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Rally planned to oppose Satellite Beach hotel-condominium project

'Save the turtles' rally will happen outside Satellite Beach City Hall Wednesday

The Hightower Beach Park oceanfront nature preserve extends along State Road A1A in Satellite Beach. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
The Hightower Beach Park oceanfront nature preserve extends along State Road A1A in Satellite Beach. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – A "Save the Turtles" rally will take place Wednesday outside Satellite Beach City Hall to oppose development of a hotel and condominium buildings up to 85 feet high across State Road A1A from Hightower Beach Park, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

The rally starts at 6 p.m., and the Satellite Beach City Council will meet at 7 p.m. City Hall is located at 565 Cassia Blvd.

During the meeting, council members will vote on a resolution that would amend the city's Pelican Coast Planned Unit Development, opening the door for construction of The Vue at Satellite Beach.

The project would encompass 27 acres across the former Satellite Shores subdivision, at the northwest corner of SR A1A and Shearwater Parkway.

A Tennessee developer wants to build a 222-room hotel and three condominium buildings up to 85 feet high, a gated community of 72 single-family homes, and an elevated pedestrian skyway across SR A1A from the hotel lobby to Hightower Beach Park.

The Vue at Satellite Beach would go across the highway from Satellite Beach's oceanfront wildlife and habitat preservation tract, extending north and south of Hightower Beach Park.

City Manager Courtney Barker said online announcements of Wednesday's rally were prompting calls to City Hall — because confused residents thought the city was building an oceanfront hotel at Hightower Beach Park.

Barker said Wednesday's City Council meeting will be the first meeting livestreamed on the city website at www.satellitebeachfl.org.

In November 1999, city officials secured $3.8 million in Florida Communities Trust state funding to buy 15 of the tract's 18 acres. The land transfer halted a proposal to build 96 oceanfront timeshare condominiums.  

City leaders have touted this tract as the Space Coast's largest contiguous undeveloped oceanfront between the Cape and the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge south of Melbourne Beach.

"It is (the) residents' feeling that the design of this property would be inconsistent with the preserve on the other side of the highway and concern that lighting from the condos/hotel would affect the nesting of the turtles," South Patrick Shores resident Sandra Sullivan, rally co-organizer, wrote in an Oct. 23 email to various state officials. 

"in addition, the high number of visitors to the beach would be detrimental to the turtles and their preservation," Sullivan wrote.

In various Facebook groups and posts, Sullivan has posted downloadable copies of the city's 1999 grant award agreement with Florida Communities Trust.

Page 9 of the agreement states: "Adjacent development activities shall be monitored through the development review and approval process to ensure that such activities do not negatively effect the resources on the Project Site. Vegetated buffers and height limitations shall be implemented as necessary to ensure that resources and planned outdoor recreation activities on the project site are sufficiently protected from the adverse impacts of adjacent land uses."

Rita Ventry, a Florida Communities Trust planner, emailed Satellite Beach Recreation Director Cassie Warthen on Monday morning. Ventry wrote that her agency funded the acquisition of the site, in part, to protect sea turtles and their habitat. 

"Please work with FWC and the concerned citizens to work through this issue. You can contact FWC to make sure the protection of the Sea Turtles are being met if this development continues in the future. Hopefully, the city can come to a resolution which will protect the Sea Turtles and work with any concerned citizens group," Ventry wrote to Warthen.

Barker emailed Ventry a reply on Monday afternoon:

"This development is on private property across the street from SR A1A, not on the preservation site. The private property is a redevelopment site, with former base housing units already been demolished," Barker wrote.

"All laws and regulations regarding sea turtle nesting will continue to be strictly enforced, as the City has done in the past. The preservation area is not being impacted," she wrote.

The developer, Woodshire-Brevard, LLC of Memphis, Tennessee, hopes to start site work in September, agenda materials show. The target timeline shows construction starting on the hotel, single-family homes and first condominium building in January 2021.

Regarding the 1999 grant agreement, Barker said the term "adjacent" refers to lands north and south of the preservation area, not across the highway.

Dave Cheney is spokesman for the Indialantic-based Sea Turtle Preservation Society. He said the final numbers are not in, but it appears this was a record nesting season across Florida.

"We'd like to see no development on the beaches — but that, we know, is not going to happen. What we want is to make sure the existing laws are enforced," Cheney said.

"All the cities and the county government in Brevard have lighting ordinances. They have restrictions on what you can and can't do on the beach, especially during nesting season," he said.

"To stop a development, that is outside of the types of actions that we feel are effective. We're more concerned with making sure that the existing laws, regulations and so forth are in place," he said.

Now razed, Satellite Shores was a Patrick Air Force Base housing annex containing 105 homes.

Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.