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Longbar Pointe:


Kitsch: pretentious, vulgar, effusively insincere, eye-catching but lacking substantive value

Kitchen: a place where food is served; a place of sustenance and humility; a metaphor for “community”

Long Bar Pointe, a Symbol of Who We Are and How We Live

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Photo by John Rehill

In a 5-2 vote on June 6, 2013, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners declared most of unincorporated West Bradenton an “Urban Service Area” (USA). The board then transmitted its ruling to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) for state approval. If the FDEO approves, large land developments affecting more than one county or jurisdiction proposed in Manatee’s Comprehensive Plan would be exempt from high levels of impact review, including environmental protection.

On the same day, commissioners postponed another vote: a proposal to change Long Bar Pointe, a 523-acre site on northeast Sarasota Bay, from “residential” to “mixed” use. Filed in February 2013, the developer’s high-impact plan would turn the most quiet, pristine shoreline on Sarasota Bay into a luxury resort, large marina and canal complex, shopping mall, business park, and convention center with a high-rise hotel and condos.

This high-rent district marketed to tourists and retirees would bustle with crowds of people, parking lots, and the blare of lights and noise pollution. If completed, the constant grind of human impact on north Sarasota Bay would dwarf anything the Manatee coastline has ever known.

Long Bar Pointe is part of the USA zone the commission approved in June. It also is a federally-designated Coastal High Hazard Zone. In its current undeveloped state, the low-lying property acts as a Storm Surge Buffer Zone that absorbs heavy rains and tides that would flood west Bradenton if the property were built up and paved over with massive buildings and parking lots.

If the state approves USA, and if the county ratifies Long Bar’s re-zoning proposition, developers will have profound license to turn the property into a major public safety threat. Developers want to break ground in 2014. Breaking ground for this plan would break the county’s small-scale, preservationist ethos.

The Developer and His Net Public Benefit

The primary developer associated with Long Bar Pointe is Carlos Beruff. Born in Miami to Cuban immigrants, Beruff says he’s been active in politics for 33 years. He is in his mid-fifties. His tenure as Chairman of the Board of The State College of Florida’s Board of Trustees is controversial, at best. At worst, Beruff stands accused of violating rules of transparent governance for the college’s board. Beruff’s firm Medallion Homes downsized lot sizes in the Cascades.

In the process, corporate decision-making under his watch created a mass of irate homeowners.They had bought property in a subdivision they thought would be less crowded that it turned out to be. Medallion Homes also claims it could not afford to compensate property owners in Sarasota who found out their homes had been constructed with highly corrosive, contaminating dry-wall imported from China. Medallion Homes has signs advertising “luxury homes” on the Long Bar property.

Beruff Serves Up “Reality” in Cortez “Kitchen”

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photo by John Rehill

After June 6, a highly vocal county-wide opposition arose against Beruff’s plans for Long Bar Pointe, which he refers to as “my vision” or “reality.” When asked to respond to public concerns, he told one reporter, Sara Kennedy of The Bradenton Herald, that the opposition did not know “reality.”

Beruff also said he’d hold public meetings to explain that reality.

According to Beruff, all he wants to do is create a “village” for “all people.” His “vision” is a copy of another “village” in Destin, Florida: WaterColors. Is that so wrong?

Alleged to resemble Old Florida, Beruff’s ideal “vision” for Sarasota Bay is therefore an imitation of Old Florida twice-removed from reality.

A real village, the Historic Cortez Fishing Village – which lies just to the north of his Long Bar Pointe – was his first stop. The event, held at Fisherman’s Hall on 125th Street, was sponsored by a group called Save Our Bay, led by Cortez resident Joe Kane.

200 people mostly from Cortez but also from Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, and all mainland districts sloshed through freshly rained-on streets and an unpaved bog around Fisherman’s Hall to hear Beruff make his case. The talk’s moderator was Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino. Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti, Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman, former County Commissioners Jane VonHahman and Joe McClash and Florida Democratic Party leader Bill McGrath also appeared.

Most people in the audience seemed keenly aware of the recorded details of PA-13-03, the official county document detailing Beruff’s request to re-zone the bayfront property. Prior to the developer’s talk in Cortez, county planners already had disclosed that 2 acres of sea-grass and up to 40 acres of mangroves would have to be gutted completely just for the marina complex, massive enough for 100’ yachts to turn about and maneuver.

Public Speaking 101: Know Your Audience

Beruff explained to the crowd that he had prevented the foreclosed-on property from going to auction in 2012. Presumably, it would never be at risk of defaulting again because he paid cash for it all on his own.

