Long Bar Pointe plan demise not the end of development there

December 27, 2013 

Long Bar Pointe map

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The battle over a major development of Long Bar Pointe is over -- for now. Opponents of the mixed-use proposal that included a luxury hotel, a shopping center, a conference complex and several thousand homes won this round when the developers withdrew a request for a Comprehensive Plan map amendment this week.

While project foes are celebrating, some commissioners must be breathing a sigh of relief, too.

But the property owners will return with a different plan -- likely within their rights and allowable under county regulations. The Manatee County commission cannot stop development there purely for political reasons. That would likely spark a costly lawsuit with the needless expense borne by taxpayers.

The developers -- Carlos Beruff of Medallion Home of Bradenton and Larry Lieberman of the Barrington Group Inc. of Sarasota -- lost in the court of public opinion with an initial proposal that featured Sarasota Bay dredging for a boat channel, the removal of a narrow group of mangroves to provide access to an inland boat basin and canals to be built in the plan.

Environmental organizations and civic groups protested in large numbers with more than 1,000 people attending a special commission meeting in August in a show of force that put commissioners on the hot seat -- especially for those seeking re-election in 2014.

The commission rejected the developers' request for a volatile comp plan text amendment that would have applied countywide but approved a map amendment for this particular proposal after Beruff and Lieberman erased the marina, dredging and mangrove removal from their plan.

That map amendment would have altered the property's future land-use category from residential 9 to mixed use but that's now off the table. The approval triggered a state review, and another Manatee County commission meeting for a final vote had been set for late January -- now canceled with the developers' withdrawal of the plan.

As it stands, though, the zoning on the property still allows certain commercial, retail and office development along with residential uses.

The 463-acre property stretches along Sarasota Bay near the intersection of 75th Street West and 53rd Avenue West.

Long Bar Pointe is a rather unique property in that the developers also own the bay bottom ranging from 600 to 800 feet from the shoreline. Usually, the state of Florida owns submerged properties but not in this case. That bay-bottom property title presents a prickly dilemma for the county and environmentalists, an issue yet to be discussed much in public but one that merits a review. The seabed in those shallow waters is already lined with boat propeller scars that have torn out sea grass.

Manatee County is home to thousands of homes and businesses in coastal flood zones, and Long Bar Pointe -- mostly vacant farm land -- sits in another.

The land is already zoned for residential development. The idea that this land will continue to be uninhabited appears to be wishful thinking at this time, since the property owners have indicated a future plan will be presented to the county commission.

We hope the developers come back with a plan agreeable to the opponents of the now dead proposal. South Manatee sorely needs an economic boost -- one of the key elements to the county government's growth goals.

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