Defining the Line – Town Issues Tear Down Order

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Wondering what’s happening with the two buildings under construction along the beach near Junkanoo’s? The construction site has sat silent for over two months. While the owners maintain there is some confusion or, at the least, some lack of clarity, on the exact location of the 1978 Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL) in the area south of Junkanoo’s, the Town of Fort Myers Beach is sure of where the line is. Sure enough to issue a tear-down order last month for the building closest to the water at 3056 Estero Boulevard. They believe one of those buildings, owned by Persaud Properties and represented by Joe Orlandini, is over the line.

The CCCL is an important fact of life for beachfront property owners. The line, established by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and used by counties and municipalities, is designed to protect beaches and dunes while allowing use of private property along the beach. The CCCL creates an area that triggers special site and design criteria for construction and the involvement of the DEP in the approval of that construction design and placement. The 1991 line is further from the water than the 1978 line. Any construction seaward of the 1991 line requires DEP approval. The Town of Fort Myers Beach Land Development Code prohibits major structures seaward of the 1978 CCCL (LDC Sec. 6-366).

A letter issued by “Robert Stewart, Building Official, Town of Fort Myers Beach” on June 3, 2016 revoked the building permit and stated the structure must be removed by September 1, 2016 or obtain a new permit by October 1st, if “consistent with current Town regulations.”

When asked this week why a county employee (Stewart) would sign an order issued by the Town, Director of Community Development Kara Stewart (who is married to Robert Stewart) explained that he is considered a Town Building Official due to an Interlocal Agreement the Town has with the County. That agreement provides for the county to do plan review and inspection and act as Town building official.

A building permit was issued by the Town on August 26, 2015. In May, after a complaint from a neighboring property owner that the new building was 8 feet too far seaward, the Town Community Development Department questioned the accuracy of the survey submitted with the permit application.

Over the past three months the property owners, surveyors, DEP, Town and County planners along with Town development officials have wrestled with the question of whether it is or is not over that line and how to define that line.

When the Town questioned the line placement, Orlandini’s surveyor, Phillip Mould of Harris-Jorgenson contacted Tim Besse, Engineering Specialist with the DEP seeing clarification, as there were conflicting survey reports on where the CCCL line was. Besse’s response on May 3rd found that the CCCL on the Mould survey was the accurate one and showed that the line was 8’ further seaward than previously thought.

The Town disagreed and on May 12, 2016, Kara Stewart issued a stop work order for the seaward property.

Defining the Line, town issues teardown order
Aerial view of island showing the 1991 and 1978 CCCL. Photo courtesy of the Lee County Property Appraiser’s Office.

She told us this week that the legal description determines where the line is and that description is recorded with Lee County.

“If that line is disregarded for this one property, it will shift the line for other properties.”

Orlandini summarized the conflict as one based on different methods surveyors use to locate the line.

“Our surveyor used the DEP line because it had the clearest record of the line. The one the town is referring to (Lee County’s) is less clear and doesn’t take into account the DEP’s move to the use of GPS coordinates,” he said. “And no one has been able to produce a copy of a critical piece of the County description of the line.”

Orlandini estimates that there is over $1 million invested in the building to date including material, labor and permits, not including carrying costs and loss of revenue due to not being able to finish and sell the buildings.

“The pilings for that property were really complex due to the need for hurricane resistance and the ability to handle the load put on the beams.”

Meanwhile the construction site is quiet.

All parties are planning to sit down together next Tuesday with their lawyers to discuss the property’s status, according to Kara Stewart.

 

Missy Layfield