Amendment would omit most of Long Bar Pointe from new Manatee County 'Urban Service Area'

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 11, 2013 

MANATEE -- A proposed amendment to the county Comprehensive Plan would omit most of the Long Bar Pointe project from the boundaries of a new "Urban Service Area," which allows exemptions from higher-level planning reviews.

The proposal, tentatively approved Thursday by the Manatee County Planning Commission, would exclude low-lying lands in the coastal evacuation area from the boundaries of its new Urban Service Area.

If the recommendation is adopted by county commissioners, it would take 3,662 acres from the original Urban Service Area and reduce it 15 percent from 24,406 acres to 20,744 acres.

"That's the (hurricane level) Cat 1 area; most of the areas that also get inundated with tropical storms and very low-level hurricanes, and just that occasional odd rogue storm we get -- those are the most sensitive areas," said county planner John Osborne.

Most of the 463.2 acres of the Long Bar Pointe project property in southwest Manatee are located in a coastal evacuation area, he said.

The county planning staff is recommending an Urban Service Area be established in unincorporated parts of Manatee County, south of the Manatee River and west of U.S. 301.

An Urban Service Area is designed to help focus growth in urban core areas

already equipped with existing infrastructure such as water and sewer service, and roads, Osborne told the planning commission.

After hearing public comments about where the Urban Service Area boundaries should be, planning officials are recommending the most sensitive ecological areas be excluded from it, said Osborne.

A summary of the plan amendment noted development is encouraged in an Urban Service Area, although it is discouraged in low-lying sections "and population is directed away from coastal areas."

"Removing the Coastal Evacuation Area from the Urban Service Area boundary is also consistent with Southwest Florida Water Management District's concerns about development within an area of potential storm surge and flooding threats," the summary said.

Larger projects inside the Urban Service Area would be exempt from higher-level planning reviews.

The planning commission is just an advisory board. The matter is scheduled for a final decision Nov. 7 by the Manatee County Commission.

A hearing last summer attracted almost 1,000 people as county commissioners reviewed plans for a complex, mixed-use project at Long Bar Pointe.

Long Bar Pointe is located between Sarasota Bay, El Conquistador Parkway, 75th Street and Champions Row Street.

In its original form, the project called for construction that might have impinged upon sensitive areas overlooking Sarasota Bay, opponents complained. Developers insisted its ecological treasures would be preserved.

In a related matter Thursday, the Planning Commission's first vice chairman, David Wick, has resigned, officials announced.

Wick, 70, of Parrish, said after the meeting he had spent eight years on the board and sought to retire.

Wick is the longtime friend and occasional money-lender of one of the developers of Long Bar Pointe, Carlos Beruff, the Herald has previously reported.

Wick is also the former president of Medallion Home, the development company Beruff founded and continues to run.

The two are also officers in an existing company, SR 44 LC, as Wick reported in a disclosure form for the county.

Wick previously voted in favor of two comp plan amendments Beruff had sought for Long Bar Pointe, but Thursday he abstained twice from voting on items that could have affected Beruff's projects.

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

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