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    Funds sought to fight coastal building laws

    A group of elected officials have asked each beach community to contribute $1,000 toward the effort.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 13, 2000

    REDINGTON SHORES -- The beach communities still aren't sure how to fight a new set of state rules that will make building on the coast tougher than it has ever been.

    But they know it will take money.

    The Barrier Islands Governmental Council, known as the Big-C, a collection of elected officials from St. Pete Beach to Belleair Shore, voted at a special meeting Thursday to ask each city for $1,000.

    Eventually, the Big-C might ask individual homeowners affected by a new Coastal Construction Control Line to donate to the cause.

    The Big-C also will write a letter to high-ranking officials with the Department of Environmental Protection, demanding answers they requested in writing months ago and asking the state to delay approving the line until some of the disputed issues are settled.

    The seed money from the cities will be the bare beginnings of their "war chest."

    How will it be used? Perhaps for a lobbyist to carry their message to state legislators and Gov. Jeb Bush, who they believe would support their cause if he heard their message.

    Or maybe for a lawyer, who would litigate the line based on a lengthy list of irregularities a Big-C committee found in science the DEP used to determine the line.

    State Sen. Don Sullivan, who attended the Big-C meeting Thursday, was blunt about the group's high expectations for fighting DEP: "I think if you go to court, you're going to lose," he said.

    Sullivan encouraged the Big-C to work with DEP in establishing the line rather than insisting the county doesn't need a new line at all.

    The Big-C's Technical Advisory Committee made some headway with DEP two months ago when state officials met with the group in Indian Shores.

    At the time, the state agency admitted some errors in its report, which concluded that its control line essentially should cut the barrier islands in half, throwing most properties west of Gulf Boulevard into non-compliance.

    But the committee says the DEP hasn't responded to its requests for information since September, and has gone ahead with plans to finalize the line by February.

    "I feel we were totally ignored," said Ralph Lickton, a member of the committee.

    The new line would force property owners seaward of the line to go through a lengthy and expensive state permitting process if they substantially renovate or rebuild.

    "You're not going to have any jurisdiction in your cities," said Bob Clayton, chairman of the Big-C's Technical Advisory Committee. "It's all going to be in Tallahassee."

    DEP already has put new lines into effect in 23 of Florida's 24 coastal counties, and state officials say the other counties have had few problems with the new regulations.

    But Pinellas officials insist this county is different because almost all of its waterfront is already developed.

    Redington Shores Mayor J.J. Beyrouti said he does not favor fighting the DEP on the merits of its science.

    "I don't think that's going to get us anywhere," Beyrouti said, "because we come up with a theory and they come up with a theory. It's who is smarter than the next guy."

    Instead, the Big-C might hire a Tallahassee lobbyist. Their goal is to get to Gov. Bush, who they believe will favor local control in this case.

    Said Marlene Clausen of the Indian Shores Property Owners Association: "Don't you think Jeb should know about this?"

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