Then he went to Barcelona on holiday. While taking a stroll on a Spanish promenade, the “vision” for Long Bar suddenly came to him. Back home, he assembled a team of consultants and lawyers to make his “vision” real.

The audience groaned.

Explaining that your holiday in Spain is the inspirational source for urbanizing a large tract of wild marine nature in north Sarasota Bay is no way to ingratiate yourself with the natural resource-dependent people next-door.

Beruff had landed in a village named after a Spanish conquistador. Now he was trying to convert the people of Cortez with his developer’s jargon of “net public benefit.”

“Just imagine that somehow you could be convinced that the bay would be improved,” Beruff said. “How would you feel?”

One Cortezian said she had been to the area of Destin that became the WaterColors resort. It “used to be a very lovely place,” she said. But now, as WaterColors, this semblance of Old Florida Beruff wants to imitate is “an overrun zoo.”

One unidentified person muttered, “This guy is living in a bubble.”

“What is your back-up plan?” asked Ed Goff.

“There is only one plan,” replied Beruff. “There is no ‘Plan B.’”

“Cortez Kitchen”: Not Just a Restaurant but a Way of Life

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photo by John Rehill

Just imagine if Beruff somehow could be convinced that his “vision” to “improve” the only part of the bay that is authentic is wrong. How would he feel?

The proud natives of Cortez were feeling colonized.

As Cortezian Mary Fulford Green stated, “As you’re going to build a town, we are concerned that you will destroy our town. If you destroy our ‘kitchen’—we call it that because that’s where our food comes from—you destroy Cortez. The commercial fishing industry is a multi-million dollar operation.”

Another Cortezian had read about Beruff’s planned imitation of reality in the morning’s paper. She turned to the crowd, “Have you seen it? It has grass. It has a pond. It has a fountain.”

The implication was clear: Beruff wanted to remodel the very authentic “kitchen” and turn it into inauthentic “kitsch.”

Apparently, Beruff just wasn’t getting it.

“When I say it’s the right thing to do, it’s because it’s what we can do. We can make it better,” Beruff continued on.

The Opposition Never Forgets

The talk was supposed to last one hour. It trudged on for almost three. The whir of the hall’s air conditioning unit was heard only twice. Someone must have forgotten to turn down the thermostat. By the end of the first hour, members of the standing-room-only crowd fanned themselves with propaganda and petitions disseminated by opposition groups such as Save Our Manatee Shoreline, Save Our Shore, and Bay Life Preservers. But the sweltering heat and humidity did not deter them.

By 7:30 p.m., Beruff, clad in black dress pants and a starched, tailored, white dress shirt sticking to his body, still had a full house before him. His repeated complaints about the heat drew no response. Cortez is full of traditional Old Florida houses and buildings that to this day do not have central heat and air. The people of Cortez are inured to the summer’s sub-tropical weather. The heat, too, is part of the overall ecosystem of north Sarasota Bay that Cortezians call “the kitchen.”

With Beruff and his own “kitchen cabinet” of eco-consultants, lawyers, and other retainers lined up behind him in chairs on the stage, only the audience’s most frail would consider leaving. Knowing that Cortez periodically rebels when it perceives threats to its existence, Joe Kane, the person who had invited Beruff to the “kitchen,” had even hired several off-duty, armed sheriff’s officers to watch over the restive crowd.

Beruff’s opposition is not limited to Cortez. Outside Cortez it is not composed of a few so-called tree-huggers who occasionally make a fuss and then forget about it. The opposition consists of a mature voting block that crosses all party lines. The number of signatures these citizens have collected in a month’s time is nothing short of incredible. They are organizing and will continue to organize.

On August 6 at the Manatee County Civic Center, 1:30pm, the Board of Manatee County Commissioners may approve Beruff’s “vision” against what remains of Old Florida in Manatee. If that happens, all people of Manatee will become Cortezians. They will never forget this insult that will deprive their children and grandchildren from knowing the only real beauty and bounty of north Sarasota Bay. The rebellion against Big Development’s plans to turn true reality into an obscene hyper-reality will begin at the ballot box.

What you can you do?


Email your county commissioners (click here if you have integrated email, or copy and paste the following addresses into your email's "to:" line: larry.bustle@mymanatee.org, michael.gallen@mymanatee.org, john.chappie@mymanatee.org, robin.disabatino@mymanatee.org, vanessa.baugh@mymanatee.org, carol.whitmore@mymanatee.org, betsy.benac@mymanatee.org)

Request a meeting with your county commissioner

Support a petition (click here for second petition)

Watch the video

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