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Environmental activists sue to block waterfront project by powerful developer Carlos Beruff

Beruff, who chairs the Constitutional Revision Commission, won unanimous approval for his revised project from the Manatee County Commission

Former Manatee County commissioner Joe McClash and the environmental group Suncoast Waterkeeper have filed suit to overturn the county’s approval of a new development by well-connected homebuilder and onetime U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff.

Beruff and partner Larry Lieberman have been trying for years to develop their waterfront land on Sarasota Bay, first as Long Bar Pointe, and now as Aqua By the Bay. Both projects have stirred controversy for their anticipated effect on the bay and its wetlands. Manatee commissioners rejected Long Bar Pointe in 2013, a decision Beruff challenged in court. He lost.

The Manatee commissioners began a public hearing on his new version, called Aqua By the Bay, in May. They concluded it Oct. 3 with a unanimous approval -- but only after taking a three-hour recess during which Beruff and his consultants revised the development plan and drawings.

Because the development plan changed during that recess, the lawsuit contends that commissioners should have held off voting until the public could be given a chance to review the revised plan,

Although the commission reopened public comment prior to voting, the plaintiffs insist they were not allowed “reasonable time to review the new information” and were denied “due process.”

Beruff and his company, Medallion Homes, have made plenty of campaign contributions over the years, and he has become one of Gov. Rick Scott’s go-to picks for government agency jobs, ranging from the State University of Florida board to the Southwest Florida Water Management District board. He current chairs the Constitutional Revision Commission.