For the second time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday denied Long Bar Pointe LLLP a permit for a wetland mitigation bank that would have been adjacent to developer Carlos Beruff’s proposed Aqua by the Bay development.
A mitigation bank is an area of disturbed wetlands that is bought by a “banker,” restored and enhanced, and then the area is valued for credits that are sold to developers who need to offset their unavoidable wetland impacts during construction.
Although the Corps said this proposal was identical to the one that was denied in 2016, it was more specific in identifying reasons why the request was withdrawn.
In a five-page letter addressed to Medallion Home — Long Bar Pointe LLLP is a subsidiary of Medallion Home — and signed by chief of the Corps’ regulatory division Donald Kinard, there were seven concerns keeping the proposal from being approved.
On the ecological side, the letter stated that the Aqua by the Bay development could potentially adversely impact the seagrasses; the development’s proposed lagoon could weaken the shoreline; an oyster reef restoration area that was permitted in the bank area in 2010 to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program could be impacted; and the proposal included mangrove trimming that “serves no clear ecological purpose and is contradictory to the goals of a compensatory mitigation bank,” according to the letter.
The Florida Division of Historical Resources provided information that there are two archeological sites within the bank area.
The Corps’ proposal compared to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection mitigation bank proposal had a discrepancy as to where the four drainage ways would be. Lastly, the letter suggested that if approval was not given, 56 boardwalks, docks or fishing piers could be constructed, which the Corps said would adversely impact the estuarine ecosystem.
“It’s a good thing that it’s been turned away,” said Andy Mele, who is a part of the local environment group Suncoast Waterkeeper.
He added that he was surprised by the Corps’ thoroughness.
“This hamstrings (Beruff) considerably,” said Stuart Smith, a representative of the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club.
The DEP has given Long Bar Pointe LLLP a notice of intent to issue a permit for a mitigation bank, which is subject to a challenge by local environment groups to go before an administrative hearing in September.
This comes a day after Manatee County commissioners decided to refer the proposal for Aqua by the Bay back to the planning commission due to a miscommunication in the number of buildings versus building types — the possibility that the planning commission misunderstood was grounds to remand the development proposal to the planning commission. A date for this hearing has not yet been set.