Manatee planners OK changes needed for 'world-class' project in SW Bradenton

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 24, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Planning Commission tentatively cleared a significant hurdle Thursday for what developers describe as a "world-class project" in southwest Bradenton.

Developers hope to build the Long Bar Pointe: a mixed-use development on 463.2 acres, including single- and multi-family units, hotel, marina, office and commercial space, and a conference center, according to county documents. About 294.7 acres are within the Coastal High Hazard area, an area prone to flooding during storms, documents show.

Because of that, the development would require a change in the county's Comprehensive Plan.

The county's professional staff had a less charitable view about what developers are seeking to change for the Long Bar Pointe project: "It's the backbone of our environmental protection policies in Manatee County," said Planning Division Manager Doug Means.

Carlos Beruff, one of the developers, said the project would be "transformational for west Bradenton."

The site overlooks Sarasota Bay and parallels El Conquistador Parkway in the area where 75th Street West intersects with 53rd Avenue West. It's one of the last remaining pieces of undeveloped waterfront real estate in Manatee County. Much of the rich land was farmed by Manatee Fruit Co. for years.

The board unanimously OK'd a change to the future land use map from residential

to mixed-use, with the blessing of county planners.

It also OK'd 6-1, despite opposition from county planners, text changes in coastal and conservation chapters of the Comprehensive Plan that would apply countywide.

The text changes would allow developers to ask for limited exceptions to the comp plan's conservation and coastal management chapters, they said.

Voting in favor of the text change motion were Chairman Richard Bedford and Commissioners John De Lesline, Tanya Lukowiak, David Wick, Tim Rhoades and Bill Conerly; voting against was George Mendez. "I appreciate the applicant, I'm going to vote against the motion because I have only gone against staff one time," he told the board.

Also opposing the Comprehensive Plan change were local environmental leaders. The Comprehensive Plan guides the county's future growth and development.

"The best way to mitigate huge hurricanes is to keep things out of harm's way, and unfortunately, this project wouldn't do that," predicted Mary Sheppard, who urged the board to deny Comp Plan changes.

The matter still must win the approval of the Manatee County Commission. It is slated for review June 6.

This is far from the first time massive development has been proposed for Long Bar Pointe. In 2000, the Barrington Group Inc. submitted plans for a large condominium development, including buildings that would rise 78 feet overlooking Sarasota Bay, according to Herald archives.

But the plan did not receive approval for another six years. Over time, the project was whittled down from 11 stories to four over one level of parking. In 2006, county commissioners finally approved the project, a 500-acre development of various types of housing that included 2.5 miles of waterfront property and a $12 million extension of El Conquistador Parkway with a roundabout at 53rd Street. None of the development took place, but the road project has been completed in the past two years.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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