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Big Brother, Big Development near and far
By Paul Roat

Big Brother has come to an Island to our north.

Longboat Key recently installed license-plate recognition cameras at both ends of its barrier island. There are six cameras that check to make sure motorists have valid plates and no outstanding warrants. The cameras shoot information to federal and state agencies. If there’s a hit, Longboat police are notified and the car is pulled over.

No pictures of drivers are taken.

Cost of the cameras was $79,000.

Long Bar Point controversy mostly over?

Long Bar Pointe is a Sarasota Bay treasure. It’s got the synergy that wetland environment loves: shallow water with lush seagrass beds, dense red mangroves along the shore serving as home for all sorts of critters, and some funky limestone outcrops to keep boaters away from the pristine ecosystem.

Developers, of course, have targeted the 463-acre project off 53rd Avenue and 75th Street in Bradenton for homes, a hotel, condos, a huge conference center, and strip malls all at the cost of a couple acres of seagrasses and 40 or so acres of mangroves.

There was also a proposal for a 300-slip marina and a 40-foot-wide channel that would stretch about 2,000 feet to the project from the Intracoastal Waterway.

Manatee County Commissioners heard the proposal by developers Larry Lieberman and Carlos Beruff and approved it all except for the marina and navigational channel.

To say that the development was non-controversial would be a gross understatement. More than 1,000 people were present for the 13-hour proceeding.

Florida author and Siesta Key resident, the late John D. MacDonald, wrote about a similar development in 1962 in his book “A Flash of Green.” His words then still seem appropriate today.

“The new syndicate will petition for a change in the bulkhead line along the bay shore of Sandy Key, to swing the line out to enclose 800 acres of so-called unsightly mud flats, and request county permission to buy the bay bottom from the State Internal Improvement Fund.

“The commissioners will set a date for a public hearing, at which time prominent local businessmen will go to the microphone, one after another and say what a great boon this will be to the community, a shot in the arm for the construction business and retail stores.

“Captive experts will get up and say the fill will have not effect on fish breeding grounds or bird life, and will not change the tide pattern so as to cause beach erosion.

“It will be nicely timed, because a lot of the militant bird watchers and dogooders will be north for the summer, and they won’t give the ones who are left here much time to organize the opposition. The commissioners will change the bulkhead line and approve the syndicate application to purchase. The trustees of the IIF will sell the bay bottom … and then drag lines and dredges will move it. It’s going to be a steamroller operation … and it’s going to run right over anybody who stands in the way.”

By the way, MacDonald’s fictional Sandy Key in reality is Bird Key.

Long Bar Pointe is a wacky bit of Sarasota Bay. Its uplands are the tail-water tract of the Southwest County Utility System, plus home to lots of agricultural fields.

Long Bar Pointe’s bayfront is a Bay oddity in its limestone outcrops. Call it an outboard propeller minefield, although kayak and canoe aficionados love the place.

As do birds, and all the things that love to live in Sarasota Bay.


Siesta Sand
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