Year in Review: Beyond the Island

Year in Review: Beyond the Island
The Hunters Point canal in Cortez is the subject of multiple unresolved disputes. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

MANATEE COUNTY – Beyond the confines of Anna Maria Island, a canal dispute, mangrove trimmings and a proposed water taxi service were among The Sun’s top news stories in 2022.

Hunters Point

In Cortez, the construction of 86 Hunters Point homes continued while a hearing was conducted and completed regarding a dock permitting dispute.

The permitting dispute involves Hunters Point developer Marshall Gobuty’s Cortez Road Investments and Finance Inc. ownership group and the Cortez Village Marina’s MHC Cortez Village LLC ownership group.

In 2021, the Southwest Florida Water Management District gave Cortez Road Investments the environmental resource permit needed to construct the docks. That permit was then challenged by MHC Cortez Village.

The multi-day hearing began in June 2022 and concluded in September. Attorneys representing Cortez Village Marina argued the proposed docks would impede navigation along the canal and negatively impact their clients who have larger boats.

The attorney representing Gobuty argued the new docks would not significantly impede navigation and she repeatedly noted the man-made canal in question is privately owned by Cortez Road Investments and MHC Cortez Village LLC has no existing usage agreements for the canal.

The parties involved in the permitting dispute are still awaiting a recommended order from administrative law judge Bruce Culpepper, to then be followed by a final order issued by the water management district’s governing board.

In separate but related actions that took place in 2022, Cortez Road Investments filed a civil lawsuit seeking a court order that would prohibit Cortez Village Marina clients from using the privately-owned canal.

Cortez Road Investments also filed lawsuits against several canal-side property owners requesting that their docks and other structures be made fully compliant with the county’s dock regulations that prohibit any docks, boat lifts and other structures from extending more than 25% into the canal which is approximately 65 feet wide in those areas.

To date, several legal filings have been made but no hearings have been held regarding the canal-related lawsuits.

Aqua mangroves

In late April and early May, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) personnel inspected the mangrove trimming activities that occurred along the shoreline of the Aqua development (formerly known as Long Bar Pointe) located between Sarasota Bay and El Conquistador Parkway in unincorporated Manatee County.

Year in Review: Beyond the Island
The mangroves to the left were not trimmed, the mangroves to the right were trimmed to create better views for those who will occupy Aqua’s multi-family residential units. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

In mid-May, FDEP issued an inspection report that stated, “Unauthorized trimming activity was not evident at time of the inspections. However, no pre- or post-photographs, pre-trimming notification or post-trimming notification was provided to the department.”

In late August, in response to additional complaints about the mangrove trimmings not being properly removed,

FDEP Southwest District Director Kelley Boatwright issued a warning letter to Medallion Home representative Rob Bosarge and Aqua developer and Medallion Home CEO and president Carlos Beruff.

“During the inspection, department personnel noted the following: All trimmings over 3 feet long or over 3 inches in diameter were not properly removed and disposed of offsite. Remaining trimmings were not evenly distributed. A portion of mangroves appeared to be reduced more than 25% of foliage annually. Adequate pre and post photo documentation of the trimming event was not provided,” Boatwright said in the letter.

In the letter, she went on to say, “On July 12, department personnel notified you that potential violations existed at the site and you were requested to take corrective actions within 30 days. On August 25, a follow-up site visit was conducted and violations did not appear to be adequately addressed. To date, the potential violations have not been resolved.”

Water taxis

In October, Manatee County Commissioners authorized County Administrator Scott Hopes to spend up to $700,000 to design and build two pontoon boats to be used as water taxis for the downtown Bradenton to Anna Maria Island water taxi service the county plans to launch in early 2023.

In November, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) recommended the Manatee County Commission allocate $950,000 in resort tax revenues to help fund the county-initiated water taxi to be operated and managed by the Clearwater Ferry Company.

Initially operating Friday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., the water taxis are expected to travel between downtown Bradenton, the Anna Maria City Pier, the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach and the Coquina South boat ramp. An exact launch date has not yet been provided.

Commission chair

District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge served as the Manatee County Commission Chairperson in 2022 and he will serve in that role again in 2023.

Year in Review: Beyond the Island
Kevin Van Ostenbridge served as the Manatee County Commission chairperson in 2022. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Passing

Longtime Anna Maria Island resident Brian Haddix passed away at Tidewell Hospice in Bradenton on June 21.

Year in Review: Beyond the Island
Longtime Island resident Brian Haddix passed away in 2022. – Joe Hendricks | Sun