Despite concerns about the beach renourishment’s effects on county-owned property, the County Commission is moving toward approving an agreement with the city.
Sarasota County commissioners are moving toward approving a deal allowing the city to use a portion of Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key as a construction staging area for a Lido shoreline renourishment project, though they continue to harbor some concerns about the city’s plans.
In a 4-1 vote today, the County Commission authorized the county administrator to finalize approval of a staging agreement with the city of Sarasota. The city is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to renourish eroded portions of Lido Key’s shoreline with sand dredged from Big Pass, which has never been dredged before.
Ahead of the vote, county commissioners made clear they remained worried about the project’s potential to cause erosion on the south end of Lido Key. Still, they noted the city intended to move forward with the project regardless of whether the county approved the staging agreement.
“We’re under risk either way,” Commissioner Christian Ziegler said. “I just hope we have our ducks in order so if something happens, we can move fast, because I am worried about that park.”
The city has said using a portion of the county-owned Ted Sperling Park for staging during construction could save $1 million in project costs. In November, the County Commission said it was willing to negotiate an agreement with the city, but it sought a provision that would give the county some avenue of protection if the project negatively affected south Lido Key or Siesta Key.
On Dec. 2, the city approved a proposed agreement that did not include such a provision. City Attorney Robert Fournier said state statutes already allow the county to take action to enforce the terms of the project permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The permit requires the city to monitor the state of the coastal ecosystem south of the renourishment area and take corrective action if issues arise.
At Tuesday's meeting, County Attorney Frederick Elbrecht said there were statutory remedies available to the county, though they are not as robust as protections that could be crafted in a contractual agreement with the city. Elbrecht said the county would have to seek a court order requiring the city to comply with the terms of the permit if issues arose.
Commissioner Mike Moran was the lone dissenting vote against allowing the county administrator to finalize the agreement with the city. Despite the board’s concerns about possible problems associated with the city’s project, the majority saw the staging agreement as a separate issue they were willing to support.
“It’s their project,” Commissioner Nancy Detert said. “They approved it. They’re responsible for it. If there’s any erosion, if there’s any problems, they’re going to have to explain it.”
The staging agreement the city approved would allow the project team to use a portion of Ted Sperling Park between March 4, 2020 and April 30, 2021.