BRADENTON – On Thursday, Feb. 6, Manatee County Commissioners will discuss Aqua by the Bay developer Carlos Beruff’s request to delete a development stipulation included in the initial development approvals he received from the county commission in 2017.
Thursday’s land use meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and take place in the Honorable Patricia M. Glass chambers on the first floor of the county administration building at 1112 Manatee Ave. W. in downtown Bradenton.
The Aqua by the Bay zoning ordinance amendment request discussion is expected to take place soon after the meeting begins. Public input will be allowed, and Cortez resident and former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann is among those planning to voice opposition to the developer’s request.
“I believe it is in our best interest to be present at that meeting and make it known that this stipulation was our insurance policy, if you will, that we would know what we were getting in these buildings, especially the visual impact, water shoreline vista impact and overall compatibility with surrounding area,” von Hahmann wrote in an recent email she distributed encouraging others to express their views at the upcoming meeting.
“This is a stipulation which allowed us to see, after development begins, the physical building size and the number of units each building will have, and they want it removed,” von Hahmann wrote.
A large, centralized, clubhouse-like building now stands near the southeast end of the Aqua by the Bay property, between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay. Large concrete pipes are scattered about that end of the property that will contain the first phase of residential units to be built.
Excavation work is also taking place at the northwest end of the property, near the pasture where several cows currently live.
Approved by county commissioners on Oct. 3, 2017, the zoning ordinance Beruff seeks to amend includes stipulation A.17, which reads as follows: “Subsequent residential dwelling units, upon completion of the first 750 residential dwelling units, shall require further approval by the Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing prior to, or as part of, Preliminary Site Plan approval, in increments of 750 units or more. Any approval shall be in conformance with Stipulation A.16.”
Commissioners were provided with a county staff report prior to Thursday’s meeting.
“Staff finds the language in Stipulation A.17 to be unclear and problematic relative to timing as to when the project is required to return to the Board of County Commissioners. Staff believes the timing of ‘completion’ is too late in the development process for the Board of County Commissioner’s review of a site plan,” the staff report says.
“Currently, a preliminary/final site plan has been issued for 446 residential units. 316 residential units are pending Preliminary/Final Site Plan approval. A pre-application meeting was held for another 350-353 residential units,” the staff report says.
“In addition to the complexity of the timeline, the applicant has identified an additional concern with the last sentence of stipulation A.17 which reads; “… Any approval shall be in conformance with Stipulation A.16,” the staff report says.
Regarding stipulation A.16, the accompanying project narrative says, “Prior to final site plan approval, the applicant shall submit a hurricane evacuation and disaster plan to the Public Safety Department’s Emergency Management Division.
“Approval of hurricane evacuation/disaster plans and review of site plans for compliance with those plans has historically been administrative. Requiring public hearings for this purpose is an undue burden for both the applicant and staff. This is contrary to the streamlining direction of the board with the 2019 code amendments,” the project narrative says.
The staff report says, “Staff concurs that the deletion of stipulation A.17 would remove the apparent ambiguities existing during the review and processing of the preliminary and final site plans for the already approved 2,894 residential units. The requirement for a Hurricane Evacuation and Disaster Plan previously referenced in stipulation A.17 would remain applicable to the residential units as stated in the existing Stipulation A.16,” the staff report says.
“In accordance with Manatee County Comprehensive Plan, policy 126.96.36.199, deletion of stipulation A.17 does not affect development patterns, types of land uses, transition between land uses, natural features, or approved development in the area. There is no proposal to increase or decrease the gross or net residential density of the project. Staff finds the request to be consistent with applicable goals, objectives, and policies of the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan. Staff recommends approval,” the staff report concludes.
Commissioner’s past involvement
County Commissioner Misty Servia will be asked to support amending a development plan she helped present to the county in 2017, while working at King Engineering Associates and representing Beruff’s development interests. This was before she was elected to the county commission in 2018.
On Sept. 15, 2017, Servia sent Manatee County Planning Section Manager Nicole Knapp a letter on King Engineering Associates letterhead on behalf of Beruff’s Long Bar Pointe LLLP and Cargor Partners VIII LLCs.
Servia’s letter pertained to four stipulations to be discussed at the Oct. 3, 2017 meeting – the meeting at which the county commission approved the proposed development plans.
Servia’s letter noted the developers were offering a new stipulation, known then as stipulation A.18, which stated the developer’s willingness to come back to the commission for additional approvals for subsequent development phases.
That proposed stipulation contained language that is similar to the language approved as stipulation A.17 in the adopted zoning ordinance the county commission adopted on Oct. 3, 2017.
“The Aqua by the Bay project is approved in phases, with Phase I consisting of 750 residential units and 78,000 square feet of commercial/retail uses. Phases II and III shall each consist of 750 residential units, and Phase IV shall consist of the remaining approved residential units. Phases II, III, IV shall require further approval of the Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing prior to, or as part of, preliminary site plan approval,” Servia’s letter said, regarding proposed stipulation A.18.