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Manatee County advances a plan to cut wetlands protections

County commissioners voted 6-1 to follow a consultant's recommendation to reduce local protections in favor of state minimum standards.

Changes to Manatee County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code would roll back the size of wetland buffers, allowing developers to build closer to the protected areas.

At a commission meeting Thursday, dozens of citizens implored commissioners to keep the current 30- and 50-foot buffers.

Manatee County resident Mark Vanderee, a retired engineer, warned about the impacts of reducing them.

"In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ripped up the East Coast," Vanderee said. “People up there had a wakeup call. They destroyed their wetlands. They're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on wetland restoration. You remember the old saying — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Our ounce of prevention is our 50- and 30-foot buffers."

At Thursday’s meeting, Daniel DeLisi, a land-use attorney hired by the county as a consultant, said Manatee’s current wetland regulations are “redundant.”

“Right now, in Manatee County, you have an increased wetland buffer. But if your goal is water quality, that’s probably not your most effective means of providing for water quality benefits,” DeLisi said.