LAND

Protesters: Harbour Isle developments threaten mangrove habitat

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
February 15, 2015 9:00 pm

A mangrove forest at a busy crossroads of development and preservation on Perico Island in Bradenton is the focus of a protest Monday by several environmental groups.

The coalition, organized by Suncoast Waterkeeper, wants to halt a project by Lakewood Ranch developer Pat Neal. The development, Harbour Sound, calls for four luxury homes in the center of 40 acres of wetlands. The project borders Harbour Isle, a 130-acre waterfront development. The coalition, including the local Sierra Club, Manasota 88 and FISH, claims Harbour Isle is also responsible for state mangrove violations.

“These groups and individuals have declared that developers have played fast and loose with laws protecting precious mangrove habitat long enough,” Andy Mele of Suncoast Waterkeeper said in an email. “They will not tolerate the loss of one more mangrove without a fight.”

The protest was scheduled for 4 p.m. at Harbour Isle's entrance at 12300 Manatee Avenue West. The coalition, using a Facebook banner Justice for Mangroves, recently exposed illegal mangrove cutting at Palma Sola Bay Club in Bradenton.

Neal received a permit last year from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to remove mangroves to build the homes. Suncoast Waterkeeper and former Manatee County commissioner Joe McClash successfully petitioned for an administrative hearing in Tampa to challenge the SWFWD permit. The hearing begins Tuesday.

Waterkeeper"The Clean Water Act ... stipulates that the [Army] Corps of Engineers has the authority to review, permit and enforce all wetlands-related issues," Mele said.

Environmentalists also dispute an interpretation by Bradenton city planners that zoning rules in the area allow Neal's development. The Neal family has owned the land through a trust since 1997.

Harbour Isle, a condo development, is accused by the coalition of clear-cutting 200 feet mangrove shoreline and building a sea wall without permits.


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