In August 2013, we reported on the public meeting held by the Manatee County Commissioners 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 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 were 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, residents of nearby Cortez fishing village and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Manasota 88 and START were successful in convincing the Commissioners to vote down 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 as well as fisheries and the economy of Cortez’s fishing industry. Equally important, a proposal to change wording in the Comp Plan that would have weakened environmental requirements countywide was defeated.
Since then the developers have filed two law suits against the Manatee County Commission. The first was this past August when developers filed a claim alleging the county violated its rights under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act. The act provides a civil cause of action for private property owners whose current use or vested right in a specific use of real property is “inordinately burdened” by the actions of a governmental entity. The Harris Act authorizes relief, including compensation, to the private property owner for the actual loss to the fair market value of the real property. They contend that when the Commissioners voted last year to deny portions of their project they lost $18 million.
Their second law suit was filed in October. It claims that ManateeCounty violated the constitutional rights of their development company by depriving them of the right to use underwater lands they own in conjunction with their SarasotaBay property.
In a Bradenton Herald article by Matt Johnson, Manatee County attorney Mitchell Palmer said the focus of the challenge is language in the county’s comprehensive plan that addresses restrictions on development where sea grass is present. “It’s referencing the original 1989 comp plan language that prohibits the destruction of sea grass along county’s shoreline,” Palmer said.
It appears the next chapter of the Long Bar Pointe development story is just unfolding.