Manasota Key (Storch Report) — There is a major issue here on a little known barrier reef called Manasota Key on the Southwest coast of Florida and it evolves around the subject of beach erosion and beach re-nourishment, not an unusual dilemma in Florida or in many coastal communities across the nation.
The island, connected to the mainland by two bridges is in two Counties and governed by two County Board of Commissioners, Sarasota to the North and Charlotte to the South, Sarasota is primarily residential and Charlotte is more commercial with Condos,retail businesses and private homes.
The issue of beach erosion and subsequent re-nourishment is a complex issue. For the most part it doesn’t work very well and when it does it requires the constant infusion of money for periodic re-nourishment.
Both counties have been dealing with beach erosion for some time, Sarasota having more beach front footage than Charlotte.
Except for Manasota Key, Sarasota has significantly more commercial beach front then Charlotte, which provides significantly more revenue to the county than what Charlotte receives.
Charlotte is seeking Sarasota’s cooperation in the initiation of their project because the land on Manasota Key is contiguous from one county to the other and the sand is moving North to South, according to Coastal Engineering Consultants hired by Charlotte, and it is said there is little sand out there with a hardpan of limestone that also needs ecological attention. The sand would have to be gathered off shore and piped in to Manasota Key.
Charlotte County estimates the initial cost of re-nourishment on their portion of the beach alone would be $20 million.
Sarasota is not that far along as Charlotte, but they have decided they are going to talk to the people, the home owners of beachfront property, by conducting a survey.
According to news reports general questions in the survey will consist of:
- Location of their properties on Manasota Key and how long have they owned their properties.
- Perceptions of the erosion on Manasota Key.
- Whether or not they support a beach re-nourishment project and whether they would be willing to help pay for beach re-nourishment.
Sarasota plans to refine the survey to provide more specific information and wording.
A common sense approach, I might suggest, that would give the County an idea whether they had public support and whether the project was viable.
Charlotte has never reached out to the homeowners to be impacted by their proposed re-nourishment plan, either by survey or personal contact, according to Brian Gleason, public information officer for the County Board of Commissioners.
Perhaps you don’t ask questions to get answers you don’t want to hear.
Numerous public informational meetings have been held, but the County does not know whether they were actually reaching the homeowner who would have to pay for the project in perpetuity. They never have reached out to find out resident’s concerns about beach re-nourishment.
Some property owners are seeking emergency permitting in order to protect their homes.
Charlotte County has the reputation of being one of the most difficult counties in Florida in which to receive permitting.
According to Gleason the County board of Commissioners have selected to employ the municipal service taxing unit to reach home owners by holding a series of workshops. On the Charlotte County portion of Manasota Key, taxing unit boundaries includes properties west of the Tom Adams Bridge south to the Stump Pass State Beach and north to the Sarasota Charlotte county line. Commissioners haven’t yet set an assessment rate.
However, homeowners should be aware of other issues that will impact their properties besides an annual assessment to their taxes. In order to make the project feasible it will be necessary to receive funds from the County, the State and the Federal government and these funds come with contingencies. Homeowners on the beach will loose property from the high water mark west and all beaches will be public, the public must have a way to access the beach therefore easements must be granted over private property and parking must be provided, which does not now exist.
The roads on the island, from Stump Pass to the county line are very narrow and without sidewalks, except for a small portion near the Public Beach. A bike and walking/running lanes exist. Roads in Sarasota County are much narrower.
The three year Master Plan in Charlotte County dovetails with the beach re-nourishment project; however, at public meetings the County does not seem to put the entire project in context with each other in order to present the home owner with the total impact on their property. For example, if the road is already narrow, where will the public park to get to the beach, are there plans to widen the road, if so, where will the property come from, all of this will create more congestion and have a significant impact on the culture of the island?
South of Stump Pass, Knight and Don Pedro island has already been through beach re-nourishment and to give homeowners on Manasota Key some idea of what might be in store for them, property owners on the Gulf pay into a municipal service benefit unit. Homeowners paid $15.71 per linear foot fronting on the Gulf each year. According to news reports, a typical 80-foot-wide property would pay an $1,256.80 assessment. There are 12, 561.07 linear feet of beachfront being assessed.
According to Gleason it would take a lot more than 50% participation to make the project feasible, “It’s a very fluid situation.” Homeowners would have the option to opt-out of the project, according to Gleason. If in fact the county got the participation they needed and certain owners opted-out it would create a scalloped beach front.
Apparently an old Army Corps of Engineering feasibility study is being resurrected at a cost of $3 million, which will take three years to complete. Meanwhile property owners are filing permits for revetment and rip-wrap walls in order to protect their property.
Charlotte County has hired Peter Ravella and his Texas based consulting firm to explore funding strategies to finance the project and they will present these strategies at public workshops.
Two public workshops have been scheduled:
- December 1 at 6 PM at the Tringali Park Recreation Center 2460 North Access Road (State Road 776) Englewood and
- December 3, at 1 PM also at the Tringali Park Recreation Center.