Carlos Beruff: The truth about a public benefit to Manatee County residents from Long Bar Pointe

CommentaryAugust 4, 2013 

Much has been printed about the Long Bar Pointe project in recent weeks; most of which is inaccurate information at best, or alternatively, propaganda. Before ever sharing our concept plan with the public, there were reports of petitions exceeding 1,000 names. "How does this happen?" Process.

Under a Comprehensive ("Comp") Plan Amendment, applicants are required to perform a traffic study for the proposed change to the underlying future land use (in this case from Res-9 to MU).

These studies require a maximum intensity snapshot of the property under the proposed Future Land Use.

These numbers are not representative of what will be actually developed. The intensities in our study (number of residences, hotel rooms, retail square footage, boat slips, size of conference center, etc.) never have been what we plan to develop on the property, rather it's what's required under the existing county process. It is physically impossible to build these intensities on the Long Bar Pointe property.

A prime example is the misconception that we will develop a 300-dock marina for 100-foot yachts. This is not at all accurate. We're conceptually proposing an 80-slip boat basin with no fueling capacity that would be 100 percent open to the public.

Additionally, the depth of the channel we're proposing is only 5 feet. For those readers not familiar with boat drafts, this may permit boats up to 50-60 feet, not 100-foot yachts.

The central issue is the proposed Text Amendment to the Comp Plan. Currently, the Comp Plan specifically prohibits dredging a new channel that will impact sea grasses. Our proposed channel would be approximately 60 feet wide and 2,100 feet long in order to reach an existing channel in Sarasota Bay, or approximately 2.9 acres mathematically.

We know the bay is home to many seagrass beds. What we don't know yet is how much of the 2.9-acre channel may impact sea grasses. In a worst case scenario it would be the entire 2.9 acres. However, it could be an acre or less.

"Why don't you know?" First, it's too early. Comp plans don't involve site or concept plans. Approval of a Comp Plan Amendment only permits the applicant to then develop a site plan to submit to the county for their review process through another, separate public hearing process.

We voluntarily chose to unveil our concept plan to graphically depict what we are proposing.

Secondly, because it's early, we haven't gotten into the level of detail required to map the proposed channel and effectively avoid seagrass beds wherever possible (the reason the real impact could be much less than 2.9 acres). Simply put, we don't have this level of specific detail yet because we're not at a site plan stage.

Please note that any environmental impacts to mangroves or seagrasses will require a mitigation plan approved, permitted and certified by six different federal and state agencies: Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Marine Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Mitigation requirements would likely include mangrove replanting (we're preserving 90 percent of the existing mangroves), replanting seagrass impacts in existing prop scar areas in the bay, creation of a conservation easement over submerged lands we own as part of the property, etc.

Additionally, nearby properties discharge, and have for 100 years, storm water run-off directly into the bay. That means fertilizers, pesticides, cattle byproducts, etc., have been dumping directly into the bay, untreated, for the last century. We could propose to capture discharge from these properties and treat it prior to it polluting the bay. This could be a significant improvement to the water quality of the bay to be enjoyed by residents, visitors and the ecosystem itself.

If you've seen our plan and understand what is really being proposed, and you think what we're proposing is wrong for the county, the residents, the environment, etc., we respect that difference of opinion.

Our concern lies in those circulating misinformation that have never seen the plan or spoken with us about the realities of what we're trying to do.

At some point in the near future, Long Bar Pointe will be developed. The question residents and county commissioners alike will have to ask is: "Do we want to close off 2.5 miles of Sarasota Bay frontage forever with another private gated subdivision, or would we prefer a resort-style destination, complete with restaurants, ice cream parlors, etc. that would be open to the public?"

For more information, please visit www.LongBarPointe.com.

Carlos Beruff, is the founder and president of Medallion Home.

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