Last Modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.
A Sarasota County judge has set a summer trial date for a challenge to a development proposal to destroy a protected wetland off University Parkway so that a Whole Foods Market can be built on the site.
Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley will hear the case during a two-day trial set for the week of Aug. 22. Curley approved the date at a brief hearing Wednesday in which defense attorneys requested the case be expedited.
The lawsuit against Sarasota County was filed last month by ManaSota-88 and other environmental activists.
They claim the county violated its growth management plan by approving the destruction of a 4.5-acre forested wetland to make way for a new commercial center anchored by Whole Foods. The project is at the southwest corner of Honore Avenue and University Parkway.
The property's owners and the project's developers joined the lawsuit, siding with the county. They say their plan to offset the loss of wetlands on the Whole Foods site with the purchase and preservation of 41 acres of wetland in Manatee County is legal.
The challengers argue the proposed mitigation site doesn't contain the same type of wetlands or the same habitat for wildlife as the site targeted for development. The environmentalists seek a “de novo trial,” in which the judge will determine whether the original decision violated Sarasota County's the long-range growth plan.