Commissioners say ‘no’ to new beach pier

holmes beach manatee pier man
A man stands on the old Manatee Beach Pier viewing the waves, circa 2005. The pier was torn down in 2009 due to safety concerns. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – It didn’t take commissioners long to decide that a 15-foot tall pier isn’t something they want to see on the beach.

Commissioner Judy Titsworth presented two options given to Mayor Bob Johnson by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners. One option was for a 300-foot long pier with a small T-shaped end which would be in about the same footprint as the pier that was torn down in late 2009. One major change – the pier would have to be elevated 15 feet above the North American Vertical Datum line to meet new Florida Department of Environmental Protection standards.

holmes beach manatee pier short
An architectural drawing shows how a new pier would look at around the same size as the old one. This mock-up shows the pier at 300 feet long with a small T-shaped end. – Submitted | Sun
Holmes Beach Manatee pier long
This architectural drawing shows a new pier at 600 feet long, twice the length of the previous one. – Submitted | Sun

The letter from county commissioners said because of the height requirement, a shorter pier would look like “an upward elevated ramp.” The pier would be about eight feet taller than the previous structure. A 2013 cost estimate submitted to commissioners from the county puts construction at around $1,443,330.

A second option is a 600-foot long pier that would cost $2,432,120 to build according to the 2013 numbers. The letter noted that since work would have to be done by heavy machinery in the Gulf of Mexico, commissioners should expect those estimates to significantly rise if new construction bids are sought.

Titsworth said she hasn’t had any requests from residents to reconstruct a pier on the public beach, also commenting that she thinks the new pier designs are unattractive.

Commissioner Carol Soustek agreed, saying the cost is just too high for taxpayers with the county asking for a match from the city to cover construction costs.

“I’m totally against it,” Commissioner Rick Hurst said.

Holmes Beach Manatee pier underside
An underside shot of the old pier shows how close it was to the water. If constructed, a new pier would need to be 15 feet above the waterline to meet current standards. – Kristin Swain | Sun

The old pier was located on the sand extending to the Gulf in front of the concession area at the Manatee Public Beach. The concrete structure had metal guard rails placed on it late in its life to prevent people from jumping off the structure. It was deemed structurally unsafe and closed to the public in February 2009. Demolition of the pier took place later that same year, surpassing estimates of $670,000 and costing $1,441,130 to complete.

Soustek said with no way to get the old pier back, there’s no reason to build a higher structure on the beach.

“This is a want, not a need,” City Engineer Lynn Burnett said. “We’re at a critical point with monies that need to be spent on infrastructure.”

Commissioner Jim Kihm suggested if Manatee County Commissioners have funds they want to spend on a pier they should visit Anna Maria. “They have a pier that needs rebuilding,” he said.