Critics blast Longbar Pointe project

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 6, 2013 

MANATEE -- Due to bad weather, the Manatee County Commission on Thursday postponed a hearing on a controversial development project, but took a tongue-lashing first from speakers who had braved the storm to oppose the Longbar Pointe project.

“This is terrible, this is a terrible plan,” said Nick Bader, who was allowed to speak about the Longbar Pointe project before the commission officially postponed it to Aug. 6.

He was especially disturbed that developers have asked for changes to the county Comprehensive Plan's coastal protections in order to build along a mangrove-lined stretch overlooking Sarasota Bay.

"The people who really love this county, and don’t intend to chop it up, and make a million off it," could never support such a project, he said.

"I hope you’ll be very cautious in what you do," he added. "This shouldn't be political or partisan."

Matt Bower said he managed a law firm during the day, but moonlighted as a fishing guide.

"This is by no means will make our community any better, it’s going to make it worse,” he told commissioners.

Some of the speakers' comments miffed commissioners.

"This is a comp plan amendment, but don’t tell me how I’m going to vote," said Commissioner Betsy Benac. "It kind of makes me mad.”

At one point, Bader and commission chair Larry Bustle had a heated exchange, with Bustle noting he was born and raised in Manatee County.

"I love Manatee County, too," he said. "We're going to listen and make a decision on the facts."

Developers Larry Lieberman and Medallion Homes' Carlos Beruff want to build a resort-quality development featuring a 300-berth marina that can accommodate boats as large as 100 feet long.

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 mixed-use development on 463.2 acres would include 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.

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