Map Amendment Vote:
Whitmore - Yes
Benac – Yes
Baugh - Yes
Bustle - Yes
Chappie - No
DiSabatino - No
Gallen - No
Text Amendment Vote:
Whitmore - No
Benac – No
Baugh - No
Bustle - No
Chappie - No
DiSabatino - No
Gallen - No
BRADENTON – After twelve and a half hours of discussion that included five and a half hours of citizen input, Manatee County Commissioners and Long Bar Pointe developers reached a compromise granting a requested mixed-use land use designation, while denying changes to the county comp plan that would have allowed for the construction of a publically-opposed marina.
Commissioners unanimously denied a text amendment request that would have allowed for a marina by removing environmental protections for mangroves, sea grasses and Sarasota Bay.
After further discussion, commissioners approved a modified map amendment to the county comp plan by a 4-3 measure – an amendment granted only after Long Bar Pointe attorney Ed Vogler asked that the marina be removed from the proposal.
The mixed-use designation allows developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman to move forward with design plans for a revamped project that would likely include residential units, a hotel, commercial, retail and office space, restaurant space and a conference center – all mentioned in the original comp plan proposal.
With the controversial marina now off the table, it remains to be seen if the conference center will remain part of the plan.
The mixed-used designation allows for a wide variety of commercial uses beyond those previously mentioned by the developers. These potential uses range from a bowling alley or a movie theater to a hospital or animal clinic – none of which were included in the original comp plan amendment documents submitted by developers.
The bureaucratic drama played out inside the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto – a venue chosen to accommodate the large crowd.
An estimated 800 people were on hand when the meeting commenced at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. By the time commissioners handed down their map amendment decision at 1:55 a.m. Wednesday morning only 100 or so diligent audience members remained.
Many Long Bar Pointe opponents wore “Save Our Bay” t-shirts, while supporters donned green buttons or baseball caps that simply said, “Yes.”
Of the 150 citizens who signed up for public comment, only eight spoke in favor of the proposed development.
Citizen concerns included mangrove removal, natural habitat destruction, dredging, damage to sea grass, increased traffic, hurricane evacuation, noise and light pollution, soil erosion, flooding, increased blight and negative economic impacts.
Supporters of the development touted “bold” design, positive economic impact, job creation, increased tourism, confidence in the ability to mitigate environmental impact, the benefits of urban design and greater access to the waterfront.
Commissioners Carol Whitmore, Betsy Benac, Vanessa Baugh and Chair Larry Bustle voted in favor of the modified mixed-use map amendment once the marina was removed.
Whitmore encouraged developers to “go above and beyond” county standards when designing their mixed-use project, while throughout the evening checking her phone for updates pertaining to her daughter Janae’s pending childbirth.
Benac expressed her desire for something other than just another gated community while expressing confidence that protections remain in place to prevent the construction of a marina, boat ramps or any other means of accessing the water – other than a scenic boardwalk, which would likely be allowed.
Commissioners John Chappie, Robin DiSabatino and Michael Gallen voted against the modified map amendment and expressed concerns about remaining consistent with the county comp plan, assuring continued environmental protections and avoiding future legal action.
Gallen repeatedly conveyed apprehension about the degree and accuracy of the staff analysis pertaining to the project, due in part to the lack of specifics provided by developers.
While leaving the convention center, some opponents of the proposed development expressed disappointment with the decision to grant the mixed-use designation, hoping instead for complete denial of the map and text amendments requested by developers.
With the mixed-use allowance in hand, the Long Bar Pointe development team now has the opportunity to present more detailed plans and documents to commissioners as the design process moves forward. Beruff and Lieberman could also sell the newly designated property to another developer if they decide they want out.
Should the design process continue, commissioners and county staff would have additional input on how the final project would look.
(Community reaction and follow-up coverage of the Long Bar Pointe decision will appear in the Aug. 14 print version of the Anna Maria Island Sun)