Theres a lot of ways to pay for the shoreline at Alligator
Point to be renourished, and the taxpayers there, and throughout the county,
have at least until the 2023 Florida legislative session to figure it out.
But that doesnt mean its too soon to start building a consensus,
or lack thereof, on a project to build up the beach, a project that will include
the creation of a parking area to serve those who come down to sink their toes
in that very sand.
Former County Planner Alan Pierce, and County Finance
Director Erin Griffith, both addressed the subject in detail to the monthly
meeting of the Alligator Point St. Teresa Association Saturday morning by Zoom.
Mike Dombrowski, a shoreline engineering
expert whose 20-year-old Destin-based company has done work throughout the Gulf
Coast, had planned to attend, but was pulled away to be on hand for work his company
as doing in Panama City.
The basic picture that is emerging is that the state has shown
a willingness to back what will eventually be a multi-million project, by funding
$200,000 for engineering and design work. But they still have to come up with
as much as $5 million in beach renourishment dollars, to match the $5 million
the county has already secured in RESTORE Act monies, which are billions of
dollars in civil penalty dollars paid out by BP based on their role in the 2010
Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The state has made it a priority to reserve funds for beach
renourishment, Pierce said.
But tied in with that is the states commitment to tourism,
because those sales tax dollars fund state government, and thats why renourishing
the beach brings with a stipulation that infrastructure be created to handle
visitors coming to use that beach.
If we do have a beach there are several ways to maintain
it, he told the association, which at its meeting also welcomed new president
Dr. David Harris, who succeeded Ben Houston.
Its a lot of money to make sure that the millions poured
into the project at the outset, as sand is pumped from offshore to the shoreline,
are not wasted.
I dont think the county will build a beach just to have it
wash away, said Pierce.
While APSTA board member Allan Feifer estimates that it will
take anywhere from $275,000 to $400,000 annually to replenish the sand at the rate
of erosion, a process done every four years, Pierce and Griffith pointedly did
We dont know what the maintenance costs are, he said.
Whatever they turn out to be, theyll have to covered, and
Pierce outlined three alternatives for funding, and Griffith added a fourth.
Pierce said the parking lot required by the state, which the
county plans to put on seven acres of land at the former KOA campground, could
raise as much as $30,000 to $50,000 annually to defray these maintenance costs.
He arrived at that estimate by calculating a price tag of $5 a day at a car lot
of 100 spaces, for a 100-day season.
The parking lot is for day visitors, someone who doesnt
have a rental place to go at night, Pierce said. You have to comply with DEP
(Florida Department of Environmental Protection) requirements in order to
maximize state funding.
Pierce also noted that the Tourist Development Council can
spend no more than 10 percent of its annual revenues, which this year will eclipse
$1.75 million, if not go higher, on beach renourishment throughout the county.
But to put that cap in perspective, this current years $140,000 allocation for
beaches is being spent on the bathroom replacement on St. George Island.
Alligator Point has 10 percent of the countys entire stock
of short-term rental units, and produces about 5 percent of the lodging tax
revenue, Pierce said, adding that that discrepancy has to do with the vacation
rental companies and marketing efforts being less aggressive for this
easternmost area of the county.
A third mechanism for funding are assessments, in the form
of annual fees on properties, but Pierce commented little on the subject, other
than noting that having different tiers of payment depending on proximity to
the beach – a condition that was defeated by the Points voters a decade ago
would not be a good idea.
Griffith suggested tax increment financing, of the sort that
both cities use to fund their Community Redevelopment Agencies, might be a good
option. This TIF option establishes a base year for county taxes, and then the
increases in the tax base in each subsequent year, go towards a specified
Pierce suggested residents speak with representatives of the
Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, or other non-profits for guidance
on the subject.
Whatever is worked out, the fortifying of the shoreline is
seen as a pre-requisite for any long-term reliable preservation of the one road
that feeds the area, and which regularly washes out in the event of rugged storm.
And that doesnt just involve residents and visitors cars
and trucks, as the road ensures access to the Points water supply.
The beach protects the road and the road protects the water
line, Pierce said.