Monday, October 04, 2004

PBRLA Press Release - October 4, 2004


The Pensacola Beach Residents and Leaseholders Association (“PBRLA”) would like to express, on behalf of its members and all other residents and leaseholders on Pensacola Beach, its extreme outrage at the draconian, arbitrary and overly restrictive limitation on beach access for people who live on Pensacola Beach. Sundays only, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, is not sufficient access for residents to secure their property, gather belongings and get on with the steps necessary to begin the insurance claims process and repair of their homes. Additionally, the restriction to Casino Beach parking lot with no cars or trucks allowed down Via de Luna or Ft. Pickens makes it impossible to remove furniture and other valuables.
Right now, they have the power to keep us off the beach (George Tourat and Sheriff Mc Nesby’s deputies with guns) but what gives them that right?

In spite of the fact that there is no electricity, utilities or clear roads, Navarre Beach residents have free access to their property and the Santa Rosa County officials in charge of that beach have recognized that they have no legal means to keep residents from their homes. Likewise, no mainlanders are being kept from their homes. Portofino is being given preferential treatment and so are certain hotels and friends and members of the SRIA who own businesses on the beach. This is just another example of SRIA good ole boy politics. Neither the SRIA nor the Escambia County Commission care a bit about the Island residents because we do not have sufficient political clout to effect their election or appointment. Consequently, our rights are being trampled to help business owners and fat cats salvage their property and the revenue stream from the tourist trade. In the mean time, our property and possessions deteriorate.

As usual, Pensacola Beach is being governed with ad hoc favoritism and inept anonymity. It is not possible, at this point, to determine exactly who is in charge or what the plan is, except to make it as easy as possible for the in-crowd and business people at the expense of ordinary residents. Bill Griffith justifies this action with a promise that utilities will be restored to the entire island in a month. Monte Blews says six months. The fact is, no one knows and they are just making it up as they go along. What law allows George Touart, Ron McNesby, Monte Blews, and Bill Griffith to dictate how we occupy our own property?

The PBRLA hereby demands that Island residents be given unfettered access to their property immediately. If not, stronger measures will follow.

Gary E. Smith
Pensacola Beach Residence and Leaseholders Association

1 comment:

MHClabaugh said...

I was the person who asked about the special access given Yates Contractors working on Portofino at the SRIA meeting September 30th and would like to present my view of the events. After reading in the Pensacola News Journal the following Friday and Saturday that the very people that allowed special access to Portofino contractors has cleared the developers and officials responsible. It does not surprise me one bit. I can assure you that Portofino was not an outlet for frustration as reported, but a source of it along with double standards offered to powerful developers and SRIA board members. I do agree with the Pensacola News Journal that there is a lack of leadership with regard to the island which is the source of our problems.

I would like to share with my fellow citizens what I understand about the special access given to some people on the beach, as well as some other points of interest.

1.) A deputy told me that Portofino contractors were allowed back onto Pensacola Beach to secure their property one day after the storm at the direction of Sheriff McNesby and the County Administrator. This deputy was clearly frustrated by the double standard.

2.) Last weekend on Via DeLuna I personally witnessed a full tractor trailer load of materials and several Yates trucks with workers and tools allowed to drive down Via Deluna to Portofino. In fact, a gentleman with a 4X4 pickup truck at the time was pleading with the officer to let him secure his home and denied access. The building supplies loaded on the tractor-trailer would suggest more than just sand clearing as the Pensacola News Journal reported.

3.) While Island residents were made to walk to their homes, Portofino arranged vans to take their residents to the development. Who gave them special permission for this? Fortunately, law enforcement officers decided to offered rides to residents down Ft Pickens Road where I live.

4.) From across the bay you can see lights on at Portofino -- everyone has been denied generators and no one is allowed on the island at night. How is this so?

5.) In the paper it was stated that Portofino would house residents and emergency workers, well, there are several condos on the beach with little damage and could do the same for a lot less. They were not granted special access. I personally do not believe that Portofino is planning to house any of the clean up or construction crews at 2700.00 per month. In addition, many residents on the island cannot pay that much. I feel that the public is being lied to by the developer and county officials responsible to cover their actions. I also believe that is a ploy to Portofino livable first to further future sales and increase market value of the development.

6.) During the SRIA meeting, it was never mentioned that Portofino would be housing anyone, the presenters did however state that the hotels in the "core" area such as the Hilton Garden Inn and the Marriott would be.

