City wants Madeira, contractor on 'short leash' after dune removal

The city of Marco Island wants to keep the Madeira condominium association and RR Restoration on a "short leash" after they did not deliver a dune restoration plan.

Attorney Joseph Natiello, representing the city, said Tuesday during the Code Enforcement Magistrate hearing that he did not object to a continuance of the case but the defendants must provide significant progress before the next hearing.

"The city has no objection to the defense's continuance but we we would like see this  be kept on a very short leash," Natiello said. "We would like that before the next hearing there to be a status conference with the defense to show significant progress in obtaining at the very least a temporary plan to restore the area."

One of the city's main concerns is that the dune removal will cause continued erosion in the area, according to Natiello.

Marco Island Code Enforcement magistrate Myrnabelle Roche said Tuesday she was concerned about Madeira's slow progress with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. "My concern is that this is exactly what I heard last time," Roche said.

More:Madeira, contractors fined $1,050 for beach code violations in Marco Island, more to come

The Eagle reported on Aug. 30 that special magistrate Myrnabelle Roche issued a $1,050 in fines against Madeira, RR Restoration and another contractor for removing dune vegetation without a landscape certification and for parking vehicles in the beach without a permit. RR Restoration did this in order to stage a large crane to do roof repairs in Madeira, according to Dennis Kariores, operations manager of RR Restoration.

At the time, in agreement with the city, Roche delayed issuing fines for removing dunes without a permit until the next hearing. Roche also ordered RR Restoration to present a dune restoration plan to the city.

Madeira and RR Restoration never sent the plan to the city, according to Tonia Selmeski, environmental planner for the city. 

"Since the last magistrate meeting we have received nothing from the contractor or Madeira for the plan," Selmeski said. "I've asked on several occasions to see the restoration plan or the proposed draft and we have received nothing."

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.

Caleb Pringle, an attorney representing Madeira, said Tuesday the association proposed a restoration plan to Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  

"We have a proposed plan that has been discussed with DEP," Pringle said. "We are still submitting the formal, final plan to DEP."

Roche said she was concerned with Pringle's statements. 

"My concern is that this is exactly what I heard last time," Roche said. "It seems there has not been any progress done between last time and today."

Pringle, who said he was hired last week by Madeira, then pointed the finger at DEP.

"Unfortunately we are working as fast as we can with DEP and they do not always move as quickly as I would like them to," Pringle said.

Pringle declined to comment to the Eagle.

At Madeira's request, Roche granted Tuesday a second continuance but with more conditions.

"I'm going to grant the continuance to the next hearing," Roche said. "However, I am going to require evidence provided to the city within 20 days that those plans have been submitted to DEP with a copy of the submission [...] sent to the city."  

The submission to DEP must include a request for a temporary fix if possible, according to Roche.

On August 16, DEP issued a Request for Additional Information (RAI) as a result of an incomplete permit application submitted by RR Restoration, according to Alexandra Kuchta, operations analyst at DEP.

Caleb W. Pringle (left), attorney of the Madeira condo association, speaks to the Marco Island code enforcement magistrate on Sept. 24, 2019. Dennis Kariores (right), operations manager of RR Restoration of Georgia, stands next to Pringle.

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"As stated previously, to date, the department has not received a response to the RAI," Kuchta wrote in an email to the Eagle. "A response is due to the department by October 15." 

The RAI requires RR Restoration to submit a detailed restoration plan, according to Kuchta. 

"Once the restoration plan is received and approved, it will be attached to the consent order," Kuchta wrote. "The consent order will stipulate corrective actions, including civil penalties."  

"DEP will not issue any permit without resolution of the outstanding violations, which will be accomplished through execution of a consent order," Kuchta wrote.

The Eagle reported in Aug. 13 DEP ordered RR Restoration and the association to continue ceasing all roof construction activities until proper construction permits are obtained. 

In case you missed it:DEP halts Madeira roof construction after environmental destruction

Kariores said at the time the code violations were his fault.

"What happened on the beach was totally my fault," Kariores said. "I take full responsibility."

Kariores told the Eagle in July that he had "no idea" about the reported code violations.

"We didn't tell anybody or authorize anybody to remove that vegetation," Kariores said then. "That's not our equipment there."

RR Restoration plans to restart roof repairs in Madeira on April of 2020, according to Kariores.

The next Code Enforcement Magistrate hearing is scheduled at 10:30 a.m., Oct. 29 in City Hall's community room.

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