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Planning Commission Recommends Beruff's Long Bar Pointe Project, Aqua by the Bay

BRADENTON – Aqua by the Bay is the second–maybe the third–name of this Long Bar Pointe LLLP project by Medallion Homes builder Carlos Beruff, and three years in the making. The application barely squeezed by in a 3-2 vote that followed a recommendation by the planning commission. Commissioners Conerly and Rutledge were absent.

The vote sends a message from the planning commission to the BOCC (Board of County Commission) recommending the BOCC approve the 2,894 residential unit project.

The request proposed a rezoning of 191 acres for single family residential dwellings and 130 acres from A-1, to PDMU (Planned Development Mixed Use).

The proposed Aqua by the Bay also requests approval for a General Development Plan (GDP) that would allow a seven phase mixed-use development on the 529 acre site.

The site is west of the intersection of 75th Street West and 53rd Avenue West, between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, a perennial stream.
There are approximately 264 acres of wetlands, of which 13 acres will be impacted. The project is in the CHHA (Coastal High Hazard Area), CEA (Coastal Evacuation Area), and CPA (Coastal Planning Area) Overlay Districts.
There weren't any designs presented for the vertical wall and lagoon proposed to protect the shore and mangroves. One of the echoing complaints from those opposed to the project was that few things were complete, and 'too many things are missing' from the required procedures in the application.

Opposition at the meeting was thick, informative and at a count of almost 30, half of which shared their complaints with the commission.
The crowd had plenty to rev them up after the attorney for the applicant, Ed Vogler, made a string of statements claiming the project wouldn't affect the traffic and would leave alone the integrity of the water, having no effect on the shore line or the mangroves, and said it was all designed to minimize impacts; and topped that off with adding a 13 story building (146 feet).
Stewart Smith started the comment session, saying the project proposal was incomplete and full of code violations, the building was too high and there wasn't any overriding benefit.
Smith went on to say that the sea wall and lagoon were terrible ideas. He said the wall would trap sediment, consequently killing the mangroves, and the lagoon would erode the shoreline. Smith told the commission there weren't any buildings that tall for 15 miles of shoreline.
Linda Molto, a 33 year resident of Cortez and member of FISH, said, "I don't see how this project could be good for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program." Molto said she recommended everyone there go and visit the mangrove forest on the shore of Long Bar Pointe and sit there and listen to the wildlife.
Linda Molto (photo: John Rehill)
Marshal Winkle, a west Bradenton resident and environmental writer said, "There is a lack of scientific fact. They didn't finish the full design of the project and it lacks the understanding of how estuaries work." Winkle added, "Hire the appropriate expertise to get a solid review," and then told the commission that the wall "is the death of the mangroves."
Jack Merimum showed commissioners a Sarasota Estuary Program map of sea level rise depicting the different levels and storm surge that is expected to come with the rising tide.
TBT publisher Joe McClash, once a 22 year Manatee County Commissioner, challenged the references made to how large the buffers were supposed to be, the easement that surrounds wetlands. McClash rejected the applicant's and the County Attorney's interpretation to the Comp Plan and Land Development Code.
Joe McClash (photo: John Rehill)
Joe Cain referenced the first comment made by the applicant's attorney when he started his presentation, that there would be no damage to mangroves. Cain told the audience, "Someone is pulling your leg."
Commissioner Matt Bower asked Vogler if the property owner could later come back before the board and ask for a permit to dredge a channel to the project. Vogler's last statement on that was, "No one can really predict what someone else is going to do."
Commissioner Horrigan agreed with Bower, that he too didn't think the project was compatible with surrounding residents, the same statement many who spoke Tuesday claimed.
The vote to recommend approval to the BOCC by the planning commission was 3-2, Bower and Horrigan dissenting and Conerly and Rutledge absent.
On Thursday, May 4, the application goes before the BOCC.


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