Redington pier project faces several hurdles

The Redington Long Pier’s future is uncertain.

REDINGTON SHORES — Plans were recently unveiled for a hotel and other improvements on the historic but deteriorating Redington Long Pier property. The proposal was announced by developer Ben Mallah as a part of an agreement with Tony Antonious, the pier’s owner.

But any building on the property would require rezoning the land, which must be approved by the town, county and state, Redington Shores Town Attorney James Denhardt said at a Sept. 11 commission meeting. Mallah has said his contract to buy the pier property is contingent upon the land being rezoned.

Denhardt said the town had received an application for a land use zoning change for the property associated with the pier. He said the issue would first be discussed at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting scheduled for Oct. 3. Then the commission will take up the matter, probably at its regular meeting on Oct. 9, when commissioners would have a first reading of an ordinance to change the zoning.

The fate of the pier property will likely not be decided for a few months yet, Denhardt said. If the town were to approve the ordinance on first reading, the land-use change would then have to be approved by the county, and then the state. That process could take three or four months before it comes back to Redington Shores for a second reading.

The county sued pier owner Antonious in December 2018 to have the pier torn down within a month. That never happened, but the county order is still in effect. Denhardt said the state is getting bids to demolish the structure and it could be gone by the end of the year.

Mallah has said preservation of a portion of the pier is part of his plans for the property. He said the hotel could help to pay for the pier preservation.

The state of the pier has been a source of controversy in Redington Shores for some time. It dates to 1962 and is the only such structure from that era left along the Pinellas beaches. But its condition has been declining for years.

In June 2018, residents packed Redington Shores Town Hall to urge preservation of the pier. All of those who spoke at the meeting wanted to save it, but many commented on the pier’s dilapidated state and the lack of repairs or maintenance. One said the pier is “just falling apart.” Another said the owners “have run it down to the ground.”

The winds and waves of Hurricane Irma in 2017 caused parts of the pier to collapse, sending debris into surrounding waters and the shoreline, endangering swimmers and beachgoers. Crews from the Redingtons to Madeira Beach were kept busy for days cleaning up potentially dangerous pier parts, with nails sticking up, strewn on the beaches.

Meanwhile, any plans to preserve even a portion of the historic pier could depend on the lack of significant storm activity in the area during this year’s season.

At this point, the future of the pier and the property adjoining it is highly uncertain, depending on upcoming decisions by government officials.

Mallah could not be reached for comment.