BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's board meeting, Manatee County Commissioners struggled for hours to convince 99 percent of their audience that the board was helpless in the decision making process to approve the first 200 of what is to be thousands of dwellings on the last mangrove-laden, undeveloped portion of Sarasota Bay in Manatee County.
Informed citizens seemed to be wheelbarrowing in the studies that predicted the devastation, likely to occur sooner or later for those who reside on shoreline property. There were astute environmentalists, wearing all of the experience it takes to be alert and concerned about what climate change will bring -- no matter whose fault it is -- and there were heartfelt retirees, wishing only to escape the guilt that comes with only having pictures to show their grandchildren how things were.
Ed Goff, Jack Merriam, Barbarba Angelucci, Larry Grossman, Lee Redfern, Barbara Heinz, Terrie Wonder, Sandy Ripberger, Paul Valenz, Jaime Canfield, Arlene Flisik, Joe Kane and too many more to include, presented brilliant factual arguments to commissioners, but to no avail.
They talked about "Understanding Atmospheric Deposition," a Tampa Bay Estuary Program study, about how nitrogen makes its way to the bay and watershed. There were concerns about there not being any master plan for the project, no language on wetland preservation, nesting migratory birds and other wildlife, anywhere in the applicant's plan.
Staff told commissioners that they didn't include the "green belt" around the parcel (code practice for Planned Development Residential zones) because they knew the applicant would be getting additional permits in the applicant's other parcels connected to the property.
This demonstrated what those who feel obligated to protect eco-sensitive areas are up against, what they call a rubber-stamp mentality. The assumption everyone is operating under? Build it and they will come. "Trouble is," said Joe Kane, "at what cost?"
Commissioner Michael Gallen never got comfortable with the answers he was getting from staff and the applicant.
"So back to the whole idea of having a planned project," Gallen said, "... we are not doing that here. Where are the plans for the next parcel being developed?"
Gallen was alone in voting against the request to approve the project, which passed 6-1.
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