Will Hideaway flush county funds?

Private community to consider giving up $1.6 million to avoid building a public bathroom

A view of Hideaway Beach shows the present T-Groins and the section north of them where T-Groins are needed.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE, Staff

A view of Hideaway Beach shows the present T-Groins and the section north of them where T-Groins are needed.

A portable bathroom is used by construction crews while roadway erosion protection is being installed at Hideaway Beach. Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta required Hideaway Beach install a public bathroom in order for him to approve spending Tourist Development Council tax dollars to protect the gated community from beach erosion. Hideaway Beach District officials hoped a hidden, portable bathroom would suffice, but so far county officials have rejected the idea instead hoping for a more environmentally sound, permanent restroom facility that is accessible to the public.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

A portable bathroom is used by construction crews while roadway erosion protection is being installed at Hideaway Beach. Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta required Hideaway Beach install a public bathroom in order for him to approve spending Tourist Development Council tax dollars to protect the gated community from beach erosion. Hideaway Beach District officials hoped a hidden, portable bathroom would suffice, but so far county officials have rejected the idea instead hoping for a more environmentally sound, permanent restroom facility that is accessible to the public.

A location for the required public bathroom proposed by Hideaway Beach officials is marked by a 'private property' sign.  Hideaway is required by the county to install a public bathroom in order for tourist tax dollars to be used on restoring the beach at the gated community. So far, Collier County officials rejected the bathroom location proposal saying the public could not access the area by foot, boat or car.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

A location for the required public bathroom proposed by Hideaway Beach officials is marked by a "private property" sign. Hideaway is required by the county to install a public bathroom in order for tourist tax dollars to be used on restoring the beach at the gated community. So far, Collier County officials rejected the bathroom location proposal saying the public could not access the area by foot, boat or car.

— Hideaway Beach officials and residents may consider giving up the $1.6 million Collier County offered them for beach renourishment due to possible challenges in meeting the county’s condition that the gated community install a public bathroom.

A point of concern in installing the bathroom is that it may obstruct the beach view for residents, said Katie Maline, Hideaway’s construction project manager.

“One of the options is there is no bathroom and we pay for the (beach renourishment) project ourselves,” said Richard Freeman, chairman of the Hideaway Beach District Board.

The district, representing a private community of about 620 households in the Hideaway Beach development, met Thursday to discuss all options including proposed locations, seeking money from FEMA or just completely abandoning the project.

Freeman said the next step is to see what residents want as the three condo associations and the homeowners’ association meet in December.

Collier County commissioners narrowly approved the use of $1.6 million in “bed taxes” to help stop Hideaway Beach from washing away by installing six beach erosion controls, called t-groins. The “bed tax” comes from a 4 percent charge on all hotel rooms and other short-term stays in Collier County.

Commissioner Jim Coletta was the swing vote and said he would only approve the spending if Hideaway homeowners added a public restroom for visitors.

Hideaway’s management has proposed several locations and the county has proposed a location for the bathroom, but so far they have not been able to agree.

Maline said the bathroom design proposed by the county was “very elaborate, very large.”

She hoped to get approval for a portable toilet, but the county rejected it, looking for a more permanent, environmentally safe facility.

The design seems to be agreed upon and the bathroom for public use at Hideaway, if they go forward, will be a nine-foot by nine-foot “concrete slab, drain in the middle, hose it down type of situation,” said Maline.

The location proposed by the county is near Hideaway’s “aquascapes,” small man made waterfalls near a walking path along the beach that is accessible by boat.

“There is a possibility we could hide it,” Maline said of the bathroom in that location.

She said she preferred a location near Hideaway residents’ private picnic area. The county rejected that idea because there is no boat access, due to shallow water leading up to the area, and pedestrian access is limited because it is among the further locations from Tigertail Beach.

Much debate centered around Hideaway getting approval for financial assistance because it is a gated community which blocks all vehicular access to the beach, leaving only limited boat and pedestrian access. Even when boats and pedestrians do make it to Hideaway, much of the coast line is marked with “private property” signs.

A county requirement to receive Tourist Development Council dollars is that projects must be deemed to be in the public interest.

Tourist Development Director Jack Wert said the idea is to support projects that promote tourism.

Commissioners questioned whether most tourists could access the beach at Hideaway. There is no public parking, and if you don’t live on Hideaway you can only get there by boat, or by walking over from Tigertail Beach.

Bruce Anderson of the Hideaway District said he hopes the county-approved public bathroom will only be open when Tigertail is open.

“(When the bathroom is open) is a significant point, if we ever get to building this bathroom, which I don’t think we will,” Anderson said.

Coletta maintained that he would not reconsider the bathroom.

“Without the bathroom this deal is null and void. The bathroom is a deal breaker,” Coletta said.

He said he believed the public bathroom was necessary in order for pedestrians to walk from Tigertail to Hideaway to enjoy the beach.

“It’s a heck of a jaunt. A person would have to use a restroom facility once they got there,” he said.

Coletta did not seem to think Hideaway would change their mind from their July agreement.

“Their integrity is too strong to go back on their word,” he said of the Hideaway community.

Commissioner Donna Fiala has been a supporter of Hideaway Beach receiving money from the county for the project.

“Obviously access to Hideaway Beach is not easy ... the public can get there by boat or walk .6 miles from Tigertail, which really isn’t that far ... That is why I supported it,” she said of boat access in particular.

Fiala also believes the public restroom may be a win-win for the public and Hideaway residents.

