Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2023

SRIA A&E Committee Sends Baby Beach Plan To Full Board

D&L Committee Votes To Allow Steps to encroach onto Public Beach in trade off scenario

The Architectural and Environmental Committee received at their January 11 meeting updates that the combined dredge and beach nourish project scope had been changed. The Lafitte Cove and Little Sabine Channel dredging are to be bid as a separate project from the Baby Beach Drainage Improvements and the Baby Beach Nourishment projects.  
The Baby Beach Nourish project includes removal of Bahama Rock and debris at the water’s edge prior to the renourishment sand being placed. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers require additional permitting, but are in favor of the foreign matter being removed. The time necessary for rock removal permitting will postpone the Baby Beach Nourish Project to winter of ’23. The Lafitte Cove and Sabine Channel dredge sand will be stored at the spoil site for use in this project. 
The Baby Beach Drainage Improvements include removing and modifying curb areas, improving the shoulder percolation, planting and creating a depression area for stormwater. According to the Baskerville Donovan, Inc. Engineer Jeff Huggins, vegetation and planting will also be utilized. SRIA Executive Director Leigh Davis noted in her presentation that the contractor for this project could be obtained through already vetted providers in the Escambia County General Paving and Drainage Pricing Agreement. 
Also, in the plans are an ADA compliant parking place to replace the non-conforming space that currently exists and a 10 foot square concrete pad to accommodate a portable bathroom. 
Pensacola Beach residents have voiced objections to the portable bathroom at multiple public meetings. SRIA staff removed the portable bathroom, but reserved the right to return it during the summer months. Residents continue to object to that idea. 
Steve Luppert thanked SRIA board members who took time to walk the Sharp’s Point-Baby Beach area to see first-hand the conditions that exist. He also voiced concerns that the Baby Beach project still included a concrete pad for a port-o-let when the residents were equivocally against it. 
“This is a concern to spend money, have the contractor bid on it and put it where it is not needed,” said Luppert. “Then it will require maintenance. Is anyone from Public Works at this meeting to speak to the maintenance schedule?”
Pensacola Beach resident Tom Jardine, a year round open water swimmer,  told the Committee that he was in favor of planting and the plants should be irrigated with effluent instead of dumping it into Santa Rosa Sound. He also stated that the project should be paid for by Escambia County rather than with SRIA lease fees. 
Committee members differed about the item. Staff’s recommendation was to accept the proposal, so Jerry Watson made a motion to accept the entire project with the concrete pad. There was no second and he rescinded his motion. Jeremy Johnson stated he wanted to further discuss. Committee Chairman Brigette Brooks entertained a motion to move to the item to the full board to facilitate that discussion. 
“As the Committee chair, I would suggest that we move this to the full board meeting, so that each board member has the opportunity to provide input,” said Brooks.  
The item was moved the full board agenda, January 25. 
The Development and Leasing Committee received a request to exchange an area along the interior Boardwalk for beach area to accommodate a staircase. The request came from 11th Street, LLC. who is the master leaseholder at the former Capt’n Fun location on the Boardwalk. This is their second request to modify their footprint to exchange public area for leasehold area as part of a demolition and new construction at that location. The first request was approved in October, 2022. 
SRIA Director of Administration Robbie Schrock said the request to exchange for public beach is to provide an emergency exit from the business and the tradeoff opens the line of sight to adjacent Boardwalk businesses. The steps would be located on the northwest corner of the leasehold property.  She also noted that the Amended and Restated lease includes new legal descriptions for the leasehold including the both exchanged areas. The lease term was changed from 99 to 40 years. 
SRIA Executive Director Leigh Davis reiterated that the document before the Committee had both the change approved in October and the proposed changes. 
She told the Committee that current Boardwalk Master Leaseholders would like to see the SRIA consider a policy that would apply to all Boardwalk businesses regarding their operations specifically the nature and volume of music that is audible in the public areas. 
“We did want to make you aware that there were issues being raised by other Boardwalk master leaseholders,” said Davis. 
Attorney Sean Seely said his client, 11th Street, LLC, has spent months in plan and design of a property that changes and improves the aesthetics dramatically. At this point, he said there is a time issue to get the financing in place, so he requested the Committee’s approval. While he understood having experienced the sound and content of music at that location a decade ago, he felt holding up the approval of the conceptual plans was inappropriate. 
“In the next SRIA agenda is a sublease. The plan is to put a restaurant in there. Not a Capt’n Fun,” said Seely. 
Schrock told Island Times that 11th Street, LLC., has requested to sublease to Senor Frog’s. There are Senor Frog’s located in Mexico, the Bahamas and the U.S. The item will be on the February 8 committee agenda. 
Bamboo Willie’s Managing Partner Robert Gleim representing the Boardwalk merchants said, “Recently Pensacola Beach was identified as a top ten beach. We want to keep it that way. First, for the locals and then the tourists. We want to work together as a team on the Boardwalk. We don’t want to go back to the issues of 15 years ago. We want to go forward.” 
Committee Chair Liz Callahan thought the lease approval should be separate from a policy for a Boardwalk community standard of behavior. Jerry Watson supported the staff further addressing concerns about behavior at some future point. 
Bubba Peters commended the parties for the attempt to open up the bottleneck area on the Boardwalk and wanted to confirm that the exchange of real estate area is equal in that it is “foot-for-foot.” 
“That is correct,” said Director Davis. “This is for the sole purpose of steps, intended to be for evacuation, ingress and egress into the business.”
Elected Board Member Jeremy Johnson, who is not a member of the Committee, noted that in the October plan, the request exchanged interior Boardwalk area for interior Boardwalk area. This is request is different. He was concerned that this sets a precedent for swapping interior boardwalk area for premium soundfront property. He stated that in the past, leaseholders were required to design within their leasehold footprint. 
Callahan stated that the need for this part of the Boardwalk’s rehab and renovation was important and earned her support. The motion to approve the amended and restated lease and the property exchanges passed, 3-0.
In other business, the Administrative Committee accepted the November financial report. Director of Finance Vickie Johnson said the lease fee collections, $257,768, were 9 percent higher than November of the prior year. 
Coverage of the SRIA Full Board meeting of Wednesday, January 25 will appear online at www.MyIslandTimes.com and in the February 8 edition of Island Times. 
The next Committee meeting is Wednesday, February 9 at 5 p.m. at #1 Via de Luna. The meeting is open to the public for in-person or via audio. Agendas and dial-in instructions are at www.sria-fla.com. 

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