REDINGTON SHORES — Landscaping along a controversial beach access path is scheduled to be ripped out this month, despite residents' efforts to prevent the town project.
The town's building official, Steve Andrews, said Tuesday the paving portion of the project is "scheduled to be done the week of April 27th."
At issue is a plan to widen a pedestrian beach path at the intersection of 176th Avenue and Lee Avenue and convert it to dual vehicular use.
In addition to paving the widened path, the town is also planning to install a ramp from the seawall to the beach to allow town vehicles access to the beach.
The paving project is part of a multiyear program to upgrade all the town's beach walkways by installing pavers, decorative entrance columns and dune walkovers.
In addition to the 176th Avenue beach path, the town currently plans to improve the access paths adjacent to Tower Isle, Sea Oats, Sunset Reef and Shore Mariner condominiums.
The ramp portion of the 176th Avenue project, Andrews said, must be completed by May 1, the start of the turtle nesting season.
A representative of the state Department of Environmental Protection told town officials Monday that it must get a DEP permit before beginning the ramp project.
The DEP entered the beach access dispute after being contacted by the Gulf Mariner Condominium, which is located just to the south of the beach access path.
"Public safety and environment concerns are everyone's problem. The residents of the Gulf Mariner are very concerned with protecting our fragile beach and the safety of those using our natural resources," says Ron Gonzalez, vice president of the condominium association.
The condominium has sued the town over its plan to widen the existing 7-foot, pedestrian-only pathway to allow town vehicles to access the beach.
Andrews said he is drawing up plans for the "field permit" and expects the project to be completed by the May 1 deadline.
Meanwhile, Joanne Greenberg, whose home is located on the northern side of the 176th Avenue beach access, still hopes to stop the town from removing the landscaping next to her home.
She personally spent between $30,000 and $40,000 to install and maintain landscaping between her property and the existing paved beach walkway.
"I am calling my attorney to see if there is anything we can do," she said Tuesday.
The Gulf Mariner also opposes the removal of the landscaping, but apparently has no legal standing to fight that issue.
The condominium, which owns the southern half of the beach access, originally granted a 10-foot easement to the town to allow pedestrian-only public access to the beach.
The town owns the northern 10-foot section of the beach access. This section is the area that Greenberg has landscaped.
"My clients believe removing the landscaping is ridiculous, but they are not challenging the town's right to using the Greenberg easement for traffic," said Charles Samarkos, attorney for the Gulf Mariner.
Building Commissioner Lee Holmes said Tuesday the town has made "no final decision" on how much of the easement next to Greenberg's home will be paved.
"I don't believe we will need all of it. It appears some of the landscaping will remain," Holmes said.