Crowd opposes Manatee's Long Bar Pointe project

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 3, 2013 

MANATEE -- Opponents of the Long Bar Pointe development Tuesday recited a litany of complaints and said they are planning a protest "boat-in," petitions and other efforts to urge the Manatee County Commission to scuttle it.

Developer Carlos Beruff defended his controversial project during a phone interview, saying the coastal destination resort will be "magnificent for Manatee County," and adding that the number of buildings and units pro

posed in official documents constituted a "worst-case" scenario due to state requirements for review of comp plan amendments.

"It has nothing to do with reality," said Beruff of Parrish, founder of Medallion Home.

He plans to hold community meetings to inform the public about the project, he said, adding he would "invite everybody to really understand we're not doing half of the things we are accused of."

About 30 people turned up Tuesday to hear about the proposed changes to the county Comprehensive Plan to allow the project along a stretch of Sarasota Bay near where 75th Street West intersects with 53rd Avenue West.

"The thing that amazes me about the opposition is the diversity of the group," said Terri Wonder, who did a presentation about the project at the Bayshore Gardens Recreation Center.

"This should be denied, period," said Brian Costello during the meeting.

Among their concerns:

• Beruff, who holds many posts on various boards, has become too powerful;

• destruction of wetlands necessary to accommodate such a huge project would kill the bay;

• it constituted overdevelopment; and

• plans are too vague to discern ecological impact.

Beruff said the 463-acre site would never tolerate all the construction called for in official documents: 1,086 single-family homes, 1,687 low-rise multi-family homes, 844 high-rise multi-family homes, a 300-room hotel, a 300-berth marina and canal, two 36,000-square-foot offices, a 60,000-square-foot shopping center, 60,000-square-foot specialty retail and an 84,000-square-foot conference center.

"The maximum, in reality, is somewhere close to 2,700 units and a 250-unit hotel," Beruff said. "The boat basin will hold about 80 boats, and the basin will be on uplands on the actual property; it won't impact any wetlands for the boat basin, it will impact them with a channel."

As for environmental concerns, Beruff said: "There's no way that the various federal and state agencies would ever grant a permit if we cannot prove we have a net benefit to the bay."

Addressing gripes about his positions on influential boards -- Beruff chairs the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the board at State College of Florida, among other seats -- he said: "Every office I hold, I was originally appointed to by (former Gov.) Charlie Crist."

Groups opposing the project include: ManaSota-88, the Sierra Club, Stop the Skyway Resort Project, Save Our Manatee Shoreline and Bay Life Preservers.

Former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said proposed changes to the comp plan pose the most serious environmental threat.

The "boat-in" protest sponsored by Bay Life Preservers is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. July 20 off mile marker 17 in Sarasota Bay.

Opponents also hope to rally a crowd for an Aug. 6 meeting at County Administrative Center where the Manatee County Commission is slated to review the proposal.

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

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