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Snell Isle group wants 65 docks

ST. PETERSBURG — When Jeanne M. Oliver looks out onto the water from her home in Patrician Point, she regularly sees manatees, dolphins and waterskiers pass by.

That view could change, however, if Snell Isle Club Partners is allowed to build 65 docks in Smacks Bayou in northeast St. Petersburg.

Oliver and her neighbors have several concerns, including animal protection, noise and oil pollution, and congestion of the waterway. They are also worried about the commercialization of the area.

"I feel it will deteriorate value of our property," she said. "I know I don't want to look out and see 65 boats and see paraphernalia on docks and see people partying on the docks. We would be looking at a marina. It'd be disturbing to the environment and to homeowners. It would be a plain eyesore, frankly."

Oliver said she and other residents in nearby waterfront residential communities received notice of the proposed docks on March 11. They were told they had 30 days to request a public hearing on the project. She said they plan to draft a letter soon.

Although the public notice names Snell Isle Club Partners as the applicant, the company is affiliated with the Chicago-based Laramar Group, according to documents from the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office.

A St. Petersburg Times article in September 2007 quotes the Laramar Group's Ron Roan saying that the group had no plans to do anything with the docks on Smacks Bayou. Attempts on Tuesday to get a comment from the Laramar Group were unsuccessful.

The land upon which the dock construction is planned is where Snell Isle Club Apartments are located. The buildings were once the subject of a proposed condo conversion by Pinellas County developers John Loder and Steve Spencer. A St. Petersburg Times article in February 2007 details how the two allegedly defaulted on a $20-million loan and another article describes how the Laramar Group bought their loan from Wachovia, waived their debt and wired a Loder/Spencer entity $500,000.

There is a shortage of docks in Pinellas County, according to a report by the Boating Access Task Force. It said the number of wet slips in the county declined from 5,005 to 4,889 between 2005 and 2006.

Oliver understands the shortage of boat slips and why developers are keen to build more.

"Docks are extremely valuable," she said. "They're becoming very hard to find, so I'm sure the reason for doing this is money."

The Army Corps of Engineers in Tampa will have to approve the project.

Chuck Schnepel, Tampa section chief for the corps, said they are not in any position to make a decision on the project because the information in the permit application must be verified through outside sources.

The project may have an impact on the environment such as the endangered manatee and on essential fish habitats, he said.

"We must receive documentation from our federal resources agencies before we can make a final decision," Schnepel said.

Schnepel said he hasn't received a request for a hearing, but he has received several letters and e-mails in protest.

Dagny Salas can be reached at dsalas@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8872.

Snell Isle group wants 65 docks 04/01/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 4, 2008 2:24pm]
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