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McClash Drops Wetland Policy Challenge


TBT publisher and former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash has voluntarily dismissed an administrative challenge to the county's controversial change in wetland protection policies. McClash made the decision after the interpretation of a new state law increased the likelihood that he would be responsible for the county's legal costs.

Senate Bill 540, which took effect July 1, was designed to make it more difficult for citizens or groups to challenge amendments to their county's comprehensive plan by making those who challenge an amendment and lose responsible for the county's legal fees and developers' attorney fees if they join the case.

McClash sought to demonstrate that the county had not followed its own rules in adopting the policy, which directs the county to default to the much weaker state minimums for wetland protections. Those rules include "finding that the goal, objective, policy, or map sought to be amended is no longer in the best interest of the public."

McClash hoped that the judge would interpret any need for the county to correct its action as precluding it from being considered the "prevailing party" and triggering the legal cost provision. However, the judge ruled that the county could take corrective action during the process and still be considered the prevailing party, meaning that even if he proved the county had not followed its own rules, McClash could be subjected to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

On Wednesday, county attorneys filed a renewed motion for attorney fees, asking the judge to award them $246,097 in "reasonable attorneys’ fees" and $10,710 in taxable costs against McClash.


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  • sandy

    Shame on DeSantis for approving SB 540. This totally restricts citizens who disagree with changes to a county's comp plan. Beruff must be so proud of mini-me. Other counties have maintained more restrictive buffers. In fact after Manatee voted to remove theirs Orange County voted to make theirs more restrictive. The county hired a consultant who represented Beruff twice and lost both times court after some employees recommended denial for the change. The recommended changes came from the "white paper" submitted to the county from the lawyer for the Building Industry Association and submitted as county initiated because of the higher ups. He even wrote the staff report. He is planner not an environmental scientist. Environmental scientists provided documentation at the board meeting but mini-me accused them of being communists and Soros funded.

    Thursday, May 16 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    I can possibly understand the need for this law when it comes to developers but not citizens. Too bad Joe didn’t engage an environment mental coalition or have a go fund me page because I am fairly certain the $250,000 could have been easily raised. But it really stinks that an ordinary citizen can no longer fight a corrupt system.

    Thursday, May 16 Report this

  • tjgachter

    Many in the county were elated when Joe McClash wouldn’t give up the fight against developers and the very irresponsible commissioners who no matter what has been presented to them, make unconscionable decisions for the detriment of our county. And there are many residents who are horrified and outraged that every road block possible in the county is being used against Joe, who tried to fight for us all. I agree with the sentiment there is enough support, even with our pocketbooks to help Mr. McClash continue what he started. We too in our own community decided to not just accept what a developer decided he could just take from us…may justice prevail.

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • Mateo

    Hopefully a $256,807 judgement won't spell the end of TBT, although I'm sure the county would cheer that as a side benefit of their attempt to give McClash the finger

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • kat.houston


    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • Charles

    Folks should start sending donations noted as legal fund contributions to Joe — and then begin working to get some candidates for offices who are not corrupt —

    if the clean water amendment had been in place in our constitution, none of this would have been necessary. Floridia voters have to act to get themselves out of this situation. Get that amendment on the 2026 ballot. The campaign has restarted from scratch so new petitions must be signed... look for the opportunity to sign a petition to allow the voters to make this nonpartisan change.

    Saturday, May 18 Report this

  • iambillsanders

    What a crock....

    Monday, May 20 Report this

  • Cat L

    Damn. Well that's what DeSantis was there for....to secure the interests of his donor class.

    Monday, May 20 Report this