MARCO ISLAND — On Thursday, Erik Brechnitz, chairman of Hideaway Beach’s Tax District Board, told his group there was a glimmer of hope for funds to prevent a disaster at the gated community’s 5000 and 6000 high-rise condominiums. On Friday, that hope was gone.
Between a rock and a hard place, the board attempted to request Tourist Development Council (TDC) catastrophe funds for T-groin structures to abate sand loss in front of the two buildings. Onshore waves have washed away nearly 12 feet of sand per year in front of the condominiums since the disappearance of Coconut and Sand Dollar islands.
The area is buffeted by waves lapping within 30 feet of buildings. Its sandy beach is gone, and the mangroves in a narrow strip holding what’s left of the dunes are dying from salt water incursion. In certain heavy surfs, salt water breaches the buffer and floods first floor parking garages, Brechnitz told Collier County’s Coastal Advisory Committee on Friday.
Although an urgent situation, CAC members questioned the project’s ability to qualify for catastrophe funds. Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere spoke before the committee explaining Marco Island City Council had declared the situation a state of emergency.
Brechnitz asked where the line could be drawn. If not at 30 feet, was it 15 feet? Eight feet? Committee member Randolph Moity agreed the two structures were one storm away from catastrophe.
“If there’s a hurricane in the Gulf, the owners could be very concerned about their property,” he said.
The Hideaway Beach community raises funds through a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU). Under Florida law, it taxes itself to the allowed 2.6 mils limit and uses the money for beach renourishment.
The project to save buildings 5000 and 6000 with hard structures and replacement sand would cost $2.35 million. On Thursday, the Hideaway Beach Tax Board reported it had $469,797 in cash. The community’s MSTU is expected to raise $860,000 this year.
The board asked the CAC Friday for TDC funds of $950,000 to build T-groins, promising to fund the additional $1.4 million sand renourishment with its tax assessments. Brechnitz said the community would be short of money for the project without funding from another source.
The CAC’s attorney said TDC money could be used in the public interest if the entire beach system would benefit.
Moity pointed out that adding the T-groins now would help put off another dredging of Collier Creek. The county just completed a clean up of the creek in early 2012 costing $260,000. Hideaway Beach received about 9,000 cubic yards of sand from the dredging.
CAC members hesitated to fund work on what they called a private beach or to set precedent for using the TDC catastrophe fund in advance of an actual catastrophe. CAC representative Victor Rios said the county was facing more at stake than buildings. The destruction of protected mangroves and the habitat they provided also should be considered.
Committee member Joseph Moreland said using that definition of a catastrophe put public property at Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs at greater risk of becoming a catastrophe.
Calling for a vote to deny the petition, Naples Councilman John Sorey, chairman of the CAC, asked: “How can we use tourist dollars for a beach tourists can’t get to?”
Funds were denied by a vote of 4-3 with Anthony Pires, Jr., abstaining and Robert Raymond absent.