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'Dubai Long Pier' reels in mixed reviews

REDINGTON SHORES

Regulars at the town's historic fishing pier are not shy about saying what they think of the newly renamed Dubai Long Pier.

"I don't like it. Are we in the Middle East now?'' said Erlind Adarna of St. Petersburg, who has fished on the 1,000-foot-long pier since 1973.

Vic Smith of England said the name change doesn't bother him.

"I am just here to fish," he said. "The name change doesn't affect the fishermen, and it certainly doesn't affect the fish. I'm fine with it as long as they don't close the pier."

Pier owner Tony Antonious replaced Redington with Dubai in the name because of a long-running feud with the town. He acknowledges that the change was a way to draw the attention of potential buyers from Dubai.

The dispute began over safety issues that prompted a court-ordered shutdown and costly repairs. It continued recently after the city refused to act on his proposal to build a multistory condominium in the pier parking lot and a restaurant atop the pier's bait shack.

Antonious says he spent more than $500,000 on legal fees and repairs.

Last month, Antonious, after visiting Dubai and talking to people interested in investing in the pier and his redevelopment project, decided to change the pier's name in their honor.

"I told the people at City Hall they are not honorable enough to put their name on the pier," Antonious said this week.

The new sign at the pier entrance on Gulf Boulevard announcing the Dubai Long Pier also bears a new inscription: "In honor of his Majesty the V.P. of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and the Ruler of Dubai."

Antonious said he was impressed by the people of Dubai, particularly their willingness to "help educate the poor people of the world."

He also admitted the name change is "basically a political move."

He said is trying to get Dubai investors interested in developing the pier and has "several offers on the table."

Antonious said the expenses incurred in his long legal battle with the city, the economic downturn and a $25,000 monthly mortgage payment made it financially difficult for him.

"I have been suffering and doing everything I can to keep the pier open," he said.

For many of the people who fish at the pier, that is the most important thing.

"It's his pier and he can do what he wants with it," Clarence Smit of Canada said Thursday morning.

"It will still be known as the Redington Pier by everybody," said Larry Birley of Canada.

Some just shook their heads when asked what they thought of the new name.

"It's a bit petty, isn't it?" said Mike Johnson, a native of England who has visited the pier for more than 15 years.

Meanwhile, Redington Shores Mayor Jody Armstrong denied that the city is feuding with Antonious.

"I don't know what feud he is talking about. All this talk about a feud is coming from him, not the town," Armstrong said.

"Our only objective is the health and safety of public. As long as he meets those requirements and pays his occupational taxes, I don't care what he calls it."

She said that only a few residents asked her or other town officials about the name change.

"Most just ask 'What's with that?' Some didn't know it was privately owned property,'' Armstrong said.

As for Antonious' redevelopment proposal, Armstrong said the town cannot consider the rezoning until Antonious gets permission from the state to change its "green space" designation.

"He puts himself in these situations and then blames somebody else," the mayor said.

'Dubai Long Pier' reels in mixed reviews 12/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:43am]
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