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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Cortez store redo program changes

The zoning glitch at the old school grounds in Cortez is forcing a change in the program to restore the old Burton store, a separate project. All seems well so far.

It will simply mean a change in priorities - what gets done when in the project - said Roger Allen and Mary Fulford Green. He is overseeing the rehabilitation of both the school and the store, she is spokesperson for the Cortez Village Historical Society, which "holds the key" to the store.

The problem arose when a Manatee County employee discovered that the overlay that exempts Cortez from some county land-use requirements does not include the school property. It was left out at the request of the late Robert Sailors, artist who owned the building and used it as a studio and residence.

That leaves the school at the mercy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among other aspects of rehabilitation. Several county departments are busy now repairing that hole in the property's status.

The historic Burton store will be moved to the school grounds as an adjunct to the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum that will occupy the reconstructed school building, along with a community center.

Rehabilitation of the old store has begun by volunteers who have cleaned up "that awful mess" left by intruders over the years, Fulford said, and removed some alterations the U.S. Coast Guard made. The store building was attached to the old Albion Inn that the Coast Guard tore down to build Station Cortez on the site. The historical society managed to rescue the store part, which was destined for demolition.

Restoration and moving of the old building is being financed in good part with a $66,200 grant from the William G. Selby and Marie Selby Foundation of Sarasota. Under terms of the grant, the store is to be on the school grounds by July.

The rub is that the rickety old store needs a foundation before it can be hauled in and set down, and the foundation can't be poured until variances are in place for the school grounds. That's what county officials are working on now.

So Allen and Fulford and others are hoping to switch priorities on the project and do the building rehab work before moving, instead of after as originally planned, and also may need the grant's life extended. Selby Foundation approval is necessary, and Allen said a foundation spokesperson was agreeable last week.

That was just verbal approval, the foundation said this week, and it needs the paperwork to make its position firm. It will act formally as soon as it has a request in hand, the spokesperson said.

At the Cortez end, Allen is busily gathering backup material to justify the switch in the program, and preparing the formal request. That will be done forthwith, he promised and work can proceed.