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Pat Neal's permit to build on Harbor Sound in Bradenton to be appealed

A coalition of environmental groups will appeal a state permit that would allow homebuilder Pat Neal to construct a small subdivision of large homes on mangrove wetland shoreline here.

Suncoast Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Manasota-88 and former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, filed a notice of appeal challenging the permit issued Aug. 26 by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The appeal is expected to ask the court to reverse Swiftmud's decision.

The permit is one of two that Neal needs to build Harbor Sound, a four-home neighborhood for his family on Perico Island's shores of Anna Maria Sound. About an acre of wetlands would be filled to accommodate construction.

In the meantime, Neal has already started site work on uplands at the 4-acre construction site that are not affected by the Swiftmud permit. Neal has said he will protect the wetlands at the site until he is issued the last permit he needs. The Army Corps of Engineers is still evaluating a federal shoreline permit request for Harbor Sound.

McClash, who has led opposition to the project for the past year, alleges that Swiftmud's action was illegal. Swiftmud's board of commissioners approved the permit in a 10-1 vote two months after an administrative law judge recommended the permit be denied.