Long Bar Pointe property rights to get court judgment Dec. 2
MANATEE -- Long Bar Pointe, a proposed shoreline development with portions of it largely prohibited by Manatee County's development rules, will get its day in court in December. A win could get development restrictions lifted, or even force the county to buy part of the development at a cost of millions.
On Dec. 2, Long Bar Pointe developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman will bring their claim that the county deprived them of their constitutional property rights before a judge. During a 12-hour, marathon meeting in August 2013, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners declined to amend the county's comprehensive land use plan at the developers' request to allow mangroves to be cut and a marina to be built at the 463-acre West Manatee mixed-use development.
The claim is one of several filed by the developers concerning the subdivision.
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In a complaint filed in 2014 with the 12th Circuit Court, the developers ask for a judgment that compels the county to condemn underwater acreage where the comp plan prohibits development and pay "full and just compensation." It also asks that the judge rule on the status of the land and invalidate comp plan regulations that forbid its development.
S. William Moore, a Sarasota property rights attorney representing the Long Bar developers, wrote in the initial claim that the county's decision caused a property loss of $18 million.
Beruff did not respond to a request to comment on the upcoming hearing.
Long Bar Pointe was once planned to include up to 3,600 homes, 192,000 square feet of commercial space, a hotel, a conference center and a marina and navigation channel. The amendment proposed by the development partners would have opened certain coastal areas to more development, particularly those at Long Bar Pointe. Members of the county commission voted the amendment down after county staff showed that it would have far-reaching affects on shoreline and submerged lands throughout the county.
One year after the board rendered its decision, Beruff and Lieberman filed a Bert J. Harris Property Rights Protection Act lawsuit against Manatee County. They did so through the corporate entities they control, Cargor Partners VIII/Long Bar Pointe LLC of Bradenton.
The Harris Act is a Florida measure that gives a landowner legal standing when a local or state body restricts what can be done with a piece of property, placing an inordinate burden on the owner. It provides a number of remedies, including financial compensation and modified restrictions.
The all-day hearing in December in Judge John Lakin's courtroom will not involve a jury. Manatee County Attorney Mickey Palmer said the county wants the suit dismissed.
"The court is entertaining not only Mr. Beruff's motion for summary judgment, but the county's motion for summary judgment," he said.
The property rights suit is one of three legal actions the Long Bar Pointe developers are pursuing with the circuit court.
In July 2013, they filed suit against Manatee County seeking relief from a $2.35 million "special fee" related to the construction and expansion of El Conquistador Parkway. The road borders the Long Bar Pointe property. No court date is scheduled for the case, according to records.
On July 29, Long Bar and Cargor filed another complaint, this one against Florida Power & Light. It alleges that the utility laid an underground and underwater cable outside its easement and on lands owned by the companies. They are seeking unspecified back rent and a judgment that FP&L is "unlawfully in possession of the Plaintiff's property." Bill Orlove, an FP&L spokesman, said the utility will not comment on the ongoing suit.
Long Bar's developers are unusual in that they are one of a small number of property owners in Florida who own underwater land. In 1970, the state took sovereign ownership of most submerged lands within approximately three miles of its coast by adding language to Florida's constitution.
Moore's law firm, Moore Bowman & Rix, is handling all three suits for Beruff and Lieberman. He did not respond to a request to comment.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.