Character Or Commercialism For Manasota Key?


Manasota Key 2

Manasota Key Fl (Storch Report) — It appears that the Charlotte County Commissioners in Florida have a motive for beach renourishment for Manasota Key and, as I see it, they perceive it as a cash cow for revenue from taxes and tourist dollars which appears to override any consideration for the character of the island or its residents and are moving forward with little in the way of guarantees that the sand will not come and go as it has been doing for eons.

The tip-off for this revelation, which they talk little about, is in the 2013 Master Plan which can be reviewed Googling,  Manasota & Sandpiper Key Master Plan, 2013.  

Basically, they talk about beach renourishment with funding from residents of the island with support from the State and the County but only with the provision of a right of way through private land to a public beach.  This includes widening the road in front of beach-front homes, taking property, providing bike lanes, sidewalks and parking for the public so they can reach the beach through easements over private property to the beach.  The residents in return for getting sand, give up property rights, beach front rights, increased taxes, in some instances doubling same, the public traipsing through their land and congregating in their beach-front backyards.

Manasota Key is a spit of a barrier reef about 12 miles in length with rural character, unlike the commercialism and glitz of Long Boat Key and Siesta Key in Sarasota County.  Residents here, both in the North end of the island which is in Sarasota County, as well as the South end which is in Charlotte County, came here because of the island’s character, unlike any other barrier reef on the West Coast of Florida.

There is wealth on the North end of the Island, going back to the Vanderbilts who had winter homes here to the likes of the late Dan Martin of Saturday Night Live, the late Ed McMahon the sidekick of Johnny Carson of the Tonight Show, singer Mel Tillis of country western fame, the late singer Donna Sommer and today’s pop star of the 60’s Bobby Vinton.  There is little commercialization on the North end, two small motels, no condos or other commercial enterprises.

In contrast, the southern portion of the key has restaurants, bars, condos, hotels, motels, two public beaches and a State Park and the County Commissioners want more, giving little in exchange to permanent residents, for sand.   

Residents didn’t come here for commercialism, they came here for the character of the Key, its remoteness, and laid back attitude of solitude.

Yesterday a meeting was held in a trailer park on the southern end of the Key where some 120 people gathered to hear the same political pap delivered numerous times before with little transparency or substance with respect to costs, who will bear the brunt, that will mostly benefit the County, not its residents.

Stump pass dredging

They marched out the usual suspects for the presentation, Chuck Mopps, Charlotte County Coastal Projects Manager, who has resigned his position and leaving the County, Michael Poff, Coastal Engineering Consultants and Commission Chairman Bill Truex, who represents the Englewood area.  The subject of the meeting, “Stump Pass Maintenance & Beach renourishment.”

The dredging of the Stump Pass inlet has been an ongoing project since 1982 in order to maintain a proper flow of sea water into the estuary of Lemon Bay. 

According to Poff of the Consulting firm the sand on the key has been moving from north to south, now benefiting the south end of the Key.  This was not the case yesterday when houses on the south end were toppling into the Gulf of Mexico and there was sand on the north end.  Poff says the erosion has intensified from one foot annually to up to four feet per year, and even more in some spots south of exposed rock revetments. 

He also revealed at previous meetings that north of the public Englewood Beach there was a 10 to 12-foot deep trench covering 4.5 acres where erosion has scoured out sand to the Gulf’s rocky bottom.  He said there is no more sand out there.  No more sand, yet Venice to the North of Manasota Key has been taking sand off of Manasota Key at least twice in the past decade to renourish its beaches, the last time as recently as last year.

Residents on the south end of the Key are unlikely to participate in renourishment now that they have sand.  However, Poff says they shouldn’t expect it to last, he said it might be five or 45 years when those Gulf-front properties see the same severe erosion now seen north of the public beach. That’s quite an estimated span of time.

As the tide shifts the sands, the consultants shift their numbers with wide margins.  For example, an earlier number estimating the initial  cost by Poff of correcting the problem was $38 million, with constant renourishment, yesterday it was “possibly exceeding $22 million.”

While whatever sand is out there shifting from North to South, common sense tells one the entire Key would have to be renourished in order to be successful.  That means Sarasota County would have to cooperate, and that would mean changing the character of the entire Key to commercializing it to meet the costs.  An uphill battle at the least.

With the shifting tides of sand, it is much like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

It is interesting to note that the only beach other than Englewood in Charlotte County is on Boca Grande, another barrier reef split between Charlotte and Lee counties, about 20 minutes from Manasota Key by car.

Imagine Charlotte County making a similar move on Boca Grande to commercialize it, where the billionaires are chasing out the millionaires, where the community owns the Boca Grande causeway which they control, with a $6 toll, built with their own money, including two high-rise bridges and a swing bridge to the tune of $45 million and recently purchased the old Mercury boat testing facility for $21 million at the entry to the island and are returning it to nature  — politicians know better to mess with these people or disturb the character of this island, it is an unfathomable thought.

But don’t count on it not happening on Manasota Key, with politics being what they are today. 

Unless Manasota Key unifies in totality — north and south — to maintain the character of the island, politics will prevail for the greed of money. 


















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One Response to Character Or Commercialism For Manasota Key?

  1. Charlie D says:

    Thanks for the background info and for shedding light on aspects of the proposed renourishment project that were not addressed at the meeting. The cost factor is or should be troubling to residents of Charlotte County living both on and off Manasota Key because it is admittedly unknown and would be ongoing in the form of taxes. How much are we willing to pay to “mess with Mother Nature?” We have to keep Stump Pass open for the health of Lemon Bay. Beyond that is still in question.

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