Long Bar Pointe debate long, passionate, informed

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 7, 2013 

PALMETTO -- They came with pleas, poems, pictures, maps, and even a hand-made diorama to a hearing on the proposed development called Long Bar Point.

A crowd estimated at near 1,000 packed the Bradenton Area Convention Center as the Manatee County Commission considered whether to approve two amendments to the county Comprehensive Plan that would allow the huge "coastal resort" to go forward.

With more than 100 people signed up to speak, the hearing dragged on for hours, well into the night.

"Is this economic progress, or is it greed?" asked Robert Dean, 85, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel from Bradenton.

He noted the county comp plan, which guides future development, was instituted to "preserve our unique community."

He told county commissioners they, as elected representatives, should "support our efforts, and not sell out our environmental resources."

A 13-year-old student, Colin Jasmer, brought a hand-made diorama to show the board why he opposed the development for environmental reasons.

His teacher at Harllee Middle School, Holly Clouse, 55, of Bradenton, then spoke.

"He's our future. We need to think about the future we want to give our county," she said. "Colin is speaking on behalf of so many kids...

"I urge you to vote 'no' on both of these things because it is our future, and it will affect everyone."

Some supported the project, such as Jim Germer, 54, a CPA and financial adviser who lives near the Long Bar Point tract in southwest Manatee.

Germer said the area is beautiful, and residents in his neighborhood like to sit out and view the sunsets and enjoy the bountiful wildlife.

"You're giving an opportunity to walk along Long Bar Pointe," Germer said. "Everyone can live that experience."

"Think about positives, not the negatives," he added. "This is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I urge you to vote for it."

He was booed by some of the crowd as he sat down, which drew a rebuke from Commission Chairman Larry Bustle, who insisted on respectful behavior.

Two former county commissioners opposed the comp plan amendments: Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann.

McClash got a big laugh from the crowd when he urged a "No Kill" policy for sea grasses, mangroves and special species.

Charlie Jones, 85, a retired U.S. Army colonel from Palma Sola, favored the comp plan changes.

"I've witnessed many changes," said Jones, who came to Manatee County as a boy. "These changes in many cases have been for the better. The Long Bar will be one of the best."

This will provide "an outstanding destination," he said, adding it would be "a jewel in our community."

Like many in the audience who favored changes to the comp plan, Jones wore a bright green hat with the world "YES" written on it.

During the early part of the hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m., the convention center had a standing-room-only crowd.

First, the county staff discussed the proposed comp plan changes; then the developers and their environmental consultants spoke, and finally, the citizens took over the microphones.

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

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