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Beer Can Island has become difficult to access by foot. Depending on the tide, beachgoers can get trapped on the island and are forced to swim back to Longboat Key.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 8 years ago

Town, county crack open Beer Can dispute

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A petition for an administrative review of permits for three sand structures near the north end of Longboat Key has also ignited a longstanding debate about who is responsible for the swath of sand known as Beer Can Island.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of intent to permit the construction of three north-end groins, one of which would be located on Beer Can Island.

But former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash sent a notice that he has petitioned the state’s Office of General Counsel of the Department of Environmental Protection for a review of the permit. Key resident Gene Jaleski also filed a petition dated July 5. The petitions have prompted the town attorney to engage special environmental legal counsel to defend the petition as the state evaluates the petitions.

The petitions describe McClash and Jaleski as persons “whose substantial interests are affected by the department’s action.”

“The installation of man-made structures was done without proper notice and will harm the recreation lands used not only by Joe McClash, but thousands who have not had the benefit of knowing about this permit action,” McClash’s petition states.

McClash’s petition has prompted other Manatee County residents to respond to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioners, though, are sending any responses they receive directly to the town and have even received opinions from their legal counsel stating the county has no involvement in the matter.

Assistant Manatee County attorney Bill Clague sent an email to Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle in July, which states, “The municipal boundaries of the town of Longboat Key extend into the surrounding waters well beyond the limits of this project, such that under Florida law, the county does not have jurisdiction over the matter.”

Although the town is paying to permit three structures, only two of those structures are being permitted on town property, according to town officials.

Two structures are being placed to hold sand in front of two condominiums that have no beach at high tide and no coastal defense from a storm.

But the third groin is a terminal groin that would stick out into Longboat Pass on Beer Can Island.

Although the town picks up excessive trash on its sand and even has a plan in place to rescue people in need from its shore, town officials have taken the stance for years they don’t own the island, and property records back up their stance.

Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County’s Director of Conservation Lands Management, told the Longboat Observer in 2009 that he has witnessed the pass of ownership between the county and the town since 1977.

“The bottom line is Beer Can Island is under the political jurisdiction and control of the town,” Hunsicker said in 2009. “The town controls that area in the same manner as the county’s activities are under regulatory authority of the city of Bradenton Beach for Coquina Beach.”

And, in a July 11 email to Bustle, Hunsicker wrote: “Because (all of) the structures are indeed located within and under the jurisdiction of the town of Longboat Key, the county does not have authority under its own ordinances to regulate, control, permit or not permit these structures.”

When asked to respond to the county attorney’s assessment and Hunsicker’s statements last week, Town Manager Dave Bullock grabbed a blue binder on his desk labeled “Beer Can Island” and pointed to property lines that show the town’s jurisdiction ending at Beer Can Island.

“There isn’t any controversy,” Bullock said. “It’s crystal clear in Manatee County records and historical documents that the county owns this property.”

The debate could intensify if the structures are permitted and the town seeks a monetary contribution from Manatee County to build a structure on Beer Can Island.

Bullock said the two groins in front of Longboat Key properties are more important and that the groin on Beer Can Island is less important because it wouldn’t be placed on town property.

“I want the smallest footprint possible for these structures,” Bullock said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

Beer Can Island Background

Mohamed Dabees, of Humiston and Moore Engineers, performed a regional model study for Longboat Pass and Sarasota Bay in 2008.

Dabees’ 114-page study spends 37 pages on Longboat Pass alone, depicting the history of the pass and how it has evolved since the 1800s.

The study states that when the pass opened in 1880, north of a previous inlet location, the south end of Anna Maria Island began to erode, while the sand moved and began to form at the north end of Longboat Key, which became what is now Greer Island, aka Beer Can Island.

And, after construction of the jetty in the 1950s, the north end of Longboat Key began to erode and Beer Can Island began to break away from Longboat Key.

By 1970, however, sand bypassing was re-established, and Beer Can Island became reattached to Longboat Key.

But recently, Beer Can Island has become difficult to access by foot. Depending on the tide, beachgoers can get trapped on the island and are forced to swim back to Longboat Key.

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