MANATEE COUNTY -- Save Manatee Coastline is one of several groups trying to persuade the Manatee County Commission to vote no on August 6, when it will decide whether to allow major revisions to a planned waterfront development project behind IMG Academy. The group's founder said their goal is simple and zero sum, votes of "no" on the Long Bar Pointe map amendment, the county wide text amendment and any future similar amendments that would allow construction in the Coastal High Hazard Area, as well as any other area that would result in damage to or removal of mangrove trees or sea grass.
a sign advertising the development - notice the much smaller
notice of public meeting sign in the tall grass of the foreground.
photo by John Rehill
"Hopefully this would send a message to the developers that we consider our shorelines to be sacred land that should not be destroyed or damaged for any reason," said Goff. "These wetlands provide habitats for many types of wildlife including birds, fish, manatees and dolphins. The ecosystem along shorelines is very fragile and should not be disturbed."
Long Bar Pointe was already going to be a major coastal development after the Manatee County Commission approved plans to build over 4,000 homes, plus 150,000 sq ft of commercial space in 2008. However, if developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman get their way, the property will now include a major resort, as well as a large marina.
Goff says the destruction of natural resources required for such a project are simply prohibitive, especially the planned destruction of up to 40 acres of mangrove forest.
"The mangrove forests not only protect inland areas from tidal surges and flooding, they also filter runoff water from the land," explained Goff. "In addition, they trap silt and prevent erosion. Mangroves are important habitats for juvenile marine life and many migratory birds. They protect our coastline from erosion and minimize the impact of waves during storms and hurricanes. In the face of climate change, mangroves are expected to build the resilience of coastal communities to adapt to sea level rise and increasing storm activity. Also, their ability to sequester carbon makes them an important blue carbon sink.”
The proposed dredging required of the marina would also wreak havoc on area sea grass, another impact that Goff warns against.
"Within seagrass communities, a single acre of seagrass can produce over 10 tons of leaves per year," said Goff. "This vast biomass provides food, habitat, and nursery areas for a myriad of adult and juvenile vertebrates and invertebrates. Further, a single acre of seagrass may support as many as 40,000 fish, and 50 million small invertebrates. Because seagrasses support such high biodiversity, and because of their sensitivity to changes in water quality, they have become recognized as important indicator species that reflect the overall health of coastal ecosystems. Failure to protect seagrass could have a catastrophic effect on Sarasota Bay and would result in devastation of the fishing community of Cortez Village."
Finally, Goff warns that building high hazard areas is simply not practical, setting up scenarios in which massive amounts of public money could be needed when natural disasters damage such developments.
"Construction in FEMA designated high hazard areas will sooner or later result in huge private and public property losses," said Goff. "Hurricane Sandy, a minimal storm by Florida standards, demonstrated that building on stilts is no guarantee that property will not be damaged or destroyed by a storm surge and wave action. FEMA uses the term 'unwise' in reference to building in these areas. We agree, it is not smart to build or buy property in a flood zone. Potential buyers need to be informed that the property they are considering will eventually be flooded."
Goff also asks where the storm runoff will go, given the many streets and roads in the proposed project area. He suggests it will end up in Sarasota Bay along with oil and other chemicals from vehicles and fertilizer from lawns that the waters pick up.
"And, who will pay for the infrastructure that will be needed to support this Long Bar Pointe community?" asks Goff rhetorically. "You can bet it will be the taxpayers who will have to spring for new roads, police protection, fire protection, street maintenance, and numerous other associated expenses. The developers will tell us that it will increase tax revenue which is probably true but we could have the same increases by building in areas that will not damage the fragile shoreline and which are already zoned for their purposes."
Goff said that the proposed amendments would be far from the rosy scenario painted by the developers.
"No, the Long Bar Pointe project as proposed by the developers will not be a “world class community,” said Goff, "it will be a classless project that will destroy one of our county’s most valuable jewels and will also adversely affect our neighbors in Sarasota County. This is just a bad idea, anyway you look at it."
Goff says that the right approach would be for developers to work with environmental groups in order to achieve their goals in a sustainable fashion.
“The developers need to work with the community, with the environmentalists, to improve their property without causing harm to our delicate eco system," said Goff. "By working with us, they can still earn generous profits while building goodwill among residents of Manatee County."
What you can you do?
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