On Tuesday, August 6, the Manatee County Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed large mixed use development on Long Bar Pointe on the northeast shore of Sarasota Bay. A number of citizen and environmental organizations had issued strong condemnations of the project. Over and above its sheer size and the fact that it would require an amendment of Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan to meet environmental standards, the main concern was the creation of a deep water boat channel and large marina in a sensitive environmental area that included mangroves, seagrass beds and shallow water that are vital as a marine nursery for Sarasota Bay.
With the high level of community interest in the issue, the meeting was moved to larger quarters in the Manatee Convention Center. On the day of the hearing, a crowd of at least 1,000 people turned out for the meeting. So many citizens signed up to speak that the public comment period of the meeting lasted for 10 hours. A final vote wasn’t taken by the Commissioners until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.
In the end, Manatee County citizens and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Manasota 88 and START were successful in convincing the developer to remove the large marina from the proposed plan and to allow no dredging to protect the seagrass and mangroves in this shallow coastal area along Sarasota Bay. Equally important, a proposal to change wording in the Comp Plan that would have weakened environmental requirements countywide was defeated.
This is a great example of how concerned citizens can affect government policy decisions if they take the time to show up and be heard.