from The Bradenton Times
Published Friday, June 26, 2015 12:11 amby Dennis Maley
BRADENTON — Pat Neal intended to build what was described as a family compound on 40 acres of Perico Island re-zoned by the City of Bradenton in violation of its own rules and without a public hearing. But after already having his plans to destroy mangroves on the island shot down by the Army Corps of Engineers, an Administrative Law Judge issued a recommended order to the Southwest Florida Water Management District not to approve Neal's permit to destroy high-quality, productive mangroves and replace them with four homes.
After running down a lengthy finding of facts, ALJ Bram Canter issued conclusions of law that called the proposed development, held by Neal through a trust, "an unusual project" that
"resembles the kind of project that was common in the 1960s and 1970s in Florida, before the enactment of environmental regulatory programs, when high-quality wetlands were destroyed by dredging and filling to create land for residential development."
Canter added that "In all the reported DOAH cases involving ERPs and mitigation of wetland impacts, the circumstances have involved impaired wetlands and/or the restoration or permanent protection of other wetlands on the project site. No case could be found where an applicant simply paid for authorization to destroy almost an acre of high-quality wetlands and convert it to uplands."
Attorney Ralf Brooks represented the Sierra Club. “We agree with the findings and conclusions of the Administrative Law Judge," said Brooks in a statement after the decision was released. "It is important to preserve these mature mangrove wetlands on site because they provide natural storm protection, prevent erosion and provide important habitat for wildlife here in Anna Maria Sound near the historic fishing village of Cortez. It is important to protect our remaining mangrove wetlands as valuable natural resources especially in aquatic preserves and outstanding Florida waters."
Neal's trust has 15 days to file exceptions to findings of fact and conclusions of law contained in the recommended order with SFWMD, who issues the final order. Neal is being opposed by several groups including Manasota 88, Sierra Club, Suncoast Waterkeeper, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and TBT publisher Joe McClash.
........................The Bradenton TimesPublished Saturday, March 21, 2015 12:07 amby Staff ReportThe Bradenton TimesPublished Friday, August 29, 2014 12:10 amby Joe McClash