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County, state declare the Redington Long Pier a safety hazard

Bill DeYoung

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The Redington Long Pier, photographed Dec. 27, 2019. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

What’s to become of the Redington Long Pier? The big winds and pounding waves of Dec. 21 buckled several of its thick round knees and twisted sections of decking to peculiar angles; Redington Shores residents afterwards reported picking pieces of broken planks out of the surf.

Extending 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, the recreational landmark was one of a half dozen wooden fishing piers built by developer Charles Redington in 1962. It is, in fact, the last one still standing.

And it’s barely standing at all.

“Two sections are caving,” admits Tony Antonius, who’s owned the pier since 1999. “And the one near the end is completely separated. You can’t even cross it any more.”

Assistant County Attorney Brendan Mackesey told the Pinellas County Historical Commission in November that the county and the state were “preparing to sue” Antonius over his “failure” to maintain the long-legged 56-year-old structure, which he voluntarily closed to the public last September.

According to a county staff report, “The pier has continued to fall into a state of disrepair such as to become a hazard to public safety for those who may be recreating below it.”

The Town of Redington Shores has made no secret about its desire to be rid of the historic pier, which is technically situated on state-owned land. Antonius’ parking lot, however, is on Gulf Boulevard, which is zoned by the city.

In 2007, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection deemed the Redington Long Pier unsafe, and ordered it closed until repairs – or other, more permanent arrangements – were made. It was renovated, but the wind and weather beatings it took over the next decade were more than Antonius could handle.

Hurricane Irma dealt the death blow in September, and Antonius voluntarily closed everything over water – everything due west of the bait shop – to the public. And he put it all, pier and parking lot, on the market for $6.5 million.

Tony Antonius

So far, he’s had no offers. Antonius contends that the town refuses to re-zone his parking lot from recreational to residential usage. No one, he says, has told him why. “Developers can then put a hotel or condos on the site, once we have the zoning change,” he says. “So we don’t need money from the government. We just want them to cooperate.” This hypothetical developer, the theory goes, could then make the decision to refurbish or demolish the adjacent pier.

He has not, he maintains, been sued. Everyone seems to be in a staring contest.

“I don’t mind if it’s torn down,” Antonius says. “If I get the money to tear it down, that’s the same money to fix it. You need a half million dollars either way. But the state’s going to tear it down, not [local government]. They don’t have any authority over it. We have a good relationship with the state; they know the city doesn’t cooperate with anybody.

“So if the city doesn’t ease on the zoning, and somebody doesn’t come and fix the pier now, it’s never going to be fixed. And we’re going to lose that pier forever.”

The state, he says, “has limited patience. They’re going to come and tear it down themselves, and put a lien on the property. They’re aware that I don’t have the financial capability to do anything.

“I don’t have the money to tear it down. How can you sue me if I haven’t got the money to tear it down? If I had a half million dollars I would fix it, not tear it down.”

A call to Assistant County Attorney Brendan Mackesey was not immediately returned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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