Citizens stop development companies’ destruction of bay habitat in Manatee County, Florida, 2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
6 June
2013
to
23 December
2013
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Manatee County, Florida
Goals: 
For "members of the Manatee Board of County Commissioners to vote against the Long Bar Map Amendment (PA-13-03), the County Wide Text Amendment (PA-13-06), and any future similar amendments that would allow construction in the "Coastal High Hazard Area"
 

On 6 June 2013, developers Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman asked
Florida’s Manatee County Commission for environmental exceptions and
zoning changes to Long Bar Pointe, a 523-acre area of land along
Sarasota Bay. In 2012, Lieberman, the land’s owner, as well as the
president and founder of Sarasota’s Barrington Group, partnered with
Beruff of Medallion Homes to complete the development project. Beruff
and Lieberman aimed to build a 300-room hotel, two retail centers, a
convention center, 1,086 single-family homes, 1,587 low-rise multi
family homes, and 844 high-rise multi family units.

Local citizens with business connections to housing and tourism
predicted that the development plans would economically benefit Manatee
County. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups in Manatee
County, including Save Our Manatee Shoreline, Save Our Shores, and Bay
Life Preservers, opposed these plans. They worried that the construction
would harm the bay environment. Paving over the land could have
accelerated shoreline erosion and promoted toxic waste runoff. Dredging
the bay’s channel and cutting down mangroves had the potential to damage
the local ecosystems, as well as economically hurt fishermen in the
neighboring Historic Cortez Fishing Village.

Before Lieberman and Beruff could begin construction on the site, they
needed approval from Manatee County in the form of redistricting the
land from “residential” to “mixed.” Because the land was also federally
designated as a Coastal High Hazard Zone with low lying land that
functioned as a Storm Surge Buffer Zone, the Manatee County Commission
also needed to make environmental concessions to allow the development
of mangrove land. During the 6 June 2013 meeting, the Manatee County
Commission voted to postpone the vote on changing the restrictions of
the Long Bar Pointe land.

Joe Kane, a resident of Cortez, led the formation of the group, Save Our
Bay. Unlike other local environmental groups with broader missions,
Save Our Bay specifically aimed to stop “ the removal of mangroves and
sea grasses in Sarasota Bay that will be destroyed by the impact of land
development in the federally-designated coastal High Hazard Zone known
as Long Bar Pointe.”

On 11 July 2013, over 200 Manatee County residents protested plans for
the development at a community meeting in Cortez at Fisherman’s Hall on
125th Street sponsored by Save Our Bay. Carlos Beruff defended his plans
at the meeting, which was moderated by Holmes Beach Commissioner David
Zaccagnino. Other local government officials attended the meeting,
including Carmel Monti (Holmes Beach Mayor), Marvin Grossman (Holmes
Beach Commissioner), Jane VonHahman (former County Commissioner), Joe
McClash (former County Commissioner), and Bill McGrath (Florida
Democratic Party leader). Meeting attendees questioned Beruff and voiced
opposition to his plans. The meeting, which had been planned to last
one hour, lasted three hours.

Because of the community interest and opposition growing around the Long
Bar Pointe project, on 16 July 2013 the Manatee County Commission
decided that its hearing on land use for the development would need to
be moved to a location with a capacity for a larger audience. The
Commission scheduled the meeting to take place on 6 August 2013.

The group Bay Life Preservers held a raft-in on 20 July 2013 at
Intracoastal Waterway Marker 17. At this raft-in, protesters floated in
boats and rafts in an area of the bay that could have been harmed by
the construction.

Ed Goff, a member of Save Our Shores, started a petition called “Save
Manatee Coastline” that included over 600 signatures by 11 July 2013.
Save Our Bay circulated a petition to the Manatee County Commission
through online and hard copies that read as follows: “We petition all
members of the Manatee Board of County Commissioners to vote against the
Long Bar Map Amendment (PA-13-03), the County Wide Text Amendment
(PA-13-06), and any future similar amendments that would allow
construction in the "Coastal High Hazard Area" as defined by FEMA and
any other area that would result in damage to or removal of mangrove
trees and sea grass.” By 2 August 2013, the petition held 5,375 total
signatures.

