Marco Island contractor faces charges after replacing boardwalk during sea turtle season

Three employees of a Marco Island marine construction company are facing charges after officers said the men were caught replacing a beach boardwalk on South Seas West condo during sea turtle season, court documents show.

Carlos Rafael Montanez, 30, Juan C. Guevara Carcamo, 38, and Adrian Ramirez, 32, of Imperial Marine Construction were charged with misdemeanors under laws that regulate coastal construction and protect wildlife.

On June 5, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Kyle Plussa responded to a report of sea turtle nest disturbance and construction permit discrepancies at 260 Seaview Court on Marco Island, an agency report shows.

Marco code enforcement officer Ray Lupu informed Plussa he observed workers "actively engaged in construction activity with driving large wooden pilings into the beach sand and pouring a paved sidewalk down to the beach with multiple sea turtle nests nearby."

A photo taken June 5, 2020 shows wooden pilings and other parts of a boardwalk construction on the seaward side of South Seas West condo (towers 1 and 2) on Marco Island.

More:Marco Island condos fined $4K for sea turtle lighting code violations

Photos provided by the city and FWC show wooden pilings and other parts of the boardwalk, dunes and dune vegetation. 

Montanez, who identified himself as the supervisor, said he knew it was nesting season and that he could not be building on the beach, according to the report. He is the manager of Imperial Marine Construction, according to the company's website.

A city construction permit issued April 6 listed as a condition that construction could not take place during sea turtle season, which runs from May 1 through Oct. 31. It expires Oct. 5.

It is unlawful to construct any structure within 100 feet of the nesting zone of a beach where sea turtles nest or may nest during nesting season, according to city code.

A Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit issued March 6 listed as a condition that the construction must "meet all local codes." It expired April 30, just before the beginning of sea turtle season, according to a compliance report from the agency.

Both permits specified the condo association and contractor must use the original pilings or posts and that the boardwalk must retain the same footprint, but the DEP report concluded excavation for new pilings took place without a permit and the project's original permit had expired.

The report also concluded sand and staging materials were placed on dune vegetation and dune vegetation was removed.

Any kind of protection structure, ground alteration or vegetation removal activity seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line or CCCL requires a permit, Alexandra Kuchta, spokeswoman with DEP, wrote Monday in an email. 

A photo shows someone walking on wooden plank next to a boardwalk construction on the seaward side of South Seas West condo (towers 1 and 2) on Marco Island.

"DEP has a number of compliance and enforcement tools available to address potential violations," Kuchta wrote. "Depending on the nature of the violation and circumstances surrounding the event, DEP will determine which measure is best-suited.

"This could include compliance assistance offers for minor violations up to a formal enforcement response that includes penalties and other enforcement mechanisms."

The condo association and the contractor now must wait at least until the end of sea turtle season to restart construction, according to Raul Perez, chief building official with the city.

The city's code enforcement unit issued a notice of violation against Imperial Marine Construction and the South Seas West condo association.

A photo taken June 5, 2020 shows wooden pilings and other parts of a boardwalk construction on the seaward side of South Seas West condo (towers 1 and 2) on Marco Island.

Capt. Dave Baer of the Marco Island Police Department, which oversees the code enforcement unit, wrote Sunday in an email that if the city's magistrate finds violations, the condo association and the contractor may face hundreds if not thousands of dollars in penalties.

Michael Suttner, president of the condo association, referred all inquiries to Christina H. Schwinn, an attorney representing the association. 

Schwinn could not be reached immediately for comment Monday, and Montanez had no comment and did not respond to a text message.

"Educate yourself and follow all applicable city, county, state and or federal laws," Baer wrote was his advice to all property owners, condo associations and contractors who want to build on the beach.

Although the code enforcement magistrate's next scheduled hearing is Aug. 25, it is unlikely that this case will be on her agenda because the association and the contractor requested a continuance, Baer wrote.

Marco Island code enforcement magistrate Myrnabelle Roche issued $2,000 in fines last month against all four towers of the South Seas condos for violating lighting restrictions during sea turtle season. 

Montanez's next court date is Sept. 17, Ramirez's is Aug. 27, and Guevara Carcamo's is Sept. 14.

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