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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Sunny Shores Marina being re-created

Sunny Shores Marina, a quiet fixture at the northeast end of Cortez since 1950, is being completely reconstructed by its new owner, Bob Gertz.

Demolition of slips and extraction of ailing old pilings have been completed. Dredging is getting under way now, and new pilings and slips will follow, he said. He has permits for the demolition, dredging and construction, he said, except for a channel to the boat ramp at the east end of the property. He's dickering with Manatee County now for that approval.

Gertz bought the property this year from Kris Gagnon, whose family had owned the marina since 1951. Gagnon battled the county for years for permission to expand, and ended up with 42 slips.

The marina will have 30 new slips to begin with, Gertz said, with the prospect of adding half a dozen more. The county has approved 30, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection both approved 36. The moorages will accommodate 20- to 40-foot boats.

The property is 320 feet of waterfront, Gertz said, with a sizable building that is as rundown as the old docks. Gagnon used it as a garage and shop, with living quarters on the second deck. Gertz said when the marina is complete, he will have rebuilt the building and will live upstairs. The county owns adjacent vacant property to the west.

Dredging permits allow a depth of 5 feet at low tide, he said. The boat basin has become silted-in to a foot or less in places.

The marina has access to the open water of Palma Sola Bay, but the channel to the boat ramp is down to about a 1-foot depth. Gertz is paying for the boat basin dredging, but feels the channel money should come from elsewhere.

"The state owns the channel bottom," he said, "and the marina has to let the public, especially Sunny Shores residents, use the ramp. It's not very useful without the access channel. I have a permit to dredge the channel and have asked West Coast Inland Navigation District to pay for that through the county. It's all in the works, and if it can clear before the basin dredging is finished, the dredge can go right ahead. Later it will cost a lot more."

Manatee County Commission Chair Jane von Hahmann, a Cortez resident, said WCIND is "at mid-cycle now" and applications for its help have to get in line. Heather Whelan of the county's staff explained that WCIND needs to get applications about February to have time to process them, with most grants made in October.

Von Hahmann said Sunny Shores will have to document its qualifications for public funds, and Gertz said county law enforcement and emergency management people have told him they would like to have water access in the area. He also claims signatures of 400 people on petitions asking for approval.

Condominium development there, the bane of residents of West Manatee, is "absolutely, definitely, decidedly not" in any of his possible plans for the property, he said. Those plans are to build and operate a "blue-collar marina," he said, and live there in retirement.

He is a New Jersey native who spent 30 years in real estate in California, visiting his family here for 20 years and ultimately moving here himself a year ago.