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Date of Issue: October 22, 2008

City pursues grant for dunes project

Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert prepares for an Oct. 14 meeting to discuss a dunes restoration project across the street from city hall. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Bradenton Beach officials think they have an answer to a historically complicated question of how to best use private and public land in the 100 block of Gulf Drive North.

The answer is a complicated private-public partnership for the waterfront land designated for preservation.

On Oct. 14, city officials met with representatives of some landscaping and design companies and local businesses to discuss a possible grant for creating dunes, parking spaces and public access to the beach across from city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

The meeting occurred a week after the city commission tentatively endorsed efforts to seek a grant for the dunes restoration and six days before the grant application was mailed to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The city holds one parcel on the west side of Gulf Drive, and, according to project and program director Lisa Marie Phillips, would like to create four parking spaces, a dunes, a walkway and a possible lookout at the location.

The dunes, said Phillips, would help keep lights off the beach during sea turtle nesting season, as well as provide some soft coastal armoring.

“We’re looking at an opportunity for the community that relies heavily on partnerships,” Phillips said. “We have some really great ideas.”

Phillips had suggested that as the city pursues its plans, it invite Ed Chiles and his BeachHouse to participate. Chiles owns the parcel north of the city land and south of the BeachHouse. If the project moves forward, part of Chiles’ property could be used for a sand parking lot and the new dunes could run the width of both parcels.

“Shared development and shared responsibility,” Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert said, describing the proposed partnership.

“I’m delighted to be here to attempt to reach agreement on something that works for everybody,” said Chiles, who joined in last week’s meeting. Other attendees included Mike Miller of Perfect Island Landscape, Jay Andrews of Turner Tree and Landscaping, Carlos Ugarte of Ugarte and Associates, Mayor Michael Pierce and Commissioners Janie Robertson and John Shaughnessy.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Chiles said. “And I’m fully open to participating.”

In past discussions, some commissioners frowned on suggestions that the Chiles property be used as a restaurant parking lot. But a new approach to the project may result in different views on the commission.

“I am willing to say there are possibilities that have come up,” Robertson said after the meeting. “I am totally opposed to a paved parking lot — don’t pave the beach. But I’m willing to take a look at what’s being discussed.”

Referring to a ScenicWAVES tour of native landscapes in Anna Maria the day before, including stops at Chiles’ Sandbar parking lots, Robertson said, “What I saw yesterday was one of the reasons why I said, ‘Let’s look at this again.’ If we can do that…”

“Our land-use and land-development codes are going to be important as far as approval,” Gilbert said.

He suggested the city and Chiles could negotiate a development agreement, especially for the proposed parking lot, that would have an out-clause for both parties, as well as a mechanism for review every five years.

“The development agreement can contain anything but it has to follow the comp plan and the intent of the land-development code,” Gilbert said.

Robertson said a development agreement would require a lot of thought and some restrictions.

Officials have not discussed costs associated with the project, but the grant the city is seeking requires a 50/50 match, although in-kind donations count toward the city’s match.

There are other unknowns in addition to cost, including how many levels of approval will be needed for permitting from the DEP and whether the dunes could be built on the erosion control line.

Gilbert said the first phase of the project would be limited to developing the concept, the design and then initiating the permitting process.

“The second phase would be the actual construction of the dunes, the walkover, the parking,” Gilbert said.

“This is not a rush project,” Phillips added. “This is a 2010 project. We all have time.”