Protestors gather ahead of Long Bar Aug. 6 hearing

Members of Save Our Manatee Coastline, Bay Life Preservers, ManaSota-88 and Save Our Shores gathered Aug. 1 at the Manatee County Administration Building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, to voice opposition to Long Bar Pointe, the proposed development on Sarasota Bay on the mainland between Cortez and IMG Academy.

Protestors carried signs saying, “Long Bar Pointe-less” and other signs that provided phone numbers for Manatee County commissioners, as well as plastic blow-up dolphins with varying messages of “Save our bay.”

Ed Goff, of Save Our Shores, named his dolphin “Carlos” for co-developer Carlos Beruff, who submitted the revised development plan that has environmentalists up in arms.

“I named my dolphin ‘Carlos’ because he looks nice, but there’s something fishy about him,” said Goff.

Beruff bought in with developer Larry Lieberman to partner on the 500-plus acres of what is considered to be the last undeveloped shoreline in Manatee County in 2011. The duo retains certain entitlements that were first approved for Lieberman in 2004.

That approved site plan involves up to 1,658 multi-story and single-story family homes.

Beruff’s new site plan involves almost the same number of homes, but includes a 300-room hotel, a boat basin and canals, an 84,000 square foot conference center and 120,000 square feet of retail space.

County commissioners approved a new zoning designation in June that would open the door to Beruff’s plans, but it must still be approved by the state.

At issue are the text and map amendment changes required for the project, which would have a direct impact in changing the county’s comprehensive plan.

Opposition groups are saying Beruff’s development plan would be intolerable, creating a catastrophic environmental disaster to the bay.

Protests have been staged in various areas on land and by water around Long Bar Pointe but, on Aug. 1, protestors took their message directly to the county board.

Goff and about 30 demonstrators, armed with 1,000 of the more than 5,300 total signatures opposing the development plan, attempted to present the signatures directly into the hands of a county commissioner.

While it is policy to make an appointment to see a county commissioner, no commissioner would accept the signatures or speak to opposition leaders.

“It’s sad when a county commissioner will meet with a developer, but not their constituents,” said Barbara Hines, vice-chair of ManaSota-88, an environmental watchdog group. “Not one commissioner would come out of their office. It’s sad they won’t talk to the people they represent.”

Former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann was on the dais when the 2004 plans were approved. She said the 2004 approved plans are consistent with the comprehensive plan, but the revised plan is not.

“We want to stop the text amendment changes,” said von Hahmann at the protest. “The changes are inappropriate, and we are here to say ‘No’ to more land-use changes, no to docks and no to a 300-room hotel.”

Von Hahmann said the 2004 plans did not allow for the kind of development Beruff wants, but rather focused on conservation of Long Bar Pointe by protecting the mangroves and Sarasota Bay and created a conservation easement to ensure that goal.

As a former commissioner familiar with the original plans, von Hahmann has a unique perspective. She offered a direct message to current commissioners.

“The old plans were approved, signed, sealed and delivered to the clerk’s office,” she said. “It gives them the right to develop up to 1,658 units while protecting the natural resources and estuary system. If the commissioners approve this plan, (that) all goes away.”

Commissioners are expected to review Beruff’s proposed land-use changes at special land-use meeting that was scheduled for Aug. 6 and

In the meantime, Beruff and Lieberman filed a lawsuit against the county July 25 over the construction of El Conquistador Parkway.

The suit cites an unlawful taking of land and the developers are requesting damages and compensation for the land.

The lawsuit states that requirements placed on the developers to set aside land for constructing the parkway violated their constitutional rights.

County attorney Mickey Palmer told reporters he didn’t think the lawsuit would affect the Aug. 6 proceedings, but environmental activists like Goff said the lawsuit might be a pressure tactic to swing commission votes in favor of developers.

If the road was built after Jan. 1, 2010, the developers would have been granted relief of a special fee for the road, according to the lawsuit. The developers say the county did not provide written notice on or before the due date that the road would be constructed.

Two lanes extending 75th Street on the El Conquistador Parkway near the Long Bar Pointe property were built in 2012.

Palmer said the plaintiffs are suggesting that the original land development agreement for a portion of the property is unlawful.

The county commission meeting to consider the developer’s proposed comprehensive plan amendments was to be held Aug. 6, after press time for The Islander.

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