7.) Before residents were allowed onto the island, Bill Martin was allowed to secure the roof of Flounders and work on Crabs according to again with the permission of the County Administrator and Sheriff McNesby.

8.) When questioned about the contractors allowed access to Portofino -- NO ONE answered the question as to "WHO gave permission for them to go down there?" If housing emergency workers and island residents were the REAL reason, and then this answer would have been given at the meeting when asked. The immediate issue for Island residents is ACCESS. Why are the most expensive condos allowed access?

9.) After all, these condos are the furthest from the "core" of the beach. There are other condos, such as Santa Rosa Towers and Tristan Towers, which have little damage and are closer to the core. These other condos are also more affordable rentals for displaced residents and their families.

10.) The building inspector, Don Mayo, stated that he issued NO permits for permanent repairs and to do such repairs would be illegal. He did state to me that securing your property did not require a permit and was OK. The issue is that Portofino contractors were allowed on the island to work while no one else was. Further, I was at the Hilton where I talked to Mary Bowman at the SRIA on Sunday and I did not see any contractor vehicles on their site.

11.) When a second lady addressed the very same access question she demanded that Bill Griffith, , answer the question but he refused several times. Finally, he announced abruptly that the meeting was over and stormed out of the building. EVERY TIME he is questioned about his questionable actions he does the same thing -- ends the meeting and storms out. Again, If housing emergency workers and island residents were the REAL reason, then why didn't Mr. Griffith or ANY of the SRIA members or other county officials answer the question at the meeting when asked? How long do you have to think about your answer if you are telling the truth?

12.) It was reported October 2nd in the Pensacola News Journal that Santa Rosa County was allowing the residents of Navarre Beach to return to their homes and they followed the same logic that the residents of Pensacola Beach have argued all along. That is, home owners in other ravaged areas, without power, sewage, and wide roads. Water, etc are allowed back at their homes. Why cannot the residents of Pensacola Beach?

13.) It was stated that the roads were 95% impassable? Where did this figure come from? The roads on Pensacola Beach, while impeded and narrowed by sand are passable. I would ask, if this were true and roads were the basis for denying access then how do tractor trailer rigs with materials and contractor trucks make it to the most remote development on Pensacola Beach? Further, I am staying on Tanglewood Drive where the ENTIRE neighborhood has debris on both sides of the roads at unimaginable levels and we have been sharing with Power Trucks, Tree Trucks, Refuse Trucks, Cable Trucks, ECUA Trucks, etc to this day in harmony. In fact, it was so bad it took 2 days for us to cut our way to Bayou Blvd. with so many trees crossing the road. No one did this for us, as neighbors everyone contributed some clearing our own roads.

14. After Ivan, Gulf Power despite heavy damage to the plant, substations down lines and power poles predicted 3 weeks to get power back to their customers in 2 counties. Against unimaginable odds, they succeeded; however, our County Government cannot even give a rough estimate given the concise area of Pensacola Beach?

15.) The Health Department Director, Dr Lanza, stated that it would be illegal to occupy a home or condo without water and sewage. Yet the county is proposing that Portofino provide temporary housing. Are they suggesting that they are going to restore water and sewage all the way to Portofino, the most "remote" development, first?

In martial law situations, when you create 2 classes of people that is the foundation for anarchy. These are the actions that anger the public and place our community at further risk. I say, if you establish rules then they should apply to EVERYONE not just the privileged. I cannot begin to explain how emotionally difficult it is to see your world exposed to ruin and you are prevented from protecting your property.

At this moment, everyone on the island shares the same problems and issues with planning temporary housing, securing property, meeting with Wind, Flood, rental and homeowner adjusters, meeting with contractors etc. With the current rules in place, we are prevented at most and impeded at minimum from doing the very same thing that everyone else in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties can do with their homes. With no timeline predictions, we do not even know if we should rent for a week, month, 6 months or a year.

The bottom line is that County officials do not have a legitimate reason for denying access to all residents if trucks, trailers and teams of contractors can work at the most remote development on the island. I strongly feel that County officials were caught red handed giving special access to friends while preventing the average citizen access to protect their property. And, once caught and refusing to publicly answer the questions, stormed from the SRIA meeting to confer and develop a weak explanation in private with several holes in their logic to be announced in the Pensacola News Journal. I am disappointed that the Pensacola News Journal did not explore further the logic provided by the developers and county officials and simply announced that "Portofino was cleared of complaints". In a natural disaster, emergency situation it is imperative that the citizens can trust their government and that the news media will protect them and inform them accurately.