MARCO ISLAND — Against a backdrop of recent beach erosion threatening to come too close to two of the condominium buildings at Hideaway, a gated beach and country club community on the northern end of Marco Island, the Hideaway Beach Tax District Board met Friday at City Hall. The group received updates on several projects designed to keep the Gulf of Mexico at a respectful distance. Uncharacteristic for an advisory group session, the meeting in the Niles Conference Room at City Hall had more in the audience than seated around the table, many of them Hideaway residents and city employees.
The short-term project to place 3,000 yards of sand on the beach, and the long-term project to continue the installation of t-groins are on track, reported Michael Poff of Coastal Engineering Consultants, the board's consultant for the work. The "hair on fire" project that consumed much of the discussion during the group's July meeting, emergency action to prevent the next big storm from undermining the foundations of the 5000 and 6000 buildings at Hideaway, became a little less urgent, with a $600,000 price tag and a little more sand on the beach.
"I think we have some time," said board vice-chairman Paul Fernstrum, "more than a month ago. "Even if we have a storm, what we lose is greenbelt. The real problem would be a second storm."
"I can't see the need for that wall right now," Poff said of the proposed revetment of 1,300 lineal feet of 24-foot steel panels, driven 20 feet into the sand, that had been engineered and priced out as a stopgap measure to protect the condos. "You have it on the shelf, ready to go. If you have another Wilma, that triggers (construction of) the wall."
"There was almost no beach, now it's back," noted Bill Walsh.
"So our sense is, we put the revetment project on hold," summed up chairman Erik Brechnitz.
On the long-term project, which should remove the need for quick fixes, Poff said that the permitting process is wending through the network of governmental agencies that must sign off on the work, including the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. If all goes according to plan, he said, permits could be issued early in the year, with a possibility of work being largely complete before the beginning of sea turtle nesting season brings the need for additional onerous mitigation requirements.
For the sand renourishment, Poff said the permit application would be written to give as much flexibility as possible, with the option of pumping sand from existing sandbars, trucking it in, or transferring it from areas where nature has deposited more than enough. The group also discussed options for grooming the beach, with Brechnitz reporting it would be much more expensive for Hideaway to do the work on their own, rather than contracting with local government.
As the Hideaway Tax District Board met, voting was underway to determine whether the group, and the district, will continue to exist. The election, concluding today, includes a provision for Hideaway Beach residents to decide whether to keep the Tax District, and give it the power to levy taxes to "improve, renourish, preserve, maintain, monitor and provide public access to the beach" at Hideaway. The district was set up by a referendum in 2004, with a provision that is would sunset in 10 years.
"I'm comfortable with the decision we made" to defer the revetment project, said Brechnitz, and asked about the referendum on the district, said, "I think it will pass."
The board set their next meeting for Sept. 25.