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Longboat Key Friday, Jan. 21, 2022 3 months ago

Longboat leaders to discuss solutions to navigate around Ohana seawall

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Town Attorney Maggie Mooney is expected to provide an update Monday afternoon on the town of Longboat Key's negotiations with the Ohana property owners.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key leaders on Monday afternoon are set to discuss again potential ways to navigate around the private Ohana property which extends to the surf, blocking passage along the beach.

Town leaders have had ongoing discussions with property owners at 6633 Gulf of Mexico Drive and their legal counsel.

In a memo from Town Attorney Maggie Mooney, she stated the town’s negotiations with the Ohana property owners have been unsuccessful.

“The Ohana property owners and their legal counsel have advised that they are not interested in conveying a permanent or temporary easement interest (including a delineated 10-foot path) across their property,” Mooney wrote. “They remain willing to explore a terminable lease arrangement that includes an annual lease payment consistent with terms that were outlined at the Dec. 13, 2021, workshop.”

In December 2021, the Ohana owners proposed the town provide annual compensation between $880,000 and $1.3 million for public use as a path past the property.

Several commissioners stated they did not view the Ohana owners’ proposal as reasonable.

To avoid trespassing on the Ohana Hale Estate Land Trust property, the public can do two things:

  • Try to wade the surf. Although this is dangerous considering the water breaks right on the seawall and there are rocks in front of it.
  • Walk around by using public beach access points at 6847 Gulf of Mexico Drive to the north and 6399 Gulfside Road along General Harris Street to the south. The beach access points are about 1 mile apart.

On Wednesday night, District 5 Commissioner Maureen Merrigan met with Longboat Key North community group to discuss the beach access issue.

“It was a great discussion with the extended neighborhood and always enjoy meeting residents who share such appreciation for our beaches … and a good long beach walk,” Merrigan wrote in an email.

On Wednesday night, Commissioner Maureen Merrigan told the Longboat Key North community group she is frustrated about not being permitted to legally cross the Ohana property. File photo

Longboat Key North represents more than 800 households in 24 condo and homeowner associations. Before Merrigan joined the Town Commission in April 2021, she co-chaired the group.

“I share the frustration of not being permitted to cross the Ohana property,” Merrigan wrote. “(I) wish we could share better news on progress there.”

The town’s Public Works Department is continuing its efforts to look at potential new beach access points in the area. Monday afternoon’s discussion among the Longboat Key Town Commission could shed some light on possibilities for an additional public beach access point or easement to the north or south of the Ohana property to reduce the detour distance.

Years ago, the town also considered buying the property where Ohana sits at 6633 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Public records show the current owners — Elliott, Robinson & Company, LLP, a Missouri limited liability partnership, as Trustee of the Ohana Hale Estate Land Trust — bought the property in 2019 for $11.4 million.

Former Town Manager Dave Bullock considered buying the nearby 6541 Gulfside Road property in January 2014 on behalf of the town to tear down the seawall and the structure for public access. Marc Preininger is the current owner of the property, which is known as the “half-moon seawall.” It sits just south of the Ohana site.

The Longboat Key Town Commission is set to discuss the beach access issue at its 1 p.m. Monday meeting.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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