MANATEE -- Local developer Carlos Beruff has resigned from his position on the Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board, using his last day to motion for the approval of fellow local developer Pat Neal's controversial four-home subdivision on Perico Island wetlands.
Beruff's term was scheduled to end in March 2017, but he submitted a resignation to Gov. Rick Scott's office to have his last day be on Tuesday. Beruff, the founder and president of Manatee-based Medallion Homes, was appointed to the board commonly known as Swiftmud in 2009.
The board voted 10-1 Tuesday to approve Neal's environmental resource permit for a waterfront compound for his family, called Harbor Sound. An administrative law judge recommended two months ago that the board not approve the permit, and Neal still needs federal permission to build on the land.
Two years ago, Beruff was on the losing end of an environmental argument when the Manatee County Board of Commissioners blocked his Long Bar Pointe subdivision. The proposed 463-acre shoreline development near IMG Academy in southwest Manatee was originally planned to contain several thousand homes.
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Beruff did not return the Herald's call for comment Wednesday.
Neal said he was unaware that his long-time friend was resigning after Tuesday's vote, but he believes it's because of Beruff's busy schedule. In addition to being president of his company, Beruff was appointed chairman of the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding earlier this year; he also is a board of trustees member for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; a commissioner for the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority; and a member of the Home Builders Association of Manatee County and the National Association of Home Builders.
"Honestly, the vote was 10-1," Neal said. "Carlos' presence made no difference to the outcome."
In his resignation letter to the governor, Beruff said he would be resigning effective Wednesday, "due to other responsibilities." The letter was dated July 10 and provided no further details on his decision.
Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88 and a vocal critic of the Harbor Sound development, said he wasn't surprised by Beruff's resignation. But he called it "suspicious" that Beruff would hang on until the exact date of the board's vote on Neal's project since they have a close relationship.
Neal said he has known Beruff since 1982 and has worked with him on past developments, and he now considers Beruff both a friend and competitor.
Compton said it would have been "the proper thing to do" for Beruff to recuse himself from the Swiftmud vote on Neal, given their relationship.
"This just further shows that we don't have proper representation on the board," Compton said. "We need representatives who will think about the best interests of the public and not the developers."
Four federal agencies -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- have recommended that Neal's permit be denied. The city of Bradenton has approved the subdivision site plan. The Army Corps of Engineers is still considering a federal permit required to allow Harbor Sound to move ahead.
Kate Irby, online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby