NAPLES — A North Naples neighborhood's push for more formal navigational markers in Clam Bay could be up to a judge now that the neighborhood has lost a round with a state agency.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has dismissed 44 mostly identical petitions that Seagate residents filed to try to stop what they say is an inadequate canoe trail marker plan pushed by their neighbors in Pelican Bay, DEP spokesman Terry Cerullo said.
The orders give residents 15 days to submit new petitions, but Seagate Property Owners Association President Ernie Wu said the group's attempt to trigger an administrative challenge might have run its course.
"We're still analyzing what we can do," Wu said.
In a series of orders dismissing each petition, starting last week, DEP attorneys said the petitions don't have enough information for the agency to determine if a hearing should be held on whether the canoe trail plan should go forward.
For example, the petitions don't cite any disputed facts or specifics about how the marker plan would harm each petitioner's "environmental interests," the orders say.
The petitions were part of a two-pronged legal attack launched in November on the marker plan that Collier commissioners approved this summer.
The Seagate Property Owners Association also filed a lawsuit in Collier Circuit Court asking a judge to force the county to put up more formal navigational markers.
Seagate interprets a 1998 mangrove restoration permit to require the familiar red-and-green markers, but Pelican Bay says that isn't what is meant by the permit nor by a related management plan for Clam Bay.
The Pelican Bay Services Division board, an arm of county government, voted in a special meeting earlier this month to adopt a resolution that amends the 1998 plan in an attempt to blunt the Seagate lawsuit.
"I would characterize it as the community's desire to clarify the county's intent (for markers in the 1998 plan)," Pelican Bay Services Division Administrator Neil Dorrill said.
The resolution also asks the Pelican Bay Foundation, the neighborhood's master homeowners association, to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of the county.
Collier County commissioners could vote on the resolution as early as their Jan. 10 meeting.
County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow said this week that he's given the resolution only a cursory review and wants to "hear what they (Pelican Bay leaders) have to say about it."
"It's just a resolution," Klatzkow said. "Whether it does anything or not, I don't know."
The seven-page resolution rewrites the sentence in the 1998 plan that Seagate's lawsuit contends requires the red-and-green markers. Instead, the new sentence calls for the county to install the canoe trail markers.
Pelican Bay contends that the 1998 plan has been "amended in fact" because a county working group, county commissioners and state and federal agencies have signed off on the canoe trail markers.
"We're well beyond red and green navigational markers," Pelican Bay Foundation Secretary Steve Feldhaus said.
The rewrite, coming after Seagate's lawsuit, seems disingenuous, Seagate leader Wu said.
"From a sincerity standpoint, it seems to be kind of a desperation attempt," Wu said.