The final pieces of the Redington Long Pier are removed in May 2020 by contractors hired by the Department of Environmental Protection. What happens with that property is still in question after town commissioners recently scuttled a proposal to build condos.

REDINGTON SHORES — A plan to put a 10-unit condominium on the property where the historic Redington Pier once stood has failed after the Town Commission voted to deny a land use change that was needed for the project to move forward.

The dilapidated pier was demolished by the state as a safety hazard a year ago.

The property use, with the pier and parking lot, has been classified as Recreation/Open Space for 40 years. An ordinance that would have changed that to allow residential development was rejected in a unanimous vote by the commission at its May 12 meeting. A companion ordinance that would have rezoned the property from Outdoor Recreation/Public Open Space to Medium/High Density Multi Residential was declared moot by the town attorney after the commission rejected the land use change.

No site plan was submitted for the condo project, and that was a factor in the commission’s decision.

The action means the pier property, at 17490 Gulf Boulevard, can be used only for recreation purposes or as green space, at least for now.

The town Planning and Zoning Board had previously, in a split decision, voted 3 to 2 in favor of the land use change, but unanimously rejected the rezoning of the property.

Tony Antonius, who purchased the property in 2000, requested the land use change and rezoning to allow for the condo development. This is the second project that has been put forth for the pier property, whose Gulf-front location makes it a prime candidate for redevelopment.

In October 2019, local real estate investors Ben Mallah and Tony Utegaard presented a plan for a hotel and restaurant on the property that included preserving a portion of the pier. That proposal was turned down by the Town Commission after a number of residents objected.

Before deciding not to change the land use of the pier property, the commission heard from a representative of owner Antonius and from planning consultant Dave Healey.

Healey had recommended approval of both the land use and zoning change. He said the pier had been removed “and to date no known action has been taken to replace it.”

“The pier is gone,” Healey told the commission. What’s there today, he said, “is a paved-over parking lot that is closed off.” He said the allowable uses of the property with the existing recreation zoning are very limited, suggesting something like a swim club or miniature golf as possibilities.

The 10-unit, 4-story condominium proposal is consistent with what’s around the pier property, Healey said.

“The proposed reclassification would allow for consistent and compatible land use plan and zoning map designations,” Healey said in the conclusion of his report to the commission.

Todd Pressman, representing Antonius, said the pier property is “a very, very small size” and the proposed 10-unit condo building is what would be most appropriate, “consistent with what’s on both sides of the property, which is located in a coastal high hazard area. We’re asking for the same zoning that is on both sides of the property,” Pressman said, and those buildings are “higher and have more density than what we are asking for.”

If the condo project was approved, Pressman said, that would create 18 acres of similarly zoned property along the west side of Gulf Boulevard.

Also, Pressman said the density is being limited to 10 units, “a use that is most appropriate for the site.” He also said Antonius “is not interested in any bonus units” that could be made available under the zoning regulations. When questioned by Commissioner Cinda Krouk about the environmental impact of the condo development, Pressman said environmental reviews showed the impact to be “extremely minimal.”

Commissioner Jennie Blackburn was disturbed by the idea that “now that the pier is gone that makes it OK” to change the zoning. “So if I were the owner, all I would have to do is let the pier fall into disrepair, to where it had to be torn down, and then it’s, ‘Now I get to develop this and make my big payday.’”

Loss of green space a big concern

In rejecting the land use change needed for the condo building proposal to go forward, commission members, and residents who spoke on the subject, were most concerned about the green space the city would lose if the land use/zoning were changed to allow residential development.

“I don’t see how anybody in Redington Shores benefits from this,” said Blackburn. The property “is Recreation/Open Space. It’s zoned as that. Keep it as Recreation/Open Space.” Blackburn also said compatibility with surrounding properties is not a good enough reason to change the land use or zoning.

Krouk said the pier property is “a small gem, privately owned.”

“A rare gem of open space is so important. Every time we make a change, we build and build, with impact after impact,” Krouk said.

Pressman responded, “It is not up to a private owner to provide park space. If you wanted to save this (as green space), the town should buy it.”

Resident Robert Pergolizzi, representing the Angler’s Cove condos next to the pier property, said, “We like open space and would like to see the property stay open space.” But he added, “The condo board voted to take a neutral position on this, not for or against the rezoning.”

Condo resident Sharon Dippel said grant money is available and the town should try to get some and purchase the property.

“Green space is needed, another condo is not,” Dippel said. She also questioned why no site plan was submitted for the project.

Resident Jennifer Beasley said, “It’s important to have open space.”

Resident Christina Warren said she and her family came to the pier often.

“It was sad to see the pier fall apart,” she said. “The thought of another condominium is even sadder.” Warren said she would like to see the property “become any kind of open space.”

Town Planning Board chairwoman Lisa Foster said she is “opposed to this land use change. Say no and look for other options for this property.”

Following the resident comments, Commissioner Michael Robinson said, “I find it absolutely unacceptable to even consider this without a site plan or development plan. It’s dead as far as I’m concerned.”

The commission voted 5-to-0 to reject any land use change for the pier property.

Commission rejects county’s gas tax plan

Commissioners left no doubt about their opposition to a county plan for an interlocal agreement that would add another 5 cents to the fuel tax. The proceeds would go 60 percent to the county and 40 percent to municipalities based upon population.

“I think that it is absolutely ridiculous, and I would make a motion that the mayor submit a letter back to the county advising them that we disagree with this,” Robinson said.

“I can’t imagine a worse time for this,” said Mayor MaryBeth Henderson.

“This is absolutely inappropriate right now. Inflation is already creeping up. Adding that tax doesn’t do anything for Redington Shores,” said Robinson.

Commissioner Bill Krajewski added, “Besides the fact that the price of gas is going through the roof.”

Attorney James Denhardt said County Administrator Barry Burton in a recent presentation said that in order for the interlocal agreement to take effect it would have to get the support of 51 percent of the municipalities based on population.