After developer Carlos Beruff and his team specified exactly how many taller buildings were proposed, the Manatee County Planning Commission recommended denial of Aqua by the Bay on Thursday.
“Nothing has changed as we stand here today from where we were originally,” said Misty Servia, a planner with King Engineering working on the project.
Aqua by the Bay is Beruff’s latest proposal to develop 2,894 homes on 529 acres between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, just to the south of 53rd Avenue West.
Beruff, who attended Thursday’s hearing, did not address the planning commission.
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Planning commission member John DeLesline said he wished the developers “showed all the buildings or layout more.”
“It is kind of hard to grasp,” he said.
There were three planning commission members absent Thursday.
The height also gave planning commission member Tim Rhoades pause Thursday, and he pointed to the fact the nearby Lake Flores was approved for a maximum building height of 95 feet.
“The only thing I don’t like in this are the four buildings that exceed 95 feet and go up to 145 feet,” he said.
Thursday was the second time the proposed development went before the planning commission. It is also set to go back before the county commission next Wednesday, Aug. 16. County commissioners referred the controversial development back to the planning commission on May 4 because they wanted more information about how many buildings would exceed the maximum height of 35 feet allowed.
“In an abundance of caution, the board sent us back here to cover those items,” said Ed Vogler, the applicant’s attorney.
In the most updated staff report, the different building types are clearly spelled out as well as where on the property they would be built — 12 with a maximum height of 95 feet on the central part of the site, four with a maximum height of 145 feet also on the central part and the others between 36-75 feet tall, which would be limited by the approved number of dwelling units in the general development plan.
Pointing to a map of the project site, Servia showed where the taller buildings would be in relation to the surrounding neighbors.
“These are extensive setbacks,” she said.
With Aqua by the Bay, they placed “very special attention” on the compatibility with the surrounding development, Servia said.
“You got to make sure that the buildings fit within the land properly,” she said. “You have setbacks in excess of the building height. ... This is the vision of Aqua by the Bay — create this unique and special development in west Manatee County with a variety of building types.”
Environmental issues and the building heights dominated much of the public comment, which was all in opposition, delivered to the planning commission Thursday.
Manatee County resident Glen Gibellina said a 145-foot building is certainly not “the legacy you want to leave your kids.”
“We don’t want to look at a 145-foot building,” he said. “We are designing that for a select few when we should be looking at the community.”
Mary Keith, who is the president of the Tampa Audubon Society, drove to Thursday’s hearing from Hillsborough County.
“We think this whole project is a regional problem,” she said. “It’s something that we are all concerned about.”
But the development team said they have no impacts to mangroves and only 13 acres of wetland impacts to Brazilian peppers. There are also no impacts on water quality or sea grasses, according to Vogler.
“It actually improves water quality,” he said. “There is no dredging through mangroves or seagrasses.”