BRADENTON -- The Manatee County Planning Commission took steps to change the county's much-praised Comprehensive Plan for coastal properties at Thursday's meeting. If you own 200 acres or more, want to develop it and can meet all of the other regulatory qualifications, you might be joyed. However, if you are of the environmental persuasion, you may be less thrilled.
The current county Comprehensive Plan has stood firmly and dates back to 1989, with only minor circumstantial amending. What was proposed at Thursday's Planning Commission was a "text" change in the plan.
The planning staff recommended the Comp Plan not experience the proposed changes, citing legal and environmental concerns.
The proposed policy changes are with chapter 3 (126.96.36.199) and chapter 4 (188.8.131.52), of the Comp Plan, and specifies coastal line adjacent to navigable waters. Another specification is the property must be of 200-acres or more and be located along a arterial road.
Staff wasn't alone in its objection to the changes, as a hand full of citizens came to voice their opposition as well.
Mary Shepard said that building on the shore, where it's vulnerable to hurricanes and large storms, is crazy, adding, "sooner or later nature will have its way." Sandy Ripberger from Sierra Club Manatee said, "It goes against code."
Katie Pierola, ex-Mayor of Bradenton Beach, said the area couldn't stand all of the development, and that the work would surely interrupt efforts to get needed beach projects completed, like the bridge.
Barbara Angelucci said, "It would be egregious if this proposal was approved," adding, "Neal (Homes) will be in the wings to bring back the Robinson project, and then who knows what else."
Despite all of the criticism to any changes to the county's comp plan, many of the Planning Commission members insisted on finding some way to recommend the project.
Only one member brought up concerns mentioned by citizens, and that was George Mendez. Mendez said he trusted staff knew what they were doing, recognized the sensitive nature of sea grass replacement, as well as many of the other unresolved issues brought up at the meeting.
The other commissioners used one ploy to convince each other to go against conventional wisdom, and that was a catch phrase spoke by the Urban Land Institute Chair, Michael Maxwell, and he said, "Think big and bold."
That was all that those who seemed to be determined to accommodate the applicant needed to hear, and many members repeated it, as if it were a sign that hung over their office door.
One interesting comment came from Tanya Lukowiak, the latest member to be appointed to the planning commission. That was, "I am not sure that anyone who owns hundreds of acres of coastline, shouldn't be made to do something big and bold with it."
Attorney, Ed Vogler, for the applicant, Carlos Beruff, said, "The press should pick up on that comment made by Lukowiak."
Well they did, but it's not clear if all that heard it, took away the same sentiment as did Lukowiak, Beruff and Vogler.
Vote to recommend approval to the BOCC was, 6 to 1, Mendez dissenting. It will now come before the BOCC at a future meeting for a final vote.
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