Supporters, opponents deluge Manatee County commissioners with missives on Long Bar project

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 28, 2013 

MANATEE -- Supporters and opponents of a 463-acre development along the Sarasota Bay are inundating Manatee County commissioners with their views about the project's environmental and economic impacts.

They're sending videos and invitations to sign petitions, and chastising those elected officials who have taken campaign contributions from the developers of the proposed Long Bar Pointe resort project.

Some send hand-written letters or leave phone messages, while others send email.

In one day last week, 16 letters about the project arrived in commissioners' inboxes.

That day, all opposed the project but going back through the email queue, there were writers in favor of it, too.

The Manatee County Commission is slated to consider changes to its Comprehensive Plan, which guides future development, in connection with the Long Bar Pointe project. The meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

Here are a few samples of what commissioners have been hearing:

• "I am totally against the developers who are requesting permission to build at Long Bar Point!" wrote Fay Murphy, of Bradenton. "I DO HOPE YOU LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE! To ruin our natural resources in the name of power and GREED is not what the TAX PAYERS want! This is a delicate ecosystem and will never happen again if you give permission to ruin it."

• Lynn R. Osborn and Karen M. Osborn, of Coral Shores, wrote that, after pollinating crops inland, commercial beekeepers move their hives along the coast so their bees can rebuild on the Black Mangrove honey flow.

"There are at least three commercial beekeepers that move hundreds of hives into the Long Bar Point area, and without that forage, those beekeepers couldn't provide bees for pollinating local farms," they wrote.

All of the melons and squash sold at Walmart during the local growing season come from local farms, they contended, adding, "People don't think about it, but if they let this area develop, there is going to be impact on the cost, quality and availability of food they now take for granted."

Developers never consider the ripple effects, they wrote, adding, "Please vote against Carlos Beruff and his latest destructive project. Protect this last jewel we have in West Bradenton; when it is gone, you can't get it back."

• Taking the opposite view was Greg Burkhart, president of the Harbour Landings Estates Association in Cortez. He noted that he had brought up the topic after a recent community board meeting.

"I told the remaining 10-12 people that I was 100 percent in favor because of jobs and the amenities it would bring to Manatee County," he wrote.

"Of those people that were still present, not one person said anything negative of the project -- most were very excited to hear that something 'good' was about to happen in our community."

Some of the writers specifically opposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan. The map and text changes have already been tentatively approved by the Manatee County Planning Commission, the county commission's advisory board.

County commissioners will make a final decision during their Aug. 6 meeting.

"I am strongly opposed to the map and text changes proposed by the Long Bar Pointe developers," wrote Dennis Dowling, of Bradenton. "The associated expanded development that is proposed for the shores of Sarasota Bay will destroy significant portions of very important natural habitat of mangroves and seagrass."

"These areas are crucial to the health of the local aquatic ecosystem and in turn to the wider Gulf system that depends on breeding grounds. Similarly, resident and migratory birds frequent this area of mangroves for nesting and foraging. These vital functions must not be compromised!"

He urged commissioners to take a stand "to protect the highly valued natural ecosystem of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf."

A video produced by Rob Harris for the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club of Florida accompanied an email from former Manatee County commissioner Jane von Hahmann.

The changes being requested by the developers of Long Bar Pointe "will not only place this fragile shoreline at risk, but almost all other undeveloped shoreline in our county, whether on the bays or rivers," she wrote.

"Manatee County is known for its old Florida feel, it's low-rise waterfront vistas and healthy commercial and sport fishing," she added.

"Now is the time to step up as citizens and be heard," von Hahmann wrote.

Christine Albritton favored the Long Bar Pointe project, while lamenting what she described as the lack of development in West Bradenton.

"There needs to be a focus on redevelopment of west Bradenton and of Bradenton, itself," she wrote. "The proposed plan at LBP seems like a kickstart to draw investment and redevelopment. We are totally in favor of this project."

Agricultural runoff and a sewage treatment plant cannot be beneficial to water, plants and aquatic life, but careful planning of a development can provide so many benefits, such as much-needed tax money, jobs and reinvestment, she wrote.

"Without a bold plan, houses and condos along this stretch add very little to the community," she wrote, adding that with a conference center, hotel, marina, shops, and restaurants, "It could be a gem in west Bradenton."

Karen Etchells wrote succinctly about a story published in the Herald last month, reporting that all but one commissioner received campaign contributions from companies owned by Barrington Group's Larry Lieberman and Medallion Home's Carlos Beruff, partners on the Long Bar Pointe project.

The two developers gave a combined total of $42,500 to the current county commissioners for their latest campaigns, the Herald reported.

Commissioner Michael Gallen was the lone commissioner who did not receive any money from them.

"Because you took money from the Long Bar developers, you will not get my vote next time you are up for re-election," wrote Etchells. "Shame on you."

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

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