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Neighborhood notebook

Docks face three-pronged attack

The development next to the Rutland estate should ditch plans that would disturb wildlife, neighbors adamantly say.

By ANDREW MEACHAM
Published February 15, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Three neighborhoods have lined up against proposed docks at the Banyan Bay development on Fourth Street S and are planning to give county commissioners an earful Tuesday at a public hearing.

The commission was to decide Jan. 20 on the developer's dock permit request, but commissioners followed the recommendation of County Administrator Steve Spratt and county attorneys to delay a vote until legal concerns could be researched.

Environmental attorney Thomas Reese of St. Petersburg sent e-mails on Dec. 11 to William Davis, the county's environmental management director, and St. Petersburg Development Services director Julie Weston, challenging the legality of the proposed docks at 5200 Fourth St. S.

The 20-slip Horton marina would extend 223 feet into Little Bayou and include 11 separate piers with tie poles. Reese said it would violate federal law protecting manatees. St. Petersburg approved the permit application last year.

The 10-acre property formerly belonged to the Rutland estate, which lies next door. In 1997, a group of neighbors tried unsuccessfully to form a nonprofit corporation to buy the property. The site languished for four years as attempts to develop condominiums ran aground.

The Bahama Shores and Greater Pinellas Point neighborhood associations have since joined Bonita Bayou in opposition.

Some bring up the two oaks and four cabbage palms that were bulldozed without a permit. "They have already shown they are not trustworthy," said Beth Connor, a Greater Pinellas Point board member.

Others point to a flourishing bird population that includes eagles, egrets, screech owls and roseate spoonbills, according to a fact sheet distributed by Cindy Scherer. Bargaining for fewer boat slips would not help, said Bonita Bayou treasurer Cindy Petelle.

"I'm not a person who doesn't compromise, but I don't see how we can in this situation," Petelle said.

But for now, the fate of waterfront amenities may rest with manatees. Reese's December memo cited federal legislation - the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, which prohibit not only injuring but also threatening or harassing manatees - as reasons the docks would be illegal.

Reese cited research suggesting that the manatee population is declining in Southwest Florida: "Anything that increases their risk is illegal."

If the county approves, the project still would require dock permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Connor contended that the development will still be desirable without a marina.

The fight has become more personal for some residents since the Jan. 30 death of Cassie Pilkington Rucks, 52, who spearheaded the failed 1997 effort. "This dock would be such an affront to her memory," Connor said.

The commission meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

* * *

The Jungle Terrace Civic Association and the Walter Fuller Youth Council will hold a garage sale from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center, 7891 26th Ave. N. For more information contact Lyn Dexter, 345-7000.

Meetings

CENTRAL OAK PARK: 7 p.m. Tuesday (6:30 p.m. Neighborhood Watch). St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 4444 Fifth Ave. N. Neighborhood planner Andy Garr, on fighting drugs in communities.

COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS: 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N. Goals for year; code enforcement board member Sheldon Schwartz on Medicare fraud.

CRESCENT LAKE: 7 p.m. Thursday. Huggins-Stengel clubhouse, 1320 Fifth St. N. Election of officers.

FRUITLAND HEIGHTS/CASLER HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Wednesday. New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 2120 19th St. S.

GREATER PINELLAS POINT: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Bay Vista Recreation Center, 7000 Fourth St. S. Beautification award presentation.

HARRIS PARK: 7:30 p.m. Monday. Vietnamese Alliance Church, 4344 21st St. N. Crime Watch committee; CONA representation.

HIGHLAND OAKS: 6 p.m. Thursday. James B. Sanderlin Family Services Center, 2335 22nd Ave. S. City Council member Ernest Williams.

HISTORIC OLD NORTHEAST: 7 p.m. Monday. Westminster Presbyterian Church, 126 11th Ave. NE. Urban design manager Bob Jeffrey on code revisions for responsible development.

JUNGLE TERRACE: 7 p.m. Monday (6:45 p.m. social). Walter Fuller Recreation Center, 7891 26th Ave. N. Science Center director Susan Gordon.

LAKEWOOD ESTATES NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: 7 p.m. Tuesday. St. Petersburg Country Club, 2000 Country Club Way S. St. Petersburg Fire Department representative on fire safety.

LAKEWOOD TERRACE: 7 p.m. Thursday. Lake Maggiore Baptist Church, 4100 Dr. M.L. King Jr. S. Preparing for March neighborhood plan celebration.

MAGNOLIA HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Thursday. Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, 2612 12th St. N. Representative of Tampa Bay Cares; neighborhood plan update.

MEADOWLAWN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Hope Lutheran Church, 1801 62nd Ave. N. Codes director Sally Eichler; new codes inspector Anthony Rivers.

NORTH EAST PARK: 7:30 p.m. Monday. North East Park Baptist Church, 3737 First St. NE. Neighborhood transportation manager Michael Frederick.

PERKINS: 7 p.m. Monday. Perkins Elementary School, 2400 Queensboro Ave. S. Planning neighborhood grant request, annual fish fry and yard sale.

PERRY BAYVIEW: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, 3455 26th Ave. S.

PONCE DE LEON: 7 p.m. Thursday. Gladden Park Recreation Center, 3901 30th Ave. N. Open forum.

WINSTON PARK: 7 p.m. Tuesday. North Branch Library, 861 70th Ave. N. Crime prevention.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]


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