“The people of Hideaway have complained to me in the past because they didn’t like people using their bathrooms because they are private,” she said.

This isn’t the first time tourists have helped fund Hideaway’s needs. In 2005, Hideaway Beach received $2.9 million in tourist development tax money to fight erosion. Though the beach doesn’t meet the county’s public access guidelines, county commissioners that year approved spending the money because they determined it was “in the public interest.”

According to Naples Daily News reports, it was meant to be a one-time deal. But with the washing away of nearby Coconut Island, the Hideaway sands have continued to disappear without a barrier island to protect it.

At the June commission meeting, Marco Island residents and leaders argued that the county should support the project because it’s still in the public interest and is a continuation of the 2005 project. Hideaway residents nearly matched the 2005 county contributions and are expected to pay about half or more this time as well — if they agree to build the bathroom. The project is $3.5 million for six more t-groins and the sand to protect the middle section of the beach.

Bill Trotter, chairman of the Marco Island City Council, said the cost of the project would be covered by less than six months of the city’s contributions to the tourist development tax.

The city of Marco Island also approved a $1.6 million loan to Hideaway in September, an unprecedented loan of tax dollars to a private community.

Bill Harrison, the city’s former finance director, served as the liaison with the Hideaway tax district, the only dependent taxing district on Marco Island. He encouraged council approval in September because “it would take time that we don’t have and extra dollars we don’t need to spend” to hold a referendum for Hideaway residents to approve paying higher taxes to fund the project themselves.

The city will charge 4 percent interest and earn $40,000 on the loan in the first year.

Hideaway homeowners are also in the process of paying $400,000 to protect a narrow road that leads into the gated community.

The rock wall will provide immediate protection to the roadway, which was constructed by the developer about 30 years ago. The emergency improvement will also protect the city’s investment in the utilities that are under that roadway, Harrison said.

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Comments » 7

maharg writes:

Years ago Hideaway hired guards to chase boaters off the beach claiming it was "River front property with riparian rights". I guess they didn't need more sand and rocks then.

OldMarcoMan writes:

what, we can't have our cake and eat it too ?

yes writes:

This is a never ending sand pit we will just keep pouring money into. They killed the pines on Coconut to drive out the campers blocking "their" view. Now they have the full gulf to themselves. Deal with it.

You people built a house in an unstable area. Why should we have to bail you out every year. Quit begging a hand out. You have your own money.

This bathroom idea is a joke. They'll just bury it in bushes and padlocks. They have no intention of letting us use their beach. They just want us to pay for it.

The years they have friends on the board they get the money. We are all just suckers if we let this go through, and we will then deserve what we get.

Get mad. This money should be spent on tourist development projects like Tigertail facilities, boat access, trail improvements, conservation, and promotion, not private mansions. Shame on you public leaders that support this.

marcobelle writes:

I agree with YES. We know who convinced the council to push to get rid of "exotic" vegetation like the Australian Pines that kept Coconut Island in place for so many years. They don't want outsiders on their beach so let them keep it and deal with it themselves. When the Gulf reaches Collier Bay, we can then put a plan in place that works for all of Marco Island.

happy6 writes:

yes and marcobelle...no one at hideaway requested the pines be removed...it was the tree huggers from rookery bay...period...all of hideaway beaches are being used by all residents...they can walk via tigertail or come by boat....it's been this way for years...the south end of hideaway is a favorite area to walkers from tigertail...the developers of this island "planned hideaway" not the current or previous administrations...there are only 600 owners in hideaway...including vacant lot owners....they pay a fortune to keep that part of the island natural...
so...for you uninformed the residents of hideaway had nothing to do with coconut going away (call your local environmentalist), as for the bathrooms...how would you like to work all your life, build a house on the beach and have a public bathroom out your front door and parties every weekend...what if hideaway decided to stop paying taxes, buying traffic lights, donating to parks, cleaning roads of litter, being the major benefactor to the Guadelupe Kids, the Breast Cancer Foundation of Collier County...and just paying taxes....guess what....YOUR TAXES WOULD GO UP....AND YOU WOULD STILL HAVE THE EROSION PROBLEM.

yes writes:

Van, I think you just made my case. Most of us don't have your privileges and good fortune. Your view point is valid and real to you, because that's all you've known. Try to think like the parents of those kids you help.

Food for thought: Even though a Bill Gates type gives millions to charity; it is still only 5% of his net worth, while a single mother of three only gives a few hundred, it represents 10% of what she's worth. Who is a more worthy soul?

Thank you for your charitable help to date, but does that guarantee a hand out to protect your property. Mine floods regularly, my problem, I choose to live there.

Oh, and about the decisions on Coconut, prudence prevents me from specific implications. The attorneys in your family would agree.

I just have one more question: Before you decided to build on hideaway, did you ever see the Dome home ruins at Cape Romano?

happy6 writes:

yes...i don't live in hideaway..never have, never will...i'm just a "joe the plumber" that works hard for people all over marco...including hideaway and the Estates (let's not forget those huge homes).
last time i checked i had no lawyers in my family.
point is...look at the condos..there are many, many more affluent people (whatever that means) living in them than there are in hideaway. there are only a couple of beach access points yet we pay to maintain the beaches...it's all pert of living on an island, in my opinion. i just don't think the folks in hideaway should be ripped just because they live there and pay taxes, and maintain their own roads, swales etc etc..

the adage still holds true...10% pay 80% of all taxes in this country...that's a fact.
so cut some slack, there's alot of joe the plumbers on this island.
regards

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