Marco Island councilors want heftier fines against Madeira, others
Several Marco Island city councilors said Friday they want bigger fines against the Madeira condominium association and others who repeatedly break city environmental codes.
The Marco Eagle reported last week that Code Enforcement issued a notice of violation against Madeira after an officer observed a contractor cutting foliage, without a permit, in the dune area of 350 S. Collier Blvd.
That was not the first time this year Madeira got in trouble for violating codes set by the city to protect the environment.
In case you missed it: Madeira cuts dune vegetation without permits (again), MIPD reports
In August, the Eagle reported code enforcement magistrate Myrnabelle Roche issued $1,050 in fines against Madeira and two other contractors for removing dune vegetation and other beach code violations. The fine fell short of the $1,750 figure requested by the city.
In agreement with the city, Roche delayed issuing fines for destroying dunes but ordered Madeira and one of the contractors, RR Restoration, to present a dune restoration plan.
RR Restoration destroyed the dunes in order to stage a large crane to do roof repairs at Madeira, according to Dennis Kariores, operations manager of the company.
At the same hearing, the city also requested a separate $500 fine against Madeira for violating sea turtle lighting restrictions but Roche only issued a $50 fine.
In September, city attorney Joseph Natiello requested Roche to keep Madeira and RR Restoration on a short leash after they failed to deliver the dune restoration plan on time.
At the hearing, Roche issued a $500 fine against Madeira for violating once more the sea turtle lighting restriction ordinance despite the city's request of $3,500.
Roche said at the time she did not grant the city's request because there was no evidence of irreparable harm like the death of turtle hatchlings.
In light of this, city councilor Jared Grifoni said Friday during the City Council meeting that Madeira appears not to care about the law.
“There’s a difference between someone making an unintentional mistake and what I think amounts to […] reckless disregard for the laws which is what we appear to have here,” Grifoni said.
“Maybe we can […] increase the fines for intentional reckless conduct that are much heftier than where we are at right now while still providing just a sliver of leeway for someone who makes a mistake.”
Councilor Charlette Roman said City Council should take into consideration the leeway it gives to the code enforcement magistrate to impose fines.
“Just because the ordinance provides the latitude to give a larger fine does not mean when the evidence is heard in the particular hearing (that the higher fine) is going to be administered for that violation,” Roman said.
“I think we have an opportunity […] to give our city manager and our staff the tools that if there are egregious repeat violators, we can do (what is necessary) to protect our world class beach and our world class environment.”
Councilor Larry Honig said he wants to know if the city can deny permit requests to Madeira and other repeat offenders.
"I realize that’s nasty (and) I don’t like nasty government," Honig said. "I don’t want that but I don’t know what else we can do."
Honig said he is upset about Madeira's violations.
“It’s an insult,” Honig said. “It’s actually a stab in the face.”
Code enforcement magistrate grants third continuance
During a code enforcement hearing Tuesday, Roche granted a third continuance of the Madeira and RR Restoration case involving the destruction of sand dunes.
Madeira's attorney, Caleb Wayne Pringle, requested the continuance as the condo association and the contractor continue to negotiate the last details of the dune restoration plan with the city and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Pringle said they submitted the plan to the city on Oct. 13.
Tonia Selmeski, the city's environmental planner, said the city has not made a final decision about when it will require the respondents to restore the dunes.
"The last details we are trying to address (include) the timing for the restoration plan," Selmeski said. "We are about 90 percent there for supporting the proposed restoration plan."
RR Restoration plans to restart roof repairs at Madeira in April, according to Kariores.