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Long Bar Pointe mitigation bank permit petition hearing to be held next week

While the contentious Aqua by the Bay proposed development awaits a decision from the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners, a challenge to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s move to intend to issue a mitigation bank permit to developers will be heard next week.

The petition, which was made against both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Long Bar Pointe LLLP, wants the permit, noticed in December, to be denied.

A mitigation bank is a disturbed wetland bought by a “banker,” who then cleans it up and makes it more functional. The area is assessed for “credits,” which can be bought by other developers in the area who need to offset their unavoidable wetland impacts. The credits can sell for upwards of $100,000 each.

The general development plan for Medallion Home’s Aqua by the Bay, a 529-acre residential and commercial development between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, being presented to county commissioners does not include the proposed mitigation bank. The development’s special land use meeting will be continued Sept. 29.

Nearly half of the acreage would be dedicated to the mitigation bank. Petitioners Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc., Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Inc., and Joseph McClash argue that the mitigation doesn’t meet appropriate standards.

In May, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Long Bar Pointe LLLP a federal mitigation bank permit, saying that mitigation on the area’s seagrass would be inappropriate, that there is proposed mangrove trimming which “would negatively impact the productivity and ecological functioning of the system” and the proposed lagoon could be damaging to the mangroves and seagrass.

The mitigation bank would also be adjacent to an active construction site and the proposal threatened building 56 docks, boardwalks or piers if the bank were not approved.

Smith noted that the proposed bank would be worth around 18 credits, considered small compared to many other mitigation banks in Florida.

The administrative hearing proceedings are scheduled for Sept. 12-14 at 9:30 a.m. at the governing boardroom of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, located at 6750 Fruitville Road.