Monday, October 04, 2004

Pensacola Beach Blog: Our Temporary Home Away from Home

This "Pensacola Beach Blog" will have to be our home-away-from-home, at least for awhile. As soon as possible this beach blog will be integrated into our refurbished and revised home page at www.pbrla.com. The expectation is we'll have at least one new article every day, followed by lots of news and rumors from you, the reader, along with your comments, ideas, suggestions, rants, and raves.

Those beach residents and leaseholders who would like to post more lengthy articles are invited to ask for "editor" status by emailing jcbarrett44@yahoo.com. I'm in evacuated status out of town, working with really, really bad equipment, but with a lot of help from you readers I'll do my best to keep things fresh and moving along.

Everyone can freely post their "comments" and "replies". Please keep 'em clean.... No, let me amend that..... Please keep 'em as reasonably clean as circumstances warrant when discussing Escambia County government and the SRIA.

Start your comments right now.....

4 comments:

morrie said...

John Thanks so much for all that you do. Ivan spared my packets on how to survive a hurricane that i published after Opal so there must be a reason. It was about incorporation and our unresponsive govt officials. After the hurricane we forgot what we had endured. I swear I will not forget this time and we had better band together so that we never go through this B/S again

MHClabaugh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Barrier Island Girl said...

(As originally posted by MHClabaugh)

Special Access Granted Portofino Developers and Access Issues.

In opening, I cannot stress enough that this is not about our fine neighbors at Portofino. This thesis is about special access granted friends and powerful developers while denying access to the average citizen on Pensacola Beach and how the public is being deceived to cover it up.

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. Their lack of investigation into this story 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, SRIA board members and friends. I do agree with the Pensacola News Journal that there is a lack of leadership with regard to the management of the island, which is the source of our problems.

I would like to share with my fellow citizens some thoughts, questions and comments on what I understand about the special access and why their logic for allowing Portofino developers access is flawed.

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, George Touart. This deputy was clearly frustrated by the double standard applied.

2.) Last weekend on Via DeLuna, I personally witnessed a full tractor trailer load of building 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 and Abbott's website clearly points out.

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 offer 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 when we are not allowed generators or power has not been restored?

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. If this were truly the reason granted special access then Portofino would have been included in that list during the presentation.

7.) According to a FWC patrolman when asked why we could not take a 4X4 to our property with materials to cover our roof he stated that we could not. However, he continued "before residents were allowed onto the island, Bill Martin was allowed to secure the roof of Flounders and work on Crabs."

8.) At the SRIA Meeting, when the panel was questioned by me about Yates contractors being allowed access to Portofino -- NO ONE answered the question as to "WHO gave permission for them to go down there?" In fact, they downright ignored the question. 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.) Portofino is the furthest condos 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 at the SRIA meeting 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 addition, it was stated that there were snakes and wild animals preventing us from returning?

16.) Over the weekend, according to some neighbors Nicole and Billy, Robert Rinke was allowed to bring a truck, materials and a large generator on a trailer to a condo property he owns on Ft Pickens Road. At this time, citizens were not allowed to even drive to their properties, use trailers and generators were banned according to Escambia County Officials.

17.) On Abbott's website, http://storm.rqinet.com/NWFLMain.htm, there are progress reports of work being done at Portofino, use of Generators and Yates Contractors work being performed before residents were even allowed to visit the island.

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 know if we should rent temporary housing 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.

In closing, I think that the citizens of Pensacola Beach should do everything to hold the decision-makers accountable. There should be an investigation into the decision making processes, which allowed some to protect their property while others lay in ruin, and chance based on who you are and know. I believe that it is past time that the residents of Pensacola Beach seriously consider incorporation and use the obvious lack of leadership and display of favoritism to powerful developers and friend in this disaster as evidence that we need change. We need a government answerable to the citizens of Pensacola Beach and when they fail to perform we can remove them through a democratic process.

Anonymous said...

First of all the residents of Pensacola Beach should not have to pay property taxes, if they would let the US Supreme Court decide there is no doubt they would overturn escambia's tax bit. Second, the good ole boy system is keeping jobs, and tourist out of Pensacola. Escambia & Santa Rosa needs people in the government that represents the people instead of themselves!! And thats the Point!!