PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County beach leaders are now turning to taxpayers, hoping they can convince their neighbors to get on board with the multi-million dollar Sand Key nourishment project.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it would not move forward with the project if leaders aren't able to get the 461 property owners along the coastline to sign the easements. Right now, only 139 people have signed.
The project will add sand along Sand Key, a nine-mile stretch from Clearwater Pass to Madeira Beach, in 2023.
"This is very important. We have to get those signatures, or we lose our beach," said Indian Shores Mayor Patrick Soranno.
Here's the break down of the number of signatures needed by each town impacted, according to the county's web site:
- Indian Rocks Beach: 132
- Indian Shores: 124
- Redington Shores: 61
- Belleair Beach: 2
- Clearwater: 2
- North Redington Beach: 1
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The people who don't want to sign the easements say they're afraid that this will give the government control over their property.
"I can see it now. They'll turn us into the next Clearwater," said Ron Porter.
Leaders have spent months talking to property owners about the crucial need for the project, but most are still not changing their minds.
"It's simple; we are a barrier island," Mayor Soranno said. "No easements means no sand; no sand means no beach."
That will then start to have an impact on coastal cities' tourist dollars because people will stop coming.
"This is why We want neighbors to go out there and talk to their neighbors about the project," Soranno said. "We feel like people will listen to their neighbors before they listen to the government."
Indian Shores and other coastal cities are going to be holding meetings to train "beach champions" so they can go out and convince others to sign the easements.
Indian Shores' next Beach Champion meeting is scheduled for March 3 at 6 p.m.