Concern grows over $1.03M bathhouse in front of Portofino Island Resort

(Photo: WEAR)

A proposed public beach entry point and bathhouse is raising some concern on Pensacola Beach. Not only because of its staggering price tag, but also its location.

The bathhouse would be built just in front of tower three at the Portofino Island Resort. With no public parking in the area, many are wondering who would really be benefiting from the building.

The answer for Robert Miller is simple.

"Obviously it's a private bathroom for Portofino under the guise of taking public money to purchase it," said Miller.

A Portofino resident, Miller says the bathhouse is unnecessary, will block views and most importantly, it's a misuse of funds.

The price tag is estimated at $1.03 million. Portofino developer, Robert Rinke is putting in about $280,000 and the remaining balance of about $750,000 would come from Santa Rosa Island Authority's 'Island Improvement Fund'. A fund generated by lease fees from Portofino residents. For the first $6 million pumped into that fund each year, Rinke gets a say on how it is spent.

"It was supposed to be spent on underground utilities, landscaping, reclaimed water and maintain capital improvements for the operation," said Miller. "Nothing about bathrooms."

Rinke told me over the phone, that is not the case. The funding can be spent on pretty much anything improvement-related, as long as it's on the Via De Luna end of the beach and it's approved by the Santa Rosa Island Authority.

Commissioner Grover Robinson serves the district the bathhouse would be built in.

"These are the things that the Island Authority and people should have been thinking about in 2002 when they made an agreement that gave Portofino essentially $6 million to direct public spending on," said Robinson.

The proposal has not yet been taken up with the Escambia Board of County Commissioners, but Robinson says if it moves forward, the county will have to comply.

"Our hands are somewhat tied by the agreements that were made previously," said Robinson. "We have to live within the rules of those agreements."

What they don't have to do though, Robinson says, is add additional funding and they will mandate the building be public.

Rinke told Channel 3 News he is now waiting for condo owners to respond to a survey sent out to gauge interest in the bathhouse. At last count, he says about 180 out of 700+ owners are in favor.

Miller, clearly is not one of them.

"So far, I have at least 65 people that have signed a petition to stop the bathroom," said Miller. "This gatehouse to Portofino, as he calls it."

If the vast majority of owners are not in favor of this bathhouse, Rinke told me he will scrap the project.

We reached out to the Santa Rosa Island Authority for their response, we have not heard back.

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