MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday that it intends to issue a mitigation bank permit that would give the developers of a controversial housing project credits to offset future habitat destruction.
Cargor Partners VIII/Long Bar Pointe LLC of Bradenton, a company controlled by Medallion Home president Carlos Beruff and Sarasota developer Larry Lieberman, could receive up to 18.6 mitigation credits in exchange for preserving and enhancing about 260 acres of underwater lands, mangrove swamps and upland trees. The company plans to build its 3,200-home Aqua by the Bay subdivision on land that abuts the proposed mitigation bank.
Cargor's application for the mitigation bank has met with some opposition. Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash submitted commentary to DEP opposing the application. Earlier this year, he criticized the developers' proposal for doing little to help the environment.
A mitigation bank application submitted by Cargor to the DEP in September specifies conservation measures including placing signs in seagrass beds to warn boaters away, removing invasive plant species and placing a conservation easement over the property to be preserved. The permit would also allow the developers to cut some areas of mangroves to a height of 12 feet.
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According to an "intent to issue" document released by DEP Thursday afternoon, the agency will issue the permit unless opponents file a petition requesting an administrative hearing to reconsider it. That petition must be filed within the next 21 days.
McClash could not be reached for comment Thursday on whether he would ask for a hearing. Beruff also did not respond to a request to comment on the mitigation permit.
If the developers do receive the permit, they will be able to use credits that come with the mitigation bank to make up for wetlands and other habitat destroyed in building Aqua or at other development projects. They may also sell the credits to other developers.
According to the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank, credits can sell between $120,000 and $200,000 each. That organization is the largest seller of mitigation credits in Florida.
The pursuit of the mitigation bank is one of several actions the developers have taken since the Manatee County Board of Commissioners blocked plans in 2013 to build a marina, a seawall and shoreline retail and housing on the Long Bar Pointe property. Cargo is still pursuing plans to build housing on much of 522 acres it owns along El Conquistador Parkway.
The developers also lost an $18 million legal challenge against the county in January over their claimed right to develop Long Bar's shore lands when a Manatee County judge ruled the suit lacked merit. The developers have since filed an appeal with the Second District Court of Appeals.
The county has approved the development of several hundred homes at Aqua.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027.
or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.