REDINGTON SHORES, Fla. — A major project to add sand along nine miles of Pinellas County’s coastline could be in jeopardy. Property owners are drawing a line in the sand and now county leaders are scrambling to gather hundreds of signatures.
Mikey Moore is enjoying his first trip to Pinellas County’s beaches. He says the water wowed him, but the sand in some areas didn’t.
“I finally saw the beach and I was OK this is pretty small. This is not very big,” he said.
With every wave, our prized beaches continue to erode.
“I think having more sand and widening the beach would be great,” Moore said with a smile.
That’s where beach renourishment projects come in, pumping enough sand to fill several football fields from just offshore onto our sandy shores.
Pinellas County wants to add sand along Sand Key, a nine-mile stretch from Clearwater Pass to Madeira Beach, in 2023 or 2024. Yet, the project hinges on one thing: Getting 461 property owners to sign an easement.
Redington Shores property owner Sandra Girard has already made up her mind.
“Oh, I’m absolutely against it. I do not think it’s a good idea,” she said.
Girard worries about giving up part of her property, which has been in the family for more than 50 years, to the Army Corp of Engineers, forever.
“How can they say it’s OK to pay the amount of taxes we do on beachfront property, if they will allow everybody to walk all over your place?” she added.
The agreement states, if the county and state use tax dollars to renourish the beach, then the public is entitled to use that area.
“Pretty soon, people are going to be pulling up a chair and sitting alongside us,” she explained.
Pinellas County leaders have only received around 90 easements. They have to get around 370 more by this upcoming spring or they say the project could be delayed or canceled.
“It’s a great challenge and there’s some people who just don’t trust government,” Andy Squires, the interim environmental manager for Pinellas County explained. “It would be a horrible shame (if we have to delay or cancel the project) because the beaches are the biggest tourism attractions here. It would also impact property values and storm protection.”
The signatures are needed from homeowners in portions of South Clearwater Beach, Bellair Shore, Bellair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and Redington Shores.
Squires says the easement does not allow the Army Corp of Engineers to build sand domes or structures and would help speed up reconstruction of the beaches in case of a major hurricane.
Some homeowners still say they’re concerned about signing the easements particularly because of two lines in the document stating the agreement is “in perpetuity.”
They worry when new leaders are put into positions at the county and local levels, that the agreement will be used in other ways to build or even new developments like hotels.
Squires says that is not the intent of the easement.
“There are a lot of misconceptions,” he added.
Pinellas County’s environmental management team plans to visit large condo buildings along the beach in the upcoming months to explain how the easement works and why homeowners should sign it.