The Tortuga Inn Beach Resort pergola sparked minor controversy when fi rst proposed in Bradenton Beach more than a year ago but is progressing on the beachfront, following a lengthy permit process.
Some citizens expressed opposition to any development on the beach side of the Gulf of Mexico, but permits were granted and Tortuga owner David Teitelbaum said construction of the pergola will soon be completed.
“This has been in the works for about a year and a half,” said Teitelbaum. “It’s a process that included getting approvals from the city commission and planning and zoning, as well as the Florida Department of environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
Teitelbaum said once the city approved the project, “a very extensive submission was made to DeP about six months ago. We received approval from DeP to do the construction around September and construction started Feb. 1.
“Now that we have the structure in place, we are proceeding with dune planting and building up the dunes,” said Teitelbaum. “We obviously had to disturb the sea oats and dunes to put the structure in, so we are in the process of not only replacing what was there, but enhancing it.”
Completion of the pergola is still a few months away, but approval for Teitelbaum’s plans from the city was not so easy to come by.
The pergola is situated on land zoned for preservation by the city, and members of the planning and zoning
board found construction in the zone to be a violation of the city’s comprehensive plan, similar to the opposition the board had for a proposed parking lot on the beach at the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.
The parking lot issue resulted in the resignation of several members of the P&Z board, ridicule from the
city, and a lawsuit brought by three citizens — including two former P&Z members — against the city that is still pending to halt the project.
The city commission voted to approve in spite of a recommendation from P&Z to deny the pergola.
Teitelbaum is a developer, but said his history lies in preservation, so he understands the importance of progress without sacrifi cing preservation.
Preservation development was his first love and he worked on projects in New York City that include Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center, to name a few.
His preservation development work has garnered many awards from such organizations as the Preservation League of New York, upper east Side Historical District and New York Landmarks Conservancy.
He said he has a clear understanding of what his responsibility is as a developer in an environmentally sensitive area.
“We still have to go back to DeP for the solar lighting and FWC to get approval for turtle-friendly lighting,” said Teitelbaum.
“The sea turtles were here fi rst and we have to respect that. We have to be harmonious with them. We can’t just come in and take it all over.”
While Teitelbaum is seeking approvals, he said the pergola is primarily for daytime use.
“I’m very actively involved with the quiet enjoyment of the people we bring in,” he said. “We are family oriented and not trying to bring in the frat-house crowd.
We want to welcome tourists, but not tourists that come here and disrupt our neighbors and turtles. That kind of balance has to be created.”
When the pergola was fi rst proposed across from the resort, 1325 Gulf Drive N., creating it for the purpose of conducting weddings was discussed.
Teitelbaum said it would be used for weddings, but it’s a secondary purpose to the overall enjoyment for his guests.
“We are in the wedding business and have been for years in a big way at our four resorts,” he said, noting Tortuga is probably his best wedding venue.
The pergola, he said, will enhance Tortuga’s wedding atmosphere and compliment the penthouse and six associated units designed to accommodate wedding parties.
“The idea of the pergola is to have a beachside wedding chapel, but it’s not the primary use,” he said. “The
primary use is for our guests to take a meal or a glass of wine and enjoy themselves. It’s a place where they can get off the sand, but still enjoy the beach.” Teitelbaum said his resorts combine to accommodate 700 people.
“So yes, we’ll do some of our weddings there, but we can do anniversaries, reunions and we do a lot of corporate business here,” he said. “We do signifi cant group business and weddings are certainly a part of that.”
Teitelbaum said the construction should be completed within days. At that time he will approach the city to get a temporary use permit for daytime activities, while he wades through the lighting permit process with DeP and FWC.
“So it should be a couple of months before everything is done,” he said. “We want to make sure the dunes
and sea oats are done, too. I’m a historic preservation person, so I want people to know that quality of life is important to me. This is my home. I work here, I live here and I’ll die here. Hopefully not anytime soon, though.”
Teitelbaum’s resorts in Bradenton Beach also include Seaside Inn & Resort, 2200 Gulf Drive N., Tradewinds Resort, 1603 Gulf Drive N. and Old Bridge Village, 115 Third St. S.