option, he said.
“It’s something that has to be done,” he said. “The county’s being proactive rather than reactive. It’s a whole lot better getting it done now before a catastrophe happens.”
Shearon said a consultant conducting an AMI traffic study this summer has been notified work on the underground waterline replacement project is underway.
Rerouting traffic will affect island motorists, but most of the disruption will be on side streets, he said.
“It is what it is,” Shearon said. “We have a congestion problem anyway. I just don’t see it’s going to affect anything if they have to stop traffic for a little while.”
The project includes replacing 50-year-old water and sewer pipes and modifying existing lift station pipes, and the connection to existing pipelines, project manager Jennifer Fehrs of the Manatee County Public Works Department, project management division, wrote in a letter to city and county officials.
Fehrs said the project limits on Anna Maria Island extend from State Road 684/Cortez Road West to just north of State Road 64/Manatee Avenue on State Road 789/Gulf Drive.
The project is expected to take two years and will finish sometime in summer 2019.
The Manatee County utilities and public works departments presented a Force Main 5 Rehabilitation project update May 30 at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.
For more information, go to AMIpipereplacement.com or call 941-748-4501.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
A new sculpture delivered March 16 for the Ugly Grouper restaurant, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, is made up of Harley-Davidson brake rotors, license plates and various other metal pieces and parts, was designed especially for the restaurant by Dominique Martinez of Rustic Steel Creations in Tampa.