On Aug. 6, the Board of Manatee County Commissioners voted to change the map of Long Bar Pointe from residential to mixed-use. Commissioners Carol Whitmore, Betsy Benac, Vanessa Baugh and Larry Bustle voted for the change. Robin DiSabatino, John Chappie, and Michael Gallen voted against.
More than 6,000 people petitioned against this change. They understood the environmental, economic and social risks of putting a convention center, sea-walled boardwalk, and high-rise hotel directly on Sarasota Bay. They understood Terra Ceia and Palma Sola Bays could be next. Do we want Manatee's coast to look like Miami-Dade's?
On Sept. 9, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council rendered its opinion about the map change. As a result, the county commission will have an opportunity to reconsider. As the planning council report suggests, Long Bar Pointe already is a "natural resource of regional significance" and a "cultural, natural, and economic amenity." It won't be if the commission does not reverse its decision.
Commissioners favoring the change should not self-congratulate on the removal of a 300-berth marina from the developers' request. When the day comes for reconsideration, I hope the commissioners will support the broad classes of constituents who objected to dredging and filling of a salt-water wetland, mangrove forest, 2-mile-long meadow of sea-grass, and fish nursery that services West Florida's existing multimillion-dollar fishing and tourism economies.
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We must stop urbanizing our shoreline and plan instead for resilient coastal living. Coastal urbanization destroys not only ecological systems, but also social and economic ones. Large-project development can occur in other locations in the county. Other U.S. coastal counties are already proving that environment and economy are mutually compatible. At least 6,000 people in Manatee already get that. When will Whitmore, Benac, Baugh, and Bustle?
second-generation Old Florida Native