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Settlement Saves Beer Can Island


LONGBOAT KEY – The Town of Longboat Key has settled a permit challenge filed by TBT publisher and 22-year Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash (later joined by Sierra Club Manatee/Sarasota), seeking to prevent the construction of a massive, concrete terminal groin at the northwestern most tip of Greer Island, which is home to a popular recreational area known to locals as Beer Can Island. The issue had been scheduled to go before an administrative law judge in a hearing today.

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Boaters anchor on the shore of Beer Can Island

The groin, which was part of a three-groin permit application that hoped to fend off beach erosion for two condos further down, would have rendered the serene beach unusable for recreation and destroyed a unique, naturally-occurring "lazy river" that beachgoers have marveled over for decades.

The two opposition parties had been fighting the application, arguing that fish and wildlife, including endangered or threatened species, would be harmed and that the concrete groins would adversely affect navigation or the flow of water, while causing harmful erosion or shoaling. They also claimed that the navigational channel known as Longboat Key Pass, as well as the navigational waters adjacent to the beach and along the pass used by kayaks, sailboats and powerboats would be negatively impacted.

An aerial view shows how far the building exceeds the shore

McClash, himself an avid boater, argued that the groins would illegally inhibit the recreational use of state lands which were in fact deeded to Manatee County with covenants to maintain the land in a natural state (click to view PDF of deed). He had previously blasted members of his former board, including island resident Carol Whitmore, for refusing to place a sign on the island to ensure that the users knew about the project.

The settlement (click to view PDF) will prevent the town from seeking any such groin for at least five years, while allowing them to continue with plans regarding the two smaller, adjustable permeable groins further down the island, away from the recreational area.

McClash called the settlement a major victory for Manatee County taxpayers who would have unfairly lost a beloved, much-used local recreational area for the sake of two poorly-planned condominiums, which should have never been built out on the island's natural shoreline.


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