A Paper for the Students, by the Students.


A Paper for the Students, by the Students.


A Paper for the Students, by the Students.


Manatee County to Rollback Wetland Protections


On Thursday, August 18th, The Manatee County Board of Commissioners voted in a 6-1 decision to begin the rollback of Wetland Buffers in Manatee County. This comes only a few days after the County’s Planning Commission, which is an advisory body, voted 4-2 against the policy change. 

Manatee County currently requires Wetland buffers of between 30-50ft between developments and wetland areas. This area was nearly double the State requirements, which range from 15-25ft.Wetland buffers are areas of non-developed land surrounding natural wetlands, which seek to mitigate impacts from development into wetlands. 

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, wetlands themselves help to improve water quality, provide habitats, and provide flood control. These ecosystems are especially important here in Florida, where 31% of our state is covered in Wetlands, the most wetlands of any state in the lower-48.

These crucial environments are not only home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals, but act as a filter for water that then goes downstream to reservoirs and rivers which provide Floridians with drinking water. These wetlands are especially delicate to the impact of fertilizers, which without large buffers or smaller denser buffers can seep into wetlands and then into the water supply. 

Conversations about removing Manatee County’s Wetland buffers began in 2015 when developer Carlos Beruff’s Mandarin Development Inc sued the county over the Comprehensive Plan’s wetland policy, although that case would be ruled in favor of the County keeping the policy.  

The argument produced by those in favor of the change at the Board meeting, most notably Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge and Consultant Daniel DeLisi, was that the Wetland Buffers take away usable land from property owners for what they described as a “duplicitous” use.

Delisi, who previously testified as a witness in favor of Beruff during those legal battles, stated that “In this case, I was asked to take a look at the comprehensive plan and look at areas where there are overlapping regulations, where the state is already providing a service that is protecting wetlands, and it is redundant, if you will, for the local government to do it.”

Van Ostenbridge would also state that “As a small government conservative, I prefer that government have the least amount of impact as necessary on a person’s private property rights, and in this situation I put the burden of proof on the government that’s its necessary to take that additional land…” 

During the 4 hours of public comment, over 30 citizens made their voices known to the Board, including representatives from Suncoast Waterkeeper, a group which looks to protect and restore Suncoast waterways, and the East Manatee Preservation Association, a group which helps facilitate the preservation of East Manatee’s agricultural heritage and natural lands. None of those voicing public comment were in support of the amendment.

The loudest voice in opposition on the BOCC was Commissioner George Kruse, making the argument that “The state is setting a minimum, and the minimum is across 67 counties… Those inland counties, that don’t have the same issues with wetlands that maybe a coastal county will, where its not going to flood out into the Gulf and cause algae blooms and issues… So what they do is they set an absolute bare minimum.”
Kruse then urged the board to err on the side of caution.

The vote to amend the comprehensive plan and defer the regulations to the state minimum passed 6-1, with Kruse the only Commissioner opposed. The amendment will now go to state agencies in Tallahassee for approval, and then return to the BOCC for final approval. 

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