A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Long Bar Pointe and Western Manatee's Mixed-Use Challenge

Well, there's a bunch of us eligible for tee-shirts reading: 


My main accomplishment, aside from staying awake, was being one of the last speakers and not repeating or re-phrasing any previous points.*

It is hard not to sympathize with Carlos Beruff when he pleads for "not another boring subdivision". The alternative apparently is Mixed Use, but despite Commissioner Benac's views to the contrary, I don't think this the Long Bar Point parcel is a very strong candidate for mixed use. You really want Mixed Use associated with significant transit, and definitely not in the Coastal High Hazard Area.

Kudos to Commissioners DiSabatino, Chappie, and Gallen for resisting the siren song.

From a development perspective Mr. Beruff and his partner, Larry Lieberman, have a very challenging (I was tempted to say crummy) parcel -- it is low, it is scrawny, most of the uplands have been trashed, and the coast happens to consist of the most significant, most easily impacted, and tallest mangrove section remaining on Sarasota Bay. But it was the last major hunk of undeveloped property on Sarasota Bay, so you can see its appeal. It has probably remained undeveloped for so long because the significant liabilities meant it would take a blend of clout, capital, vision, and hubris to attempt much of anything other than more McMansions. Enter Carlos Beruff. 

[And I have to say the development to the South of Long Bar is a textbook example of how destructive and sterile this development form can be - sorry IMG, but Legends Bay makes the case for Beruff's vision.].

With the Long Bar Pointe parcel that is pinched between El Conquistador Parkway (shortened to ElCon in the vernacular) and the Kitchen (a reliably productive section of Sarasota Bay), Mr. Beruff was hoping to implement a BOLD vision, but that vision was snatched away August 6th when the Manatee County Commission deleted reference to, and the possibility of, a marina in their approval of Mixed Use.

Mr. Beruff was quoted in the Sarasota Herald Tribune as saying the Hotel (5 or 4 star) depended on the marina (boat slips) that would require a channel through the seagrasses. "Without that water access, Beruff says, the destination hotel just is not feasible." Since it is possible the conference center hinged on the hotel, the entire vision may collapse. Or Mr. Beruff may have more strategy to employ.

The key challenge for environmentalists and those seeking to protect the bay, its Kitchen, and the adjoining seagrasses will be protecting the mangroves. Pruning 40 foot mangroves to 6 feet is a recipe for disaster.

But now that Mixed Use has been approved, the solution to Mr, Beruff's problem is simultaneously obvious, elegant, and quite probably impossible. But let's review it anyway.