In 2006, the Manatee County Commission issued a permit to Larry Lieberman for a 1,600-unit residential development on 523 acres of waterfront property in Bradenton. Due to the subsequent recession, the project never went forward. Instead, the property headed toward foreclosure. At the last minute, Mr. Lieberman partnered with Carlos Beruff to keep the project going. Initial plans for this development included buildings 78 feet in height, which is 43 feet higher than the county limit.
Beruff and Lieberman have been attempting to heavily develop the waterfront at Long Bar Point, including a marina with a long channel to connect with the distant intercoastal waterway which would entail major dredging of a sensitive shallow area of the bay with significant seagrasses, along with destruction of mangroves and other coastal habitat. The developers sought changes to the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan which would have allowed their plan to go forward, erasing coastal environmental protections which would also have opened many other environmentally sensitive coastal areas to inappropriate development without environmental protections contained in the Comp Plan.
The community came out in force against the proposal. We celebrated a victory in the fight to protect and restore remaining natural coastline in Manatee County when an impressive turnout of over 1000 advocates packed the convention center and swayed the developer friendly County Commision. The plan to build a marina and destroy significant areas of mangroves at Long Bar Point as part of a large development was amended, withdrawing a marina as a possible waterfront use and keeping in place important environmental protections afforded by the Comprehensive Plan.
Not to be deterred by things like laws, regulations, the will of the public, the vote of the County Commission... Beruff and Lieberman sued the County, arguing that the Comp Plan is unconstitutional and asked the Circuit Court to force the County to pay them for the value of the land (as premium developable waterfront). Suncoast Waterkeeper intervened in this "Takings Challenge" along with FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) and defended the Comp Plan, highlighting the importance of Long Bar Point, Sarasota Bay, and the terrible outcome that would have come from the precedent of this case, eroding similar environmental protections in other coastal Counties. The county and environmental intervenors prevailed in Circuit Court, but the developers have appealed the decision.
Meanwhile, Beruff and Lieberman are attempting to permit a Mitigation Bank at Long Bar, to gain valuable credits from the State for "protecting" mangroves and seagrasses that they are not allowed to impact anyway! We are challenging this latest effort to subvert environmental regulations for greed.
This piece of property is one of the last large, undeveloped areas in this region of the Gulf Coast. The developers’ marina plans would involve removal of 20-40 acres of mangroves from the shoreline and would require dredging of a very shallow area of intracoastal that contains two acres of healthy sea grasses. Mangroves are native to Florida and provide vital services such as filtering water and buffering land from the impacts of storms and hurricanes. Mangroves can assist in erosion prevention and reduce flood damage when present in sufficient numbers. They also provide breeding habitat for a wide variety of aquatic life. The 1996 Mangrove Trimming & Preservation Act, enacted with a goal to “protect and preserve mangrove resources valuable to our environment and economy from unregulated removal, defoliation, and destruction”, set a course for local governments to protect mangroves.
Likewise, seagrasses also filter water and provide habitat for marine organisms. They also act as a food source for some species of fish and other marine creatures. The importance of the rolls of seagrasses and mangroves in Florida cannot be overemphasized. The State of Florida currently engages in extensive activities aimed at protecting the state’s seagrass resources, including mapping and monitoring, education and outreach, and restoration projects. Dredging the intracoastal area adjacent to this development would eliminate the seagress population in that area and with it the beneficial ecosystem it creates.
Attempted Changes to County Ordinances
The developers of this property are requesting certain adjustments to county ordinances in order to pave the way for their project. One such amendment is PA-13-06 (PROPOSED ORDINANCE 1323), which would “amend the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan; providing for an amendment to Chapter 3, Conservation, to create a new Policy 126.96.36.199, and to Chapter 4, Coastal Management, to create a new Policy 188.8.131.52, of the Comprehensive Plan; the purposes of said amendments are to encourage water related or water enhanced uses as a component of mixed use projects of a specified minimum acreage, strategically located along a coastal line adjacent to navigable waters and an arterial road.” Another is PA-13-03 (PROPOSED ORDINANCE 1308), which would amend the Future Land Use Map to change the zoning from RES-9 (Residential – 9 dwelling units per gross acre) to MU (Mixed Use).
Building this project would also expose homes and businesses to areas designated by FEMA as a Coastal High Hazard Areas. This designation means that the areas are prone to high velocity wave action during large storms. They are shown as Zone V on Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Buildings in this area are required to be elevated on pilings or columns and carry with them a significantly increased flood insurance premium. While there are no direct prohibitions against building in Coastal High Hazard Areas, FEMA does require communities living in erosion-prone areas to have in place and enforce a flood plain management plan. This project, along with conforming to other sets of regulations, would have to meet the standards of the local flood plain management plan.
How Can I Help?
Because this development has the ability to impose such a negative impact on local ecology, our desire is to hold the developers to the highest level of environmental protection. Recreationists and fisherman, along with those living in the area, enjoy the benefits provided by the mangroves and seagrasses near this piece of land.
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Attend events. Click here to see the upcoming events pertaining to this campaign.
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