The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was to hold an Administrative Hearing in Town Hall beginning on Monday, June 12, to settle an action between the Town of Fort Myers Beach and two Estero Island homeowners about building a beach boardwalk over the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area (CWA), but the applicants requested and received a continuance.
Texas Holdem, LLC, from Texas and Squeeze Me Inn, LLC, from Indiana asked for DEP approval for boardwalks. The Town learned of this in September 2016 and authorized action to halt it, as it classifies the region as environmentally sensitive and protected under the Town Comprehensive Plan and Environmentally Critical Zoning District for coastal habitat. The Florida Audubon Society soon joined the Town lawsuit.
“The applicants asked for the continuance,” explains Martha Collins of The Collins Law Group from Sarasota, who represents the Town and Audubon Society. “They realized they did not have the necessary DEP permits, especially pertaining to the Coastal Construction Control Line, and are trying to get those. This delay now gives the DEP a chance to do the right thing, as it has a new Secretary who just began last week. We hope they protect the CWA, protect Fort Myers Beach and deny these permits.”
The Little Estero Island CWA is a 50-acre beach habitat established in 1992 that features an array of shorebirds unlike any other place on earth. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) established CWAs to protect wildlife from human disturbance, as millions of shorebirds make their way to the Florida coastline and remain here throughout the Winter, as barrier islands afford protection from predators and the elements. Town regulations prevent building permanent structures like boardwalks inside the CWA; for more information on CWAs, visit MyFWC.com.