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  1. Gators

Builder's push for friend's permit was his last act on water board

Carlos Beruff's motion to help out his friend, former state senator Pat Neal, in getting a wetlands permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District board Tuesday turned out to be one of his final official acts as a board member.

Beruff — who like Neal is a Manatee County homebuilder — had sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on July 10 saying he planned to resign early from Swiftmud, with his last day being Tuesday.

In his letter he said he was resigning "due to my other responsibilities."

In May, Scott named Beruff, founder of Medallion Homes of Parrish, chairman of his new Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, although Beruff has no experience with that industry.

Beruff also serves on the governing board of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority.

On Tuesday Neal, a potential candidate for Florida CFO, described Beruff as "a friend of longstanding," with whom he has done business in the past. However, Beruff said Tuesday he had no conflict of interest in making the motion to approve Neal's permit to wipe out an acre of mangroves on Perico Island because "I have no interest in the property that came before us."

Opponents have vowed to appeal the Swiftmud permit vote, and said they feared the permit will set a precedent for other waterfront developments — including one that Beruff has been pursuing for several years. Beruff's Long Bar Pointe project would put homes, condos, a hotel, a conference center, offices and stores on a 463-acre site on Sarasota Bay.

When asked if the approval of Neal's project would pave the way for approving his own project, Beruff said, "I don't want to comment on that."

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