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Long Bar Pointe withdraws plans for ‘mitigation bank’

The developers of the 3,200-home Aqua by the Bay subdivision have withdrawn their application to build a mitigation bank near Long Bar Pointe. Photo by Troy Morgan/PHOTOSFROMTHEAIR.com
The developers of the 3,200-home Aqua by the Bay subdivision have withdrawn their application to build a mitigation bank near Long Bar Pointe. Photo by Troy Morgan/PHOTOSFROMTHEAIR.com Troy Morgan/PHOTOSFROMTHEAIR.com

Long Bar Pointe LLLP has withdrawn its application for a 263-acre mitigation bank on its proposed 463-acre, 3,200-home development called Aqua by the Bay.

Long Bar Pointe attorney Edward Vogler II said that no reason for withdrawal was needed but that the company plans to reapply. Long Bar Pointe officials, who on Sept. 2 notified the state of the withdrawal, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection had planned on approving the permit in April unless opponents filed a petition for an administrative hearing. Suncoast Waterkeeper, Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and Joe McClash had collectively filed a petition on May 19.

The piece of land that Long Bar Pointe developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman want to develop is southwest of Cortez Road and 75th Street West along Sarasota Bay.

A mitigation bank is a piece of disturbed wetlands that is bought by a landowner to eventually restore and preserve. The bank is divided into “credits,” or units of functional land, for developers to buy when they permanently impact wetlands at other sites. Each credit can go for anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000, paid to those who control the bank.

After an assessment by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Long Bar Pointe’s mitigation bank would have only been worth 18 credits, which is on the smaller end compared to banks across the state.

The bank would also be next to an active construction site, and Long Bar Pointe also asked to be allowed to trim mangroves — which would have been firsts for a mitigation bank.

“It’s good news for the environment and the people have joined forces to protect our quality of life,” said McClash, a former Manatee County commissioner.

“This would have created a terrible precedent for the proliferation of phony mitigation banks,” said Justin Bloom, executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper, adding he was “pleased and cautiously optimistic” about the move.

In order to have a mitigation bank, Long Bar Pointe needs both a state and federal permit. The company’s application to the Army Corps of Engineers is still being reviewed after the public comment period ended on Aug. 13.

Beruff and Lieberman lost an appeal of a January decision made by a Manatee judge that held up the county’s comprehensive plan, under which an owner of submerged land has no absolute right to change the land’s character, like dredging a channel.

McClash said he’s looking into an agricultural exemption permit that was filed on Aug. 12 and quickly approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District on Aug. 30, which would allow Long Bar Pointe to excavate three agricultural ponds totaling to 19.1 acres on the property as long as they “conduct, operate and maintain the agricultural activities included in the project.”

“Unless and until (Beruff) follows the same rules and regulations that everyone else is bound by, we are going to remain vigilant in protecting the environmental resources he seeks to squeeze and destroy for maximum profit,” Bloom said.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

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