MANATEE -- Edward Vogler II, a land use attorney who spent the last 36 years of his life in Manatee County, bristles at the notion he represents interests that wish to destroy a Manatee County environmental jewel.
"We believe that a full understanding and review of the facts will show that the project is in the best interest of Manatee County," Vogler said from his office Tuesday.
Vogler's view is not shared by some residents and groups vehemently opposed to the Long Bar Pointe project of developer Carlos Beruff and land owner Larry Lieberman, two men whose companies Vogler represents.
Among other amenities, Beruff and Lieberman hope to build single- and multi-family homes, a 300-room hotel, an upland marina and a conference center on a 463-acre section of Long Bar Pointe, which is a pristine tract of farmland overlooking Sarasota Bay where 75th Street intersects with 53rd Avenue West, according to Manatee County records.
Opponents to the controversial project, which includes The Sierra Club, The Audubon Club, Save Our Manatee Shoreline, Save Our Bays and Bay Life Preserver, among others, plan a protest on the water from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
"We are asking those boaters who wish to be a part of the protest to stay in deepwater southeast of Long Bar Pointe and northeast of Marker 17," said Suzanna Young, a Bayshore Gardens resident and member of the anti-Long Bar Pointe project group Bay Life Preservers. "There will be patrol boats to take you in because this is a shallow area."
Beruff and Lieberman have nothing planned to counter the boat protest, Vogler said.
Matt Bower, 39, a part-time fishing guide and 1992 Bayshore High School graduate who grew up on the water in the Cortez area, said he is vehemently opposed to the project. He is the law firm manager at Luhrsen Law Group in Sarasota.
"I am the voice of a lot of charter captains and what
we are opposing is this marina, which requires an extensive dredging," Bower said Tuesday. "It is very difficult to understand the situation unless you see it. The Long Bar is a very, very large area of shallow water and the fish migrate up and down it all day, every day."
Bower said the deep dredging required to build a marina will destroy migratory patterns and prized fishing.
"You are impacting the area that is the most popular fishery in both Manatee and Sarasota counties," Bower said. "Now you will have boats coming in and out. The fish are very migratory in that area."
"I am not saying there will be no impact, but they will be overshadowed by benefit," Vogler said. "The law requires that we help the fishing."
Vogler said the project will not damage Long Bar Pointe's renowned fishery. He said it will help it by reducing agricultural runoff from a cattle operation there now and from other ag activities, which have gone on for more than 100 years.
"That's a lot of smoke and mirrors," Bower said. "I drive that area every day from work and you rarely see cattle there, and when you do, it's two dozen cows at most. Does he really believe two dozen cows are going to have an impact on the fishery?"
Vogler said the marina being built on uplands will be a prized asset.
"You have to visualize what we are planning," Vogler said. "If you go behind the mangroves, away from the shoreline and dig out a basin and water fills that basin and boats get put in that basin, you won't see them. Our basin will be shielded by an Old Florida view. It won't look like the marinas in downtown Bradenton that are built right on the Manatee River."
Vogler said mangroves to be trimmed for the project represent just 225 out of 15,200 linear feet of shoreline, or 1.48 percent of the shoreline.
"These shoreline impacts are very minor and won't be significantly noticeable from the water," Vogler said.
"It's not a matter of what the marina will look like, it's what they have to do to build it," Bower said. "They have to dredge at least 2,100 feet of sea bed. It will be very difficult to get in and out because it is already a shallow area. It just makes no sense."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.