BRADENTON – At Thursday's BOCC Land Use Meeting, first-term District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh wound up on the losing side of an effort to keep Coastal Evacuation Areas in the new Urban Service Area Map, which would have reduced development oversight on coastal projects like Long Bar Pointe.
But Baugh's harshest criticisms were saved for Terri Wonder, one of the leading citizen voices in the fight against more aggressive development at Long Bar Pointe. Wonder recently filed to run for the Manatee County Commission in 2014.
During public comment, Wonder, who resides in the area impacted by the Urban Service Area map, spoke in favor of amending the map, arguing that government had a compelling interest in putting the public safety of many, above the commercial interests of a few.
After public comments were closed, Baugh launched a verbal spanking at what she described as "a political hopeful, just trying to be heard," adding, "It's a sad, sad day."
Of the handful of residents who spoke, Wonder was the only one who had announced intentions to run for an elected office, filing as a Democrat to run for Commissioner Carol Whitmore's at-large seat in 2014.
For her part, Wonder didn't mention her candidacy or any other sort of self-promotion, just that she supported the decision by staff to exclude the Coastal Evacuation Area from the Urban Service Area, and hoped that the commissioners would agree.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, a Republican who represents District 4, which is impacted by both the Coastal Evacuation Area and the Urban Service Area, seemed perturbed by her fellow commissioner's attack and reminded the board that they too had been frequent members of the audience before winning seats on the commission.
"Everyone has the right to speak," said DiSabatino, who went on to say that all citizen feedback should be valued as a tool to help commissioners get a sense of whether the community supports an issue.
After the meeting, I asked Commissioner Baugh if she was referring to Wonder? The commissioner answered, "No comment." I then asked why she would not want to hear from someone who lives in the flood-zone area being discussed, as well as the Coastal Evacuation Area. Baugh answered, "I want to hear from every citizen," then added, "no more comment."
The amendment to shrink the map away from the shoreline passed 4-3, with Baugh and fellow Commissioners Bustle and Benac dissenting. The four commissioners who supported the amended map – DiSabatino, Gallen, Chappie and Whitmore – said, that because of the sensitive nature of coastline to both the county's economy and quality of life, having some additional eyes and ears, and an additional review (DRI), was the safer way to go.
Baugh's district 5 is comprised of a large swath of inland, rural east county, including Lakewood Ranch. She received strong support from east county developers in her 2012 campaign.