LONG BAR POINTE -- The developers of a massive proposed subdivision at Long Bar Pointe have asked the state to designate most of the shoreline of their 522-acre property as mitigation bank to give them credit for enhancing habitat and other natural features.
The designation could allow the developers to sell the credits or even use them to offset the cutting of mangroves and other environmental impacts at their development.
Cargor Partners VIII/Long Bar Pointe LLC of Bradenton, a company controlled by Medallion Home president Carlos Beruff and Sarasota developer Larry Leiberman, submitted the application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in late September. According to state documents, an approved mitigation bank could give the developers more than 21 mitigation credits.
Joe McClash, a former Manatee County commissioner and opponent of the proposed 3,200-home Long Bar development, contends this latest move by the developers could give them a route to circumvent county development restrictions that protect sensitive shorelines.
He criticized the proposal for doing little to help the environment. Conservation measures in the application include placing signs in seagrass beds to warn boaters away, removing invasive plant species and placing a conservation easement over the property.
"These credits equate to the destruction of the environment in return," McClash said.
Beruff did not respond to a request for comment Monday on the application.
The developers' permit application shows some 264 acres spread across two separate tax parcels along Sarasota Bay could be included in the mitigation bank. The bank would preserve 110 acres of bottomland and 4.3 acres of saltwater marsh, and "enhance and preserve" 121 acres of mangrove swamps, 18 acres of freshwater marsh wetlands and about 10 acres of upland trees.
Under the proposed terms of the permit, up to 30 percent of mangroves in the mitigation bank could be cut down to 12 feet in height. The application also includes a maintenance plan, which the developer or its successors must keep up in perpetuity.
The plan for the bank includes a narrow water passage between the two parcels it would include.
The application is one of several actions the developers have taken since the Manatee County Board of Commissioners effectively blocked their plans to build a marina, a seawall and shoreline retail and housing on the property.
The developers also lost an $18 million legal challenge against Manatee County in January over their perceived right to develop those shorelands when a Manatee County judge ruled the suit lacked merit. It had accused the county of enacting and enforcing rules that prevented Beruff's and Lieberman's development company from dredging at Long Bar Pointe and building amenities including a marina and a sea wall.
The developers have since filed an appeal with the Second District Court of Appeals in Lakeland.
Manatee County is still formulating a response to the mitigation bank request.
"We are aware of the FDEP permit and are compiling our comments on this application," said John Barnott, the director of the county's building department.
An FDEP official responsible for evaluating the permit application did not respond to a request to comment on the Cargor Partners VIII/Long Bar Pointe request.
The developers and FDEP have exchanged several rounds of comments and responses concerning the permit. Among other requests, reviewers have asked the developers to show how the proposed bank is in the public interest and to better define how they will improve the condition of the land beyond its current state.
McClash, who has submitted commentary to FDEP opposing the application, said he believes the proposed mitigation bank does not meet the standard. The developers do have at least one approved site plan to build next to the shoreline, something he said indicates that the bank is "part of a common plan."
Mitigation credits carry a significant market value. Jamie Scarola, a managing partner of the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank, said that organization sells its credits for amounts ranging between $120,000 and $200,000 per credit, depending on the type of habitat. That organization operates the largest seller of mitigation credits in the state.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.