ST. PETE BEACH – On the morning of July 30, St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe was optimistic she had a solution for a beach nourishment issue involving the Silver Sands Beach and Racquet Club at 6650 Sunset Way.
At issue was whether a narrow stretch of the beach behind Silver Sands would receive sand from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nourishment project in the next few days.
The answer came bluntly when the condo’s board of directors voted against accepting a perpetual easement that would have opened the door for the area to receive 10,000 cubic yards of sand. It amounts to about 10 percent of the entire project.
The perpetual easement is a requirement now by the Army Corps after years of requiring only a temporary easement for nourishment projects. But since Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the federal government has tightened its allocation of public funds for beach nourishment and now needs a perpetual easement on private land to use public funds for beach nourishment.
The down side to the perpetual agreement is that condo owners could conceivably be turning their land over for public use and have no control over its use. At least, that’s the initial fear and that was the concern of condo owners at Silver Sands.
But after a suggestion from former City Commissioner Bruno Falkenstein, Lowe engineered a plan she thought would solve the issue. It involved changing the Silver Sands beach property to a conservation area and erecting “bird sanctuary” signs to keep nonresidents from using the area for recreational use.
The key was for the Silver Sands group to agree to a perpetual easement, which would give the county control of the land. The county could then extend the conservation label.
“I was keenly excited,” said Lowe.
But Lowe never got the chance to make a presentation to the board. On the advice of Silver Sands attorney Richard Zacur, she said, the board voted against a perpetual easement.
They later gave Lowe an opportunity to speak, after the vote.
“They’re basically saying no to city sand and hotel sand they’ve already paid for,” Lowe said. “It’s disheartening because nobody was saying ‘give away your land.’ It’s not a land grab.”
Silver Sands is located slightly south of the fourth of five T-groins the county has installed along Upham Beach to prevent beach erosion. Now, because of the July 30 decision by the Silver Sands board, Lowe said, the fifth T-groin will remain bare of sand, creating less of a barrier during a surge.
“The surge impact is going to affect everyone,” said Lowe. “The erosion will occur at a faster rate.”
On another front, city commissioners cut a list of nine city attorney candidates down to three at a July 31 meeting.
The finalists are Ralf Brookes of Cape Coral, Persson and Cohen of Bradenton and Andrew Dickman of Naples.
Interviews are planned Tuesday, Aug. 12, 4 p.m., at city hall.