DEP sends warning letters to Madeira, contractor after removal of native dune vegetation

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent two warning letters Monday to the Madeira on Marco Island condominium association and a contractor, RR Restoration, after a department inspection observed several code and law violations.

DEP personnel noted during a July 2 inspection the removal of native dune vegetation, use of heavy equipment, damaging the existing dune, and the unauthorized addition of shell fill material as a road base. 

WARNING LETTER - RR Restoration by Omar Rodriguez Ortiz on Scribd

The warning letters require both parties to schedule a meeting with DEP within 10 days to provide the additional information necessary for the department to complete its regulatory review.

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The Madeira on Marco Island Condominium is located on 350 S Collier Blvd, next to the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

"Our state’s beaches are among its most valuable natural resources and DEP is committed to their protection," Alexandra Kuchta, operations analyst at DEP, said in an email to the Eagle. "We take this violation seriously and the Department intends to pursue formal enforcement in this matter in the form of a consent order."

"Restoration of the dune and beach will be required, as well as civil penalties," Kuchta said.

On July 1, the City of Marco Island contacted DEP to report construction activities on the seaward side of Madeira and issued a notice of violation and a stop work order for code violations, according to Kuchta. This means that the contractor has to stop all non-permitted work directly associated with the violations, according to Captain David Baer of the Marco Island Police Department. 

A Community Affairs Department report submitted to Marco Island City Council said Code Enforcement notified city staff of the violations at Madeira. The report, dated July 15, said two large areas of vegetation were removed on the beach-side of the condominium, along with use and parking of heavy equipment and work trucks on the beach.

In July, Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent warning letters to the Madeira condominium association and RR Restoration after a department inspection observed damage to dunes, removal of dune vegetation and use of heavy machinery in the area. In the picture, a pile of the removed vegetation was visible on the seaward side of Madeira on July 22, 2019.

"There is a pending building permit on file for re-roofing of the Madeira but no vegetation trimming/removal permit, vehicles on the beach, or staging lot permits have been filed or issued for this work," the report said. The report also confirms the contractor was issued a notice of violation and a stop work advisory.

The operations manager of RR Restoration, Dennis Kariores, said last week in a phone call with the Eagle he had "no idea" about the reported code violations. "We didn't tell anybody or authorize anybody to remove that vegetation," Kariores said at the time. "That's not our equipment there."

On Tuesday, Kariores refused to make further statements to the Eagle and said Madeira Condominium representatives will be the ones talking to the press. On Monday, one day before, the Eagle went to Madeira in an attempt to get an interview with its representatives. At the gate of the condominium, the Eagle reporter identified himself as a journalist and asked to speak to a Madeira representative about the reported code violations. After making a phone call, the security guard at the gate said he was told that RR Restoration would be the ones making statements to the press. "R and R will be responding," the security guard said.

The Director of Community Affairs of the city, Daniel J. Smith, said last week that a man identifying himself as Dennis Kariores met with him at City Hall a few days after the code violations were first reported. Smith could not recall the specific date. "He took full responsibility about what happened," Smith said in a phone call last week. 

On July 5, four days after the code violation was first reported, the Community Affairs Department received an application for a vegetation removal permit, according to a document provided by the city's Building Department. Permit number VEGR-19-04726 identifies the contractor as "RR Restoration LLC" with the address 1856 Tyler Rd, Metter, Georgia. It is the same address provided in the company's website.

The reason for removing the native vegetation, according to the permit application, is to make roof repairs and to stage a large crane in the area. As of Monday, the permit was under review. "Dennis (Kariores) is on the after-the-fact (permit) application," said Raul Perez, an official with the Building Department. "Whether he was involved initially, I don't know, but based on the application it certainly appears that he is involved at this point in time," Perez said.

Depending on the violation, sanctions could include fines, potential incarceration and licensing jeopardy," Captain Baer said last week in an email to the Eagle. "The sanctions come from local, county, and state levels."

"A similar case in the past resulted in over $10,000 in fines for both the property owner and contractor involved," Baer said.

Before the code violations were reported, the city of Marco Island received at least six reroof permit applications for Madeira Condominiums, according to documents provided by the Building Department. Of these, the first permit application, with the permit number ROOF-19-04151, was received on June 14 and issued on June 20. The contractor listed on this and all other reroof permit applications is West Coast Florida Enterprises.

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