This sea turtle crawl alongside the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, was confirmed June 5 near the proposed dune/parking lot project set to begin in October. City staff previously disputed nesting activity in the area. The nest had to be relocated due to high water during midweek storms. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteer Glenn Wiseman finds the sand in the proposed parking lot area at the BeachHouse Restaurant to be compatible with sea turtle nesting needs. City staff previously argued sand density in the proposed project area prohibits turtles from nesting. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
On the heels of a lawsuit filed by three Bradenton Beach citizens to stop the city’s joint development agreement with BeachHouse Restaurant owner Ed Chiles to develop a dune and parking lot across from city hall, a new argument has surfaced.
The two primary groups opposing the development project are the Bradenton Beach Planning & Zoning Board and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.
P&Z argued the agreement violated the city’s comprehensive plan and rejected the plan later approved by commissioners. AMITW executive director Suzi Fox presented a second argument that the proposed development is in sea turtle nesting habitat.
The suit was brought forth by two former P&Z members who resigned after a contentious May meeting where P&Z board members were accused of being biased and presenting a “tainted” recommendation by Commissioner Ric Gatehouse. Fox also was challenged by city attorney Ricinda Perry, who conducted the meeting nearing a trial-like atmosphere.
Perry said Fox’s statements at the May 3 meeting about the development area being nesting habitat were false and should be stricken from the record because Fox brought no documentation to the meeting to prove her claims.
Perry also argued that the density of the sand at the proposed development site — next to the BeachHouse Restaurant — was prohibitive to sea turtle nesting.
But sometime during the night of June 4 or the morning of June 5, a loggerhead sea turtle crawled into the proposed development site and laid her eggs.
In an e-mail to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fox reported her findings and why she felt it necessary to relocate the nest, which was mere feet away from the restaurant, and near the valet overflow parking area established on the beach by the BeachHouse.
Fox reported high tide had come within 15 feet of the nest and water was discovered in the nest when it was confirmed by her team. Fox said the FWC suggestion to move the nest to open beach could not be met due to the nearby “illegal” activity, she said.
“We decided not to place this nest at the wide-open beach because of the parked cars at night and chances of cars running over the nest,” said Fox.
The nest was moved away from the restaurant, but was relocated to an area still within the proposed development site.
“Glenn Wiseman dug the new nest and we found the sand to be normal density about 6 inches down,” she said. “The sand below was very soft and compatible with good sea turtle nesting sand.”
Fox told FWC, “Just for your information, (Perry) told the city commissioners at the last commission meeting in Bradenton Beach that you came out and did a compaction test on this sand and found it to be too hard for sea turtles to nest.”
Fox said in her e-mail to FWC that Perry had made a false statement. Fox also said compaction tests are typically performed by project engineers, not FWC.
“Guess she dreamed this up on her own,” wrote Fox.