PHOTOS: Owner looks to resurrect dome home on Cape Romano

Four aerial images of Cape Romano, depicting changes in shoreline from 1940 through 2009. The subject parcel is included as an overlay on the images.

Four aerial images of Cape Romano, depicting changes in shoreline from 1940 through 2009. The subject parcel is included as an overlay on the images.

— A coastal architectural oddity in Collier County could be getting a makeover.

The dome home on Cape Romano, within the boundaries of an aquatic preserve south of Marco Island, has been sliding into the Gulf of Mexico since it was built in 1981 as the sandy shoreline has shifted beneath it.

Now the family that owns the cluster of six igloo-shaped buildings is asking for environmental permits to move the domes further upland and to build a boat dock jutting into the Gulf.

Dome home renovator John Tosto, of Naples, has run up against state permitting hurdles and county code enforcement orders since his family’s trust bought the private retreat in 2005.

Tosto, though, said he refuses to give up on saving the local boaters’ landmark and sometimes party spot.

“It’s just something I wanted from the first time I saw it,” Tosto said. “That was it.”

A Midwestern geologist named Robert Lee built the 2,100-square-foot dome home out of concrete and steel in 1981 after building a model of it in his back yard, Tosto said.

Lee and his wife, Margaret, lived part-time in the dome home on the tip of the isolated barrier island.

Even as a neighboring pyramid-shaped home, also built by Lee, succumbed to time and the elements, the dome home has stubbornly hung on.

The domes even survived a direct hit from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and withstood Tropical Storm Fay in 2008.

Tosto is bracing for a new flurry of concerns about his bid to restore the domes.

For starters, the Collier County code enforcement board issued an order in 2007 that the dome home be demolished because it is unsafe.

Tosto has not complied, saying that the order has been blunted by an engineer’s certification that the dome home is repairable.

A hearing on whether to impose fines — Tosto said they would top more than $250,000 — is tentatively set for Nov. 19.

Even if Tosto gets permits to move the home, the demolition order still stands unless the county code board revokes it, code enforcement director Dianne Flagg said.

The dome home is raising concerns outside the county’s hearing rooms too.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to sign off on the project.

Collier County will have to issue a boat dock extension permit and building permits for the renovation.

An earlier proposal to rebuild the dome home at its existing location was withdrawn in 2007 after DEP reviewers balked.

Now Tosto plans to relocate the domes off state-owned lands and bring them into compliance with county building codes, according to a permit application to the DEP.

The domes will be moved by crane and set atop new concrete or steel pilings more than 50 feet from the high tide line and at least 25 feet away from wetlands behind the site.

Construction materials will be delivered by barge, and work will be timed to avoid sea turtle and shorebird nesting seasons, the permit application says.

Moving the domes will take 60 to 80 days, and building the dock will take less than a month, according to the permit application.

One of the pod platforms will be used as part of the new dock, which will extend a maximum of 75 feet from the beach, construction drawings show.

The dock will accommodate a 40-foot vessel on a lift at the end of the dock, drawings show.

At Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, where the dome home is located, reviewers are putting the final touches on a letter to the DEP pointing out concerns with the new plans, Rookery Bay manager Gary Lytton said.

Topping the list is whether it is a good idea to allow structures to be built along a constantly changing shoreline, Lytton said.

“It can create long-term challenges and problems,” he said.

Other concerns include whether the dock will interfere with public use of public lands and how it will effect protected sea turtles and shorebirds that nest along the beach, Lytton said.

Rookery Bay’s concerns will have to be addressed, the project environmental consultant Tim Hall said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to minimize impacts,” he said.

The project also will be among the first to navigate rules that call for protecting critical habitat for the endangered smalltooth sawfish.

Tosto said he would understand the concerns if he was trying to build the dome home from scratch; as it is, he considers the project a remodel.

“I believe it’s my constitutional right to do that,” Tosto said.

Tosto has offered space for Rookery Bay to store research and monitoring supplies at the new dome home, he said.

“I’m not trying to be a rebel here,” he said. “I’m willing to share.

“A lot of people use that property down there. I’m only going to make it better.”

Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

marcoislander writes:

nobody needs the hassle code enforcement brings these people who are suppose to help are just grown up bullies
good luck to your endeavor

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