Mangrove violations apparent In DEP inspection

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
January 16, 2015 2:50 pm

Terri Wonder ducked under a black mangrove that hugged Palma Sola Bay in Bradenton. Adjacent red mangroves were cropped, apparently illegally. She pointed out a stump and nearby white mangroves. “No matter how you cut it,” Wonder said, “they did something wrong on this property.”

land5-2.jpgThe wordplay was accidental. An inspection by the Department of Environmental Protection wasn't. A DEP compliance specialist said Friday Palma Sola Bay Club had violated a permit that allowed it to trim mangroves. “Look how close the water is to this road," Wonder said. "Who’s going to pay for the road when it washes out in a tropical storm?”

Palma Sola Bay Club, a condominium development between 75th Street West and Palma Sola Boulevard, received preliminary approval Thursday from Manatee County planners to add six units to an original proposal for 201, plus an observation deck. The County Commission has final say and is expected to review the plan Feb. 5.

Wonder, a former County Commission candidate, joined three dozen protesters who were holding signs at an entrance to the condos on Palma Sola Boulevard. Among the messages: “Don’t Buy A Home From Mangrove Killers” and “PSBC Stop Molesting The Mangroves.”

Palma Sola Bay Development, Inc. received a mangrove permit from the DEP in October. In a letter from the DEP, the developers were allowed to trim “7.26 percent of the mangrove fringe” along 303 feet of shoreline. The area for trimming was 6,032 square feet “to create a windowed view,” according to the letter. The DEP stipulated “strict compliance with the rules of the State of Florida.”

“[Developers] don’t care about fines. That’s just the cost of doing business for them,” Wonder said.

 An attorney for the developers acknowledged a permit and told county planners a licensed trimmer was doing the work. A large patch of invasive Brazilian pepper -- the state's most widespread problem plant, according to the FWC -- was undisturbed.

Jessica Hodal of the DEP was inspecting the site Friday because of a formal complaint. A preliminary report will indicate violations, Hodal said. Hodal referred other questions to Anna Gibbs, an administrator in the DEP’s Southwest Division in Temple Terrace.

The trimming began in December, Wonder said. A long-time Palma Sola Boulevard resident was the first to notice problems, Wonder said.

“[The planning commission] seemed surprised by my allegations,” said Wonder, who spoke at Thursday's planning meeting. “And I mentioned Miss Hodal in my conversation and they just all seemed incredulous.”

Mangroves are uniquely prized habitats in Florida, serving as marine nurseries, rookeries for coastal birds and buffers for property against wind.


Protesters spread their message to passing motorists at an entrance to Palma Sola Bay Club on Palma Sola Boulevard. (Daily Fray photo)

“This morning when we came out there was a flock of white pelicans,” Wonder said. “The mangroves stabilize our shoreline. The mangroves also sustain [the habitat for] a multimillion dollar tourism, commercial fishing and game fishing economy. And eco-tourism is just booming in Manatee County.”

The long-range plan for Palma Sola Bay Club calls for 23 buildings with 207 condos on about 31 acres. Prices start at $300,000, according to its website.

Photo cut: Protesters spread their message to passing motorists at an entrance to Palma Sola Bay Club on Palma Sola Boulevard. (Daily Fray photo)




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