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Manatee BOCC "Wetland" Work Session Sinks


BRADENTON -- There was plenty of tension at yesterday's BOCC work session. The podium quickly went to Doug Means, who ran through a laundry list of what Building and Development Services had accomplished in the weeks since the last wetland meeting. He referred to all of the hoops he and his team had accomplished. He said they had received comments, made some clarifications on the process, met with environmental groups and owners and also consultants to developers. He added that, they are trying to get away from bringing everything before planning development. He wanted to get to "what the owners could go to the bank with." Means appeared a bit unnerved or irritated. 


He said that over the last 20 years, protection measures have changed, with streamlining, no nets vs functional loss, and uniform assessment methodology. Means explained that regulating wetlands is for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. It sounded all too familiar, like it was all described from the August 16, 2011 meeting. Mostly because it was. They handed out a three-page report confirming that just some terminology had changed.


All of the same objections that had been presented at the August meeting were still there. Joel Christian took the podium, again just repeating what had all been said before. Commissioner Joe McClash asked if his request for a definition for what a .3 or a .4 really meant could be fulfilled. Doug Means said he was going to "stay away from any wordsmithing,"  Apparently, ".1, .2, .3 or .4" is just wordsmithing. I use words for a living and admittedly didn't even know that was a word.


Ed Hunzeker came into the conversation and said, "We are going to stay away from defining public benefit. It would do no good at this time to do so."


It seemed things were falling apart and those who opposed the changes in the comprehensive plan hadn't spoke yet. Hunzeker proceeded to preach about our commitment to jobs and industry, development, and how our financial position wasn't good. Commissioner Carol Whitmore added, "We have deals in the working that we can't talk about now, but we would have to honor commitments."


The only thing that seemed clear was that nothing was clear. They talked of not changing anything for phosphate, but they didn't want to talk about phosphate, didn't want to talk about grading wetlands, or even defining them, but they kept talking about them nonetheless. 


Still, there were a dozen women in the chambers who were there to clarify a few things. Mary Shepard, quoted from Craig Pitman's book "Paving Paradise," to demonstrate how mitigation is fraudulent. Barbara Angelucci presented a evidence with a geological survey backed by a NASA investigation as to how the destruction of wetlands contributes to global warming and weather change.


Barbara Heinz, from Manasota 88, demonstrated using elementary school math, that it doesn't matter what amount of what you take away, you still have less to work with -- a net loss. Sandy Ripberger, said, "look at the boom years, we had regulations."


Roselle Shaffer said, "Once you relax the regulations, you can't go back." Mary Lynn Parker asked, "What is the cost to change the policy? And define overriding public policy." Linda Jones said "Mitigation doesn't work in most cases."


They all used their two minutes up, and everything they said was true. Still, they kept coming, more than a dozen, from Audubon, Sierra Club, Manasota 88 and regular citizens, they would own the day.


Planning appeared angry and threatened to turn the whole process over to the state. A much needed calm came over the room and all of the feeling of lost found ground when Building and Development Services Director John Barnott said, "We will draft a clean copy of the changes."


In other words, put something together that actually has definition that can be discussed for its merits and not just its will to pass. There was a lot of the latter in the room, but it wasn't going to fly. Stay tuned.


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