Manasota Key Fl (Storch Report) — A public meeting was held here with short notice today by the Charlotte County Commissioners on the subject of beach erosion on Manasota Key, but at least 75 members of the public in attendance were prohibited from making any verbal comment because it was designated by the Commissioners as an ‘informational meeting’ with US Rep Thomas Rooney and staff from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Florida’s Sunshine Law on Open Meetings Laws In Florida, “Florida laws recognizes a public right to comment during open meetings, but the public body holding the meeting may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to ensure orderly conduct of meetings.” The latter does not mean there should be no public comment.
The Florida Commissioners conducting the meeting, Chairman Bill Truex, who represents the area in question, and Commissioner Christopher Constance, gave the public no opportunity to comment other than to ask for a raise of hands from the audience if they were here because of their interest in the beach erosion on Manasota Key. All raised their hands.
Can it be possible that ‘reasonable rules and regulations’ were meant to prohibit comment entirely from the public? If so, why hold a public meeting? A violation of the Sunshine Law?
If the law is interpreted as I see it, there is something under the law that protects freedom of speech in a public meeting — but, that is not what took place today.
Prior to the meeting there were some public notices in local newspapers over the weekend announcing a Manasota Key informational meeting Aug. 16 the following Tuesday. It said the ‘public was invited to attend but there will be no public input.’ Was this appropriate under Florida Law? Did the Commissioners file a public notice? This website has signed up for notices of public meetings from the County. It received none.
No public input would be allowed from residents whose homes and condos are being threatened by beach erosion was the statement reported by the media prior to the meeting and none was allowed at the meeting.
The County in its master plan has announced that it wants to take property owners land on Manasota Key, create easements for public access to what they will transform into a public beach, provide parking on North Beach Road, taking more property from owners for parking, in exchange for nothing, in order to get State and Federal funds for a project that will increase taxes in perpetuity for ongoing beach re-nourishment and more than likely will, as similar projects have proved, be doomed to failure. Not a very good deal if you are a property owner.
While this was an informational meeting for Rooney and his entourage, he and the Army Corps of Engineers seemed to put a nail in the coffin for beach re-nourishment. The Army Corps of Engineers, a new entry into the issue of the beach erosion issue on Manasota Key — the Corps that gave us the Florida Everglades — suggested more study needs to take place — in addition to the thousands already spent by the County with Coastal Engineering — thus projecting further costs into the millions and years of time. Meanwhile, Rooney said earmarks are off the table in Congress, implying that Federal funds would be difficult to achieve under the best of circumstances in situations such as this.
And so, to summarize this ‘informational’ meeting, where freedom of speech was prohibited from the people by the government, it appears to me that property owners on Manasota Key are between a rock and a hard place and they appear to be better off with rock then depending upon the hardness of the County for compassion to protect their homes.
And, good luck with sea walls, revetment rocks, with approval of permits with compassion to protect property, or swift approvals from County and State for emergency relief.