Year in Review – Renourishing Lido Beach

The plan to renourish the highly eroded Lido Key shoreline with sand dredged from Big Pass has faced years of court challenges primarily from opponents on Siesta Key. Now that the plan is slated to finally move forward, Sarasota County is considering a request to use Ted Sperling on South Lido Key as a staging area for the project.

The initial phase of the renourishment program is to place about 950,000 cubic yards of sand on about 1.5 miles of south Lido Key Beach.

The project calls for the installation of two rock groins to anchor the sand. Future renourishments are expected about every five years.

The issue for Sarasota County came to a head when the City of Sarasota Commission approved its end of an agreement to use the County’s Ted Sperling Park for the staging.

After approving the plan, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said he was told by County administrators that the agreement would not be placed on any upcoming County Commission agenda. He added that the reason was, according to County attorneys, because the City did not include protections that the County Commission wanted to be incorporated in the agreement.

One of the protections is that County attorneys want to include language that could hold the City liable for any erosion that may occur on County property subsequent to the project.

City Manager Tom Barwin and City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch had formerly requested after hearing Brown’s news that County Administrator and Board Chairman Charles D. Hines place the item on the Dec. 10 agenda.

In the letter, Ahearn-Koch points out that allowing staging of equipment and material for the beach renourishment at Ted Sperling Park will save taxpayers an estimated $1 million.

The reason for the savings is that the alternative is staging the groin construction rocks and materials at the City-owned public beach property next to the Lido Pavilion. That measure would entail trucking supplies down the beach, which City Staff and numerous residents say would be costly and disruptive.

City Attorney Robert Fournier is opposed to the request of the County for additional protections. He opines that state statutes allows protection to the County if any damage occurs due to the groins.

The City is funding part of the project and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is paying about 62 percent of the project. The City funding is coming from Tourist Development Taxes allocated to the City for beach renourishment as well as from state grants.

Last Nov. 5, the Sarasota County Commission consented to staging in the park, but County Commissioner Hines wanted more protection in case the groins did not function. County Commissioner Al Maio voted against allowing the City to have the park for staging. The other County Commissioners agreed and did express concerns about the Army Corps of Engineers and the possibility of erosion.

In some ways, it has become a battle between the City and County attorneys. The County attorneys are seeking additional rights and protection and the City attorney makes clear that every recourse and protection is already embedded in state law, and furthermore adding additional rights puts the City at risk.

Fournier said in a memo to the City Commission that the language and the provisions sought by the County Commission to be inserted in a staging agreement, “would not be in the best interest of the City.”

In simple layman’s terms, Fournier says the exposure legally could be far greater than the additional cost of simply staging the materials out of the City-owned Lido Pavilion area.

What frustrates Lido residents and property owners is the fact that the project will move forward either way and if the County does not allow the use of Ted Sperling Park, it simply adds additional cost and disruption, but does not change any outcome.

After numerous back and forth wrangling between the City, private parties, and the County, the agreement is now back on the agenda for County consideration.

The frustration expressed by City Manager Tom Barwin over the issue is palpable and best expressed in an email he sent on Dec. 5 to County Manager Jonathan Lewis.

“This is a major, major issue, which must be decided on to allow the already delayed Lido Hurricane protection plan to move forward in a timely fashion,” wrote Barwin.

Barwin added that the staging agreement will save taxpayers $1 million and that many of the 39 pages of project requirements duplicate all the matters raised by the County Commission and its staff.

Barwin went on to say that the staging area that would be used at Ted Sperling Park is “an unpaved spillover parking area, which honestly is not particularly well-maintained and seemingly not even regularly graded. I firmly believe the area will be improved as a result of the project, and commit to you that that will be the case.”

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