KEEP BEACH ROAD PUBLIC- IT’S THE LAW!
What good is it to have the # 1 beach in America if you can’t get to it? “We call it the wall of development,” says Scott Shine, founder of Open Beaches, a Florida group that lobbies the state legislature for greater public access to our beaches. “If you have exclusive use of the beach, you choke off all the economic development behind it,” he continued. The effects of red tide on our economy, while devastating, pale in comparison to the threat of privatization. Red tide comes and goes; privatization is permanent. The purpose of this article is to educate the reader’s regarding the efforts of Reopen Beach Road, a local nonprofit founded to protect your right to public beach access, and to force the County to enforce the laws designed to protect those rights. We appreciate the publisher giving us this opportunity.
Not surprisingly, this is about money, lots of money. These folks own lots both landward and seaward of Beach Road. If Beach Road stays public, these folks can tear down and legally rebuild two units each based on RMF-1 zoning of 6 units/acre, or 7250 sf/unit. If Beach Road becomes their private property, they can do a unity-of-title to combine their landward and seaward lots, which based upon zoning triples the allowable development. Twelve extra units at, say, $5 million each gives them lots of reasons to want to turn their road front houses into beach front condos- at our collective expense.
What about the law? Great question. One law says the County “shall not” give away our road. Another precludes the transference of development rights from their unbuildable beach lots. Yet another says roads can’t be used to calculate development density. Etc. Etc. The judge said it’s none of my business- not that I’m wrong, mind you, it’s just none of my business. That case is on appeal, where we anticipate better results.
What else can be done? We exercised our right to make our own law by gathering nearly 30,000 petitions to get two measures on last November’s ballot. One overturns the County’s giveaway and keeps Beach Road public. The other prevents the County from giving away or selling any of our Parks, Preserves, Beach or Water accesses countywide. The first passed with 68%, the second with 73%. So we’re done, right? Not so fast, my friends.
The County and the folks they have been colluding with have sued to have the election results thrown out. They claim the ballot was ‘vague and misleading’ because, among other things, we failed to define ‘preserves.’ Hmmm. And apparently we aren’t allowed to tell the County what to do. Former Commissioner Jon Thaxton belly laughed at that one, and said, “That’s exactly what the charter was designed to do!”
So here we are, 2 ½ years into trying to prove the world is round. Onward and forward we march, undeterred by the forces against us and fortified by the knowledge that our cause is just. We understand our duty to protect this town we love for ours and generations yet to come. Those wishing to help please visit reopenbeachroad.org; checks can be sent directly to our counsel, Lee R Rohe, PA, Lawyers Trust Acct, ℅ RBR, 617 Avenida De Mayo, Sarasota, Fl., 34242. Or call me at home, 941-346-2584, I will return your call.
Michael Cosentino, President/Founder of Reopen Beach Road