PALM HARBOR — Just like they did five years ago, Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday considered Glenn and Leah Bergoffen's request to vacate the public right of way in front of their home on Maryland Avenue so they could build a 300-foot-long dock. And just like they did in 2008, commissioners voted unanimously against it.
But this time the commissioners added a denial with prejudice, making it clear that they did not want to hear the same request again.
More than 140 residents of Crystal Beach crammed the County Commission chamber and an overflow room Tuesday to listen to the three-hour discussion.
Although Todd Pressman, a zoning consultant who represented the Bergoffens at the meeting, submitted a petition with 224 signatures of people he said favored the project, only three people spoke in support of the Bergoffens' request during the meeting. Forty spoke against it.
The Bergoffens live in a $1.5 million home on the Crystal Beach waterfront. But between their home and the Intracoastal Waterway there is a wide swath of public land that includes a footpath used by people who walk along the waterfront.
The couple asked Pinellas County to vacate a portion of the public property to ensure their access to the dock they plan to build. They said they would then grant an easement to the county to "restore the public's right for access,'' Pressman said.
Pressman told the commissioners that the Bergoffens live along a part of St. Joseph's Sound where vessels anchor, calling it "an unregulated, nonpermitted boat mooring location.''
By building what Pressman described as an "environmentally friendly'' dock, the Bergoffens would help in "the promotion of sea grass in the area.''
When the audience got its chance to speak, Justin Lis, 12, made it clear he disagreed.
"If this dock passes, more people would want to have a dock, which would mean more dead grass, more cut-down mangroves and more boat traffic,'' he said.
Linda Henry, a lifelong resident of Crystal Beach, took issue with the idea of a private citizen receiving public waterfront.
"The original developers set the waterfront aside for all to enjoy," said Henry, 69. "The strip of land (from Ohio Avenue to Georgia Avenue) was designated for all of the people, all of the time. It is called the front yard of Crystal Beach."
County Commissioner Susan Latvala made a motion to deny the couple's request.
"This application shows a blatant disregard, in my opinion, for the history, tradition and legal intent of this very, very special community,'' she said.
Several commissioners, including Norm Roche, said they want to ensure that the public waterfront in Crystal Beach will be preserved long into the future.
"I would like to see staff go further and report back to us on how this can be, once and for all, designated as a public park or prevent us from having to go through this again,'' he said.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.