Although the Southwest Florida Water Management District intended on giving Long Bar Pointe LLLP a permit for a proposed lagoon enhancement mitigation area, environmental groups are once again raising objections to nearly each aspect of developer Carlos Beruff’s plans to build his Aqua by the Bay development.
On Wednesday, the district received an 18-page petition from Suncoast Waterkeeper and Cortez Captain Kathe Fannon for a formal administrative hearing in response to the district’s notice of intent to approve a two-mile lagoon between the mangrove shoreline and a proposed seawall.
The petitioners allege the permit fails to meet the “clearly in the public interest” test, as Fannon said her charter business would be affected if the shoreline were weakened.
“I just stand on the fact that I’ve never had anybody ask me to come bring them to see a 145-foot building,” Fannon told the Bradenton Herald in April during a tour of the shoreline in question. “ Nobody has asked me to take them to see a mega-marina. No one has ever asked me to come show them a seawall that cuts off the shoreline.”
The petition also alleges that the lagoon would adversely affect wildlife and recreational activities, and that the applicant didn’t sufficiently find alternative designs to reduce wetland impacts.
Beruff’s attorney Ed Vogler said during the county commission meeting Thursday there would be only 13.07 acres of proposed wetland impacts, but that they were low quality wetlands.
The petition was filed ahead of Thursday’s meeting to hear Aqua by the Bay’s plans, but it ended up being remanded to the planning commission as there was a miscommunication in the staff report. Staff suggested there would be two tall buildings, but Beruff’s attorney Ed Vogler clarified during the meeting that there would be two types of tall buildings and didn’t specify how many. There could have been grounds for a challenge if the plan was not remanded.
Also, the Army Corps of Engineers again denied Long Bar Pointe’s application for a mitigation bank permit. A mitigation bank is a piece of disturbed wetlands purchased by a “banker,” who then cleans it up and restores the land. That land is quantified by a UMAM score and is sold off as credits to developers needing to offset wetland impacts, which can go for anywhere between $100,000 and $250,000 per credit to the banker.
A date for the planning commission again to hear the Aqua by the Bay plan has not yet been set.