Moraya Bay: 'No more cones'; beach protest called off

Video from NBC-2

— An embattled Vanderbilt Beach condominium dropped its push for private use of a stretch of beach Thursday, prompting a Collier County commissioner to call off a protest planned for Saturday.

Moraya Bay, at the end of Bluebill Avenue, unleashed beachgoers’ fury almost two weeks ago when it set up cones and wooden sticks to mark off a stretch of beach in front of the condo for private use.

Earlier this week, county commissioners vowed to go to court if necessary to defend public access to the beach.

With the meeting room overflowing with Moraya Bay critics, Commissioner Jim Coletta rallied the crowd to protest on the beach at the luxury high-rise this Saturday.

After Moraya Bay issued a statement urging a truce Thursday afternoon, Coletta issued his own statement saying the protest was no longer needed.

“I can’t punish somebody for doing something you want them to do,” Coletta said.

In a written statement, Coletta thanked residents for voicing their concerns and thanked Moraya Bay for “recognizing the greater community good and bringing this situation to an amicable end.”

In his statement, Moraya Bay representative Richard Corace said the controversy over beach access had grown out of control.

“For those who just want to amicably and cooperatively co-exist and enjoy the beaches, so do we,” Corace said in the statement. “We welcome that. You will see no more cones, signs, or ropes.

“We ask only that you respect the area of the beach occupied by our residents and guests who use our beach chairs, and treat them as you would expect to be treated.

“If we all do our part, everyone should be able to get along,” the statement said.

Beach access advocates hailed Moraya Bay’s statement.

“It’s good the county stuck up for beachgoers,” Keep Our Beaches Open spokeswoman Mary Lou Smart said. “It’s a good day.”

Even before Thursday’s statement, Moraya Bay had stopped putting out the cones to keep people off the beach.

Spokeswoman Inga Wilson had said the condo wouldn’t put out the cones because people had been throwing the cones back over a fence at Moraya Bay.

She said the condominium had not changed its position about its legal rights to private use of its beach.

Florida law says beachfront property owners own the dry sand out to the erosion control line established for beach renourishment projects.

County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow told commissioners this week, though, that they had a case for keeping the beach open because the public had used it for so long before Moraya Bay’s claim.

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