Consideration for Long Bar Pointe hearing can be confusing

cschelle@bradenton.comAugust 5, 2013 

The developers of Long Bar Pointe have applied to form a community development district to defray costs. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald File

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MANATEE -- When the Manatee County Commission faces the public Tuesday, the scope of what it has to consider depends on the amendment of the moment.

It will be up to the commissioners to keep the issues in order.

Two items are up for a vote:

• A map amendment to the comprehensive plan's future land use plan, with the developer's request to change the use from residential-9 to mixed use. Some of the developer plans can be considered.

• A text amendment to the comprehensive plan's coastal and conservation elements, designed to open certain coastal areas to more development. Any plans for the Long Bar Pointe site cannot be considered because this change will affect similarly defined properties across the county.

The public hearing itself is not as restrictive for commenters who may talk about both issues, County Attorney Mickey Palmer said.

"It's certainly possible that the board can entertain comments on either item from any person and consider the totality of the comment when acting on the comments at the end of the day," Palmer said.

Commission Chairman Larry Bustle will decide the hearing's structure, Palmer said.

Staff is recommending approval of the mixed-use designation, but denial of the text amendment to the comprehensive plan.

County staff is still investigating several questions regarding the amendment and its effect.

As of Friday afternoon, county staff was also working on a map to show all properties affected by the comprehensive plan amendment, Means said. Staff hopes to distribute the map to the commission by Monday afternoon, but it might not be unveiled until shortly before the hearing.

What would Long Bar Pointe look like if the commissioners approve the first amendment but deny the second?

"They could still build a mixed-use community, residential, apartments and a variety of other things," said John Osborne, planning and zoning official for Manatee County. "They wouldn't have ability probably to do the marina or impact the seagrasses or impact the mangroves."

MAP AMENDMENT

The commission will first consider changing the future land use designation of 463 acres that make up Long Bar Pointe between 75th Street West, El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay from residential-9 to mixed use. A total of 294.7 acres are in the Coastal High Hazard zone.

The commission already approved a housing development amended in 2008 to allow 258 homes, 150,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space and stipulations that prohibit docks and mangrove trimming. A development agreement limited future expansion to a total of 1,658 dwelling units based on the now completed El Conquistador Parkway. Being zoned residential-9, which allows nine units per buildable acre, opens the entire tract to allow for 4,168 homes, which could bring nearly 10,000 people to the area, according to county documents.

The mixed-use designation would allow a developer, according to county staff, to build at Long Bar to these maximum uses:

• 1,086 single-family homes

• 2,351 condos/apartments (high-rise and low-rise)

• 300-room hotel

• 300-berth wet slip marina

• 72,000 square feet of office space

• 120,000 square feet of commercial space (half shopping center, half specialty retail)

• 84,000-square-foot conference center

Those figures were submitted by the developers' consultant, Kimley-Horn and Associates, for a traffic impact study. Developer Carlos Beruff contends it will not be built to the maximum for the marina, with an 80-slip "boat basin" in the upland area constructed instead.

The marina also is contingent on a comprehensive text amendment to the county's conservation and coastal elements. The other maximum numbers could be pulled down to smaller numbers based on other regulations and comprehensive plan policies.

Commissioners also have to take into account the development's worst-case scenarios, Osborne said.

If the county approves the amendment, state agencies have 30 days to review and comment, and if the agencies sign off, the amendment then becomes part of the county comprehensive plan.

One of the key areas to consider is traffic impact, which is tied to those maximum use numbers submitted by the developer.

When the original Long Bar housing project was approved, a development agreement tied traffic limits for future residential development for up to 1,658 units or 9,716 daily trips on county roads, according to a staff report. The development agreement doesn't nail down numbers for commercial and office space, so county staff is relying on a limited traffic impact statement submitted by the developer's consultant.

The consultant reported deficient roadways in that area under worst-case scenarios would grow from three in 2035 with the current plan to 11 with the requested plan.

The county would have to amend the local development agreement to provide for the new figures.

Some debate occurred over building in a Coastal High Hazard area and the insurance rates for buildings in that area. Development is encouraged to be clustered in the Coastal High Hazard area, which includes the areas along Sarasota Bay prone to storm surge and flooding during hurricanes, according to the comp plan.

Requirements for a FEMA Velocity Zone call for elevated first floors using columns or pilings, and only allow parking and storage on the ground level and access to the first floor, said Sandy Tudor, a floodplain investigator for Manatee County.

The builder could install breakaway walls on the ground level to enclose the space, Tudor said, where the walls would break down if a wave would crash into it.

The project doesn't indicate the need for more density in that zone.

Conceptually, a developer could elevate the land to bring it out of a Coastal High Hazard area, said Doug Means, a planning division manager for Manatee County.

The buildings are supposed to be 1 foot above flood level elevation in these areas, Tudor said. Grading the land to meet that height is possible, Tudor said, as the developers have proposed. But the county can regulate how much infill is added in a Velocity Zone.

"You can't drain onto someone else's property," she said.

Developer Larry Lieberman said between the fill and the elevation of El Conquistador Parkway, developers are essentially "building a dam" to protect other properties from flooding.

Developers could not obtain public flood insurance if the development is in the land covered by the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. Long Bar Pointe has a 67-acre area zoned residential-6 that partially falls within a CoBRA zone not being considered for the map amendment but affected by the countywide text amendment.

The developer could build in the CoBRA Zone, but would have to find a private land insurer such as Lloyd's of London, Tudor said, resulting in a pricey premium. Maps shown by the developers appear to place a cluster of condos near the CoBRA zone, but the exact location is unclear.

Developers also included language in the text amendment that buildable projects would have to have "material public benefit." County staff said the language is vague as to the specific benefit.

The developers along with their attorney Vogler contend nearly 1,000 jobs created, enhanced tourism and proposed ecological mitigation would provide a public and environmental net benefit.

Some details would not be hashed out until a site plan review when the developers would have to indicate where and how much mangroves and seagrass they would replant and on what property. Additionally, the existence of a channel would have to be determined then.

If Beruff and company want to channel through seagrass, it would be difficult to obtain an Army Corps of Engineers permit, said Kevin O'Kane, permitting section chief with the Corps of Engineers' Tampa Bay office. Developers contend they have a channel, but are uncertain how much seagrass would be dredged.

"It's a small amount of seagrass, and I am confident our experts in the field of seagrass mitigation will do as well a job as they did at Port Manatee," Lieberman said.

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN

The comprehensive text amendment was initiated by the developers and not by county staff or the commission.

The Coastal Management and Conservation elements would be amended to create two new policies with the same language.

The developer wants to alter the county's vision by changing the environmental policies to allow mixed-use development on land 200 acres or more that enhances use/access of waterways, demonstrates a "new, substantial and material public benefit" and allows mitigation of environmental damage. The land would have to be located along a "coastal line adjacent to navigable waters and an arterial roadway."

The definitions of "coastal" and "navigable waters" are up for debate, Means said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines coastal counties, which means that all of Manatee County would be a coastal community, Means said.

"If we're talking about a specific site, it could be interpreted as anything in the county," he said.

If coastal line means bordered by tidally influenced waterways, that could restrict the defined land, Means added.

Navigable waters also mean the waterway has to be big enough for a canoe or kayak to travel, Means added. A 1909 Florida Supreme Court case, Broward v. Mabry, had to spell out that a navigable water is a permanent body of water that can be traveled upon for "purposes common to the public in the locality where it is located" and that capacity and not usage defines navigability.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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