A paved parking lot? Or save the trees?
Will the county sacrifice Australian pine trees and the ambiance of one of Anna Maria Island’s most iconic beaches?
Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources manages and maintains Coquina Beach, a public beach in Bradenton Beach.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and the city commission directed city building official Steve Gilbert to investigate whether the city could revise or revoke the county construction permit after a 4-2 decision by Manatee County commissioners June 19 to the remove and replace at least 97 Australian pine trees.
Subsequently, Gilbert sent a letter dated June 20 to Michael Sturm, project manager for Manatee County Public Works, advising the possibility of the city issuing a stop-work order for the paving project in view of the decision to remove some trees.
On July 1, Gilbert wrote in an email to The Islander that no stop-work order would be issued.
“At this time, they are cooperating in meeting the requirements of the land development code, so no stop-work order at this point,” Gilbert wrote.
The removal of the trees was planned for the first phase of the storm drainage project that involves installing underground pipes and laying pervious concrete in the south parking lot and on access roads.
The second phase of parking lot improvements calls for the removal of more of the 1,486 trees that shade the shoreline and the recreation and parking areas at the beach.
Gilbert addressed the replacement of the removed trees in the letter, saying the city LDC provides for a two-to-one replacement of removed trees. However, since the trees in question are Australian pines, a prohibited tree, replacement would be one-for-one.
Replacement trees must be any immature tree other than palm trees, have a minimum diameter of one-and-a-half-inch caliper and a 10-foot height when installed, according to Gilbert’s letter.
The letter placed Manatee County on notice to come into compliance with Bradenton Beach rules and to prepare and submit a plan showing all trees to be removed, the location of replacement trees and the species proposed.
A landscaping plan also must be presented, according to Gilbert, which would be added to the amended plans.
Gilbert told Sturm that after re-examining the permit documents and submittals to Bradenton Beach from the county, he found “no mention of tree removal, replanting, relocating, etc.”
Chappie said earlier he did not recall seeing any mention of tree removal in the original site plans for the parking lot improvements at Coquina, which were said to come about due to frequent standing water in the parking areas after storms.
While the letter reminded county officials the LDC authorizes Bradenton Beach to issue a stop-work order on the project because the county is out of compliance, Gilbert asked for collaboration on a solution rather than a halt to the work.
He also asked that no trees be removed until the issues are resolved.
Gilbert, like Chappie, maintains no tree removal was mentioned in the county permit application.
County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who lives on Anna Maria Island and holds an at-large seat, replied June 28 to a request for updates from The Islander.
“No updates on what is going on in Bradenton Beach, sorry,” she wrote.
Whitmore and Commissioner Betsy Benac, also serving at-large, voted against removing the trees at the beach.
Calls for comment to Chappie and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Randy White were not returned before The Islander press time.