MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Manatee County commissioners are set to consider an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan in a land use meeting this Thursday afternoon. The proposed changes are gaining the attention of local environmental groups.
County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes told 8 On Your Side the county’s Peril of Flood plan has not been in compliance with state law since 2015. He says the proposed changes being brought before the board Thursday will change that.
He says the amendments will allow for future technology to help mitigate the impacts of flooding and sea level rise. According to him, the language in the policy recommendation was taken out of Florida statutes.
The policy recommendation reads as follows:
“Consider new development and redevelopment that employs site development techniques that reduces flood losses and claims made under flood insurance policies. These techniques may employ methods that withstand inundation and minimize flood damage through environmentally sensitive flood-proofing techniques and strategies.”
Under implementation mechanisms, the policy recommendation states, “coordination with federal, state, local and other regulatory agencies ensuring all necessary permitting, including but not limited to a Conditional Letter of Map Revision, prior to commencement of development process”.
Suncoast Waterkeeper founder Justin Bloom describes the language in the proposed policy as “confusing and unnecessary.” He fears the change will benefit developers and ultimately hurt the coastal ecosystem.
In a letter to Dr. Hopes and the commission chairman dated March 16, an attorney representing two well-known developers, Medallion Homes and Neal Communities, suggested the county policy allow for fill material and the construction of seawalls.
Bloom says those suggestions, if considered by commissioners, could come with long-term consequences.
“Fill is adding soil where there are wetlands to raise the elevation. The problem with that is that our wetlands are incredibly important habitat and they are also a really important environmental infrastructure that reduce the impact of storm surge and protect from flooding,” said Bloom. “The remaining infrastructure or the remaining mangroves, the remaining coast line, we need to be protective of that.”
Dr. Hopes described the recent letter on behalf of developers as “public recommendation.” He says despite “misinformation” in the community, it is not in the proposed recommendations going before the board Thursday.
“That language that was recommended by a citizen on behalf of some developers in fact was not incorporated in what is going to the board tomorrow, nor is it being incorporated,” Dr. Hopes said. “What the commission will be taking up tomorrow is to ensure that our Perils of Flood plan incorporates the requirements of the Florida state law.”
The language of the amendment will be left up to county commissioners. Thursday’s public hearing on the issue is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.