On the afternoon of 1 August 2013, Ed Goff organized a couple dozen
protesters to gather on the steps of the Manatee County Commission
administration building to pressure commissioners to vote no to the
proposed zoning changes at their 6 August meeting. They carried signs
that read “Save Our Bay,” “Keep your five-star hotel far away from our
five-star bay,” and “Long Bar Pointe overdevelopment Pointe-less.” They
also carried inflatable dolphins printed with messages that implied
nature’s silent disapproval of the development plans; these included
“Save Our Bay, It’s Our Home” and “Save Our Shore, It’s Our Home.”
Protesters gathered more signatures for the petition and encouraged
passing car drivers to honk their horns in support. At around 3:30pm,
the activists went up to the ninth floor of the building, but the
commissioners refused to speak to them. Instead, Ed Goff gave the
Manatee County Commission executive assistant Shirley Tally a petition
opposing the development plans with 1,000 signatures.

On 2 August 2013, Save Our Bay posted on Facebook to tell its 1,000
Facebook members to get involved with the campaign by speaking at the 6
August Manatee County Commission meeting: “What can you do? Go to the
Civic Center on August 6th, 1:30, in Palmetto and make your voices
known. Each person has three minutes. One way to express would be to
take a few statements from the petition page on Change.org and simply
read for your three minutes.” Save Our Bay also sent a thank you note to
petition-signers through Change.org on 3 August 2013 that urged them to
attend the 6 August meeting.

The Manatee County Commission meeting on the Long Bar Pointe development
plan and proposed zoning changes began at 1:30pm on 6 August 2013 at
Bradenton Area Convention Center. About 1,000 people attended the
meeting. Over 150 Manatee County residents spoke at the meeting, which
lasted 12 hours. By the end of the meeting , citizens were still lined
up to speak, and the Manatee County Commissioners had not yet had a
chance to voice their opinions.

During the meeting, activists protesting the proposed changes wore light
blue shirts with green mangroves and the slogan, “Save Our Bay.”
Volunteers sold these t-shirts at the event to benefit the Cortez
Village Historical Society. Some carried inflatable dolphins and many
carried signs with different slogans. One sign read, “No!! To Long Bar
Pointe.” Another said, “Save the Mangroves.” Most stood in the back of
the Convention Center and cheered and booed in response to what the
different speakers were saying.

Supporters of the opposition -- those who were in favor of the
development plans and who wanted the proposed zoning changes to pass--
wore green baseball caps and buttons that said “YES” in bold, white
letters. This group sat primarily in chairs in the audience of the
Convention Center, and also responded to what speakers were saying with
cheers and boos. Unlike the “Save Our Bay” t-shirts, which activists had
to purchase, the “YES” paraphernalia was given out free to citizens,
along with snacks and water bottles. Most members of this group worked
for home development companies and did not give comments to reporters.

The commission approved a revised plan in a 4-3 vote at nearly 2:00am on
7 August 2013. Their new plan eliminated the potential marina that
would have necessitated the dredging of the bay and would have hurt
fishermen and the local ecosystem. The compromised plan, however,
allowed for twice as much commercial development. A second hearing was
scheduled for 23 January 2014.

By 20 November 2013, the petitions had grown to accumulate over 6,500
signatures. Activists in opposition to Long Bar Pointe planned actions
to lead up to the January vote. Citizens were no longer concerned about
harm to the mangrove, but those opposed to the Long Bar Pointe worried
that the development would cause other environmental destruction and
increase traffic congestion in the area.

On 23 December 2013, Long Bar Pointe representatives sent a letter to
Manatee County officials withdrawing the Comprehensive Map Amendment
(PA1303). Instead, Lieberman and Beruff would focus the development
plans on constructing 4,500 houses and condominiums on the land that
complied with the original zoning regulations. The 23 January 2015
meeting was cancelled. The controversial Long Bar Pointe plan that
environmentalists and fishermen worried would damage the bay shoreline
and ecosystem was no longer under consideration by the Manatee County
Commission.

Research Notes
Influences: 

not known

Sources: 
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Anon. 2013. “Long Bar Point map amendment withdrawn and will not be considered by Manatee County.” Manatee County Florida, December 23. Retrieved April 4, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150408025942/https://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/county-administration/news-release/news-releases-2013/1223_LBP_Withdrawal.html).

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Erica Janko 07/04/2015