Bluffs Spokesman for Condominium, Mayor Dispute Concerns on Seawall
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Peter Ferrara, who is a spokesman for residents who live in Building C at the Harbor Club adjacent to the northeast side of the new Belleair Bridge and Causeway has repeated the importance re-directing the seawall in the current project to give the condominium protection.
His comments, addressed in an e-mail to the Clearwater Gazette, were quickly rebutted at the weekend by Mayor Chris Arbutine of Belleair Bluffs.
At its meeting last week, the Belleair Bluffs City Commission held off, at least temporarily, the possibility of a lawsuit threatened by Ferrara and residents at the condominium.
Even the filing of a lawsuit, it was feared, would halt the work on the new bridge and causeway. Work on the project has proceeded at a very good pace, it is on time and residents on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway want it completed without delays.
At its meeting August 13, the commission got a report on the project from Tony Hornick who is managing the work for the county.
Bluffs officials have viewed what Ferrara wants as an aesthetic touch. He, on the other hand, calls the presently constituted plans "dangerous" as it would divert storm waters into the condominium area in a "funnel" effect.
"It should not be difficult to understand that with a seawall along the road, it will create a potential for disaster," Ferrara wrote in an e-mail.
He pointed out that with the current plans for conformation of the seawall on the eastern end of the causeway, "Any surge would then be deflected by the seawall effectively creating a 'funnel' for the water to be diverted into our driveway and subsequently into our building."
He claims that photographs along with the visualization of what might happen make this scenario clear.
Ferrara was not at last week's meeting he said because of a personal family situation. But he said that had he been there a different version would have been presented as "to why the seawall will create a problem for our condominium and not 'spoon fed' a version of why the diversion (of the seawall) was costly and unapproachable."
Arbutine said, "It is hard to discern whether Peter is talking as an individual, condo board member or whatever. No official action by the condo board's has been sent to the city, as I remember."
On the question of the function of the seawall as Ferrara wants it, Arbutine said, "The question as to whether the seawall is aesthetic or not has been presented to all the engineers and none believe it is necessary to the project."
Arbutine also said, in response to Ferrara's remarks, that "Peter has continually 'bypassed' the city in all his correspondence regarding this issue. We simply just get 'carbon copied' e-mails has has sent to either county, state or whatever outside organization he chooses to talk to."
Arbutine, who has traditionally taken a moderate position and has consistently brought residents' positions and feelings into city deliberations said, "If (Ferrara's) board as a whole would take action and give clear direction as to what his entire building wants to convey, it would make the situation much clearer."
Ferrara maintains that the cost of redirecting the seawall to suit the purposes of the condominium "has been highly exaggerated." He says there is enough seawall planking and equipment on hand to easily bring the planned seawall within 30 feet of the condo seawall.
The only difficulty, then, Ferrara says, lies with dealing with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMWD) which would present no obstacle.
Arbutine said, "For now we are ensuring no flooding (problems) and (other) concerns are left unaddressed. Also, the seawall is not dead, just waiting for appropriate time and, most importantly, source of money. Does (Ferrara's) condo want to put any money in? None has been offered as of yet."
He also says, "All real concerns are on the table, being examined and solutions forthcoming. Peter is riling people up with 'his side' of the story, completely ignoring the city and bridge engineers. He has leapfrogged us all and now is threatening to have an injunction to stop the project."
Arbutine stressed that "This project has many concerns and (Ferrara's) in particular are being given their due process, proper care, and then some."
It was clear at last week's meeting that both Mayor Chris Arbutine of Belleair Bluffs and Hornick wanted to avoid any delay in the bridge-causeway project.
Hornick did promise to look into the concerns of the condominium and the people Ferrara speaks for.
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