UPDATE, Aug. 7: More than 12 hours after a special Manatee County Commission land-use meeting started at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, commissioners voted just before 2 a.m. Wednesday to nix a proposed marina, but approve a 250-room hotel planned for a 463-acre parcel of Northwest Bradenton property.
After more than 13 hours of presentation and public comment that attracted more than 1,000 people to the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto, commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of a map amendment for the property, but only after they removed language that referenced a 300-berth marina that was a major sticking point for residents who don’t want the character of the shoreline changed. The move was made after developers agreed to remove the marina.
Commissioners, though, voted unanimously to deny a text amendment that would have changed the character of 42 other water-adjacent properties on county property. The move forces the developers to draw up a new text amendment and reapply to the county.
Despite a team of scientists and experts presented by Long Bar Pointe developers citing the economic benefits of the project and downplaying the environmental concerns, commissioners overwhelmingly agreed with the majority of their constituents’ concerns about the potential damage a marina could to Sarasota Bay and the nearby coastline.
“I’m concerned with incompatibility with areas to the south of the project and I’m concerned with the incomparability to the coastal environment.,” said Bradenton Beach resident and Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie.
Original story, Aug. 6: Longboat Key resident and Cannons Marina owner David Miller is a man of few words. But even Miller couldn’t resist making a comment Tuesday about a controversial mixed-use project in Northwest Bradenton called Long Bar Pointe, which Longboat officials are closely monitoring.
“I’ve been fishing in that area and it’s my hope to fish there for the next 50 years without a development like this interfering,” Miller said.
Miller, along with a few other Longboat Key residents and three Longboat Key commissioners, joined the crowd of approximately 1,000 people Tuesday that filled the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto.
At the meeting, commissioners were charged with either approving or denying two Comprehensive Plan amendments that Long Bar Pointe developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman are seeking to apply for a grander resort community that’s currently not allowed under the county’s current Comp Plan.
The project includes residences, a hotel, conference center, marina and boat basin, office and retail.
Members of the public and group representatives took to the stand to either support or oppose the changes.
Opponents say the project will result in severe environmental damage to Sarasota Bay and cause traffic issues both on the roads and in the bay.
Larry Grossman, who last week delivered a petition of 1,000 signatures to the Manatee County Commission along with 20 other “Save Our Bay” protesters, called the project “devastating” to the environment. Save Our Bay protestors came well-equipped with “Save Our Bay” T-shirts and inflatable dolphins.
“It’s just a bad idea,” Grossman said.
The two developers and their supporters wearing green caps and buttons, though, told county officials they can mitigate any environmental damage to the bay, while creating hundreds of jobs for the next 15 years.
Beruff told the commission Tuesday he’s confident the project is just what Bradenton needs.
“It’s quite simply the best well-designed community west of I-75 in 50 years,” said Beruff, whose comment was met with some groans from the audience.
The map amendment would change the future land-use map category from residential-9 to mixed-use for the 463.2 acres located between El Conquistador Parkway and 75th Street in Bradenton along Sarasota Bay.
Although county staff recommended the map amendment be approved, some county commissioners balked at the recommendation Tuesday.
Manatee County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino worried about traffic issues on El Conquistador Parkway, which is currently a two-lane road in some portions.
“I really don’t see how staff can support this,” DiSabatino said. Her comment was met with cheers from several members of the audience who were repeatedly warned to stay quiet.
The text amendment, meanwhile, would change the Comp Plan’s coastal and conservation portions, to allow for future mixed-use projects on certain portions of the county’s coastline in areas that are 200 acres or larger.
County staff told commissioners they didn’t recommend the text amendment be approved. Staff revealed the text amendment wasn’t just site specific and could affect 42 properties in Manatee County, most of which are inland areas around lakes and rivers. Areas of Terra Ceia, Lakewood Ranch and Parrish could be affected by such a change.
Although Mayor Jim Brown, Vice Mayor David Brenner and Commissioner Phill Younger attended the meeting, they reiterated the town hasn’t taken a stance on the project at this time.
“I’m not for or against it,” said Brenner, who stressed he is concerned about what environmental procedures would be put in place to handle concerns if the project were approved as proposed. “It’s something we need to keep an eye on.”
The project calls for removing 20 to 40 acres of mangroves and removing more than two acres of seagrass for dredging to create a waterway for 100-foot-long boats to come into a canal and harbor in the upland area of the property.
The project’s website labels the mangrove area as an exotic area that will have “nuisance clearing completed along the bay.”
Longboat Key resident and Sarasota Bay Watch founder Rusty Chinnis has fished in that area for years, as well.
“The development itself isn’t so troubling, but taking out the mangroves and grass flats is way too intense, and no amount of mitigation could ever replace the environmental damage that would be done,” Chinnis said.
Scroll down to see a video of what meeting attendees said.