BRADENTON — Some Manatee County commissioners balked at funding an additional $1 million to extend the Manatee Public Beach Pier replacement with tourist bed-tax dollars.
The commission heard Charlie Hunsicker, the director of the county Natural Resources Department, explain Tuesday how after review of the proposed design for a 312-foot pier replacement, that staff and consultants recommended a 700-foot pier.
The shorter length would be functional, but because of the need to comply with Americans with Disability Act requirements, the height above the waterline has created some concerns about the visual effect, Hunsicker said.
He showed three pictures. The first one was of the profile of the pier now at the beach, which is
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closed because of safety concerns.
The other two were an artist’s renderings of what the pier would look like at 312 feet, the approximate length of the present structure, and what the profile would be at 700 feet.
The shorter version showed a pier rising high over the water and then abruptly stopping, in what Commissioner Joe McClash characterized as looking like “a bridge to nowhere.”
The rendering of the longer pier had the same height, but extending farther into the Gulf of Mexico and allowing fishing in water of 12 to 15 feet.
Although Hunsicker said the pier would benefit recreation and tourism, and therefore justify the use of Tourist Development Tax Funds, some of the commissioners were not sure they wanted to spend money from that fund for this project.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore, chairwoman of the Tourist Development Council, which makes recommendations on spending the money, said there were other needs where the money could be spent, such as the new Little League ball fields in Palmetto.
McClash said he thought a 700-foot pier at the county beach in Holmes Beach would be out of character, and that the two other Anna Maria Island cities could use help with piers.
He made a motion to have Hunsicker approach the Tourist Development Council to get their input and report back to the commission. It passed unanimously.
On another issue, Hunsicker presented to the commission a draft memo of agreement with state agencies and Port Dolphin company.
Port Dolphin is seeking state approval of an off-shore natural gas port with pipelines running about 25-miles to Port Manatee.
The agreement would require Port Dolphin to contribute $11 million to the recovery of sand for the county and the town of Longboat Key beach nourishment projects from gulf sites that would be inaccessible when the pipeline is installed.