Sunday, January 16, 2022

Dune Vegetation Removed Illegally at Madeira’s Beachfront

Bulldozer is parked alongside a tall pile of vegetation. | Photos by Maria Lamb

Per a report to the Marco Island City Council by Community Affairs Director Dan Smith, on July 1, 2019, Marco Island Code Enforcement was notified of a code violation at the Madeira Condominiums, which stated, “two large areas of vegetation were removed on the beachside of the condominium, along with use and parking of heavy equipment and work trucks on the beach. 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 contractor was issued a Notice of Violation and Stop Work Advisory. The contractor has since met with City staff and has been directed to submit the required permit applications. Florida Department of Environmental Protection has also been notified.”

The vegetation was removed in broad daylight while community service officers patrolled the beach past the Madeira Condominiums. One concerned citizen asked, “How can a massive clearing of beach vegetation happen without the staff or beach patrol, code enforcement or police noticing anything? Did they notice but didn’t think to investigate?” Following discussion at the City Council meeting on July 15th, council directed City Manager Michael McNees to investigate.

This violation was an exact replica of the incident of illegal vegetation removal by Royal Seafarer – immediately next door to the Madeira Condominiums. According to Marco Island Police Captain Dave Baer, on January 23, 2018, when he testified before the City Magistrate, he stated that, “in his 19 years with the City, this is the most egregious violation [he has seen] impacting the dunes and vegetation.”

Records show that in the case of the Royal Seafarer, had the landscape contractor gone before the City for a permit to remove dune vegetation, this massive damage could all have been prevented.

The violation of Section 30 states that “each protected living, woody plant constituted a protected vegetation and removal shall constitute a separate and distinct violation.” For both the Madeira and Royal Seafarer, it would be literally impossible to count the number of protected vegetation removed, unless you’ve had an inventory or photos on file.

Unfortunately, the fines imposed in these cases are often insignificant and do little to deter further destruction.

In the case of the Madeira’s illegal bulldozing of dune vegetation, this happened during sea turtle season and during hurricane season. Sand dunes protect inland areas from tides, winds, swells, surges and must be protected as precious coastal natural resources. A healthy dune is a natural control against coastal erosion.

Following publication of this article, the below correspondence was received from Police Captain David S. Baer of the Marco Island Police Department:

I am concerned the story published regarding the incident at 350 S. Collier leaves the reader with the wrong impression.  It was in fact a Community Service Officer who was on Beach Patrol who observed the improper activities – this occurred at 11:50am on July 1st.  The article leads the reader to believe code enforcement was notified of the violation by an unnamed third party – although I acknowledge that impression was regrettably made by a statement in a City Community Affairs Report.   I believe the article should be updated so your readers and the citizens understand the true sequence of events.  This investigation is ongoing and we are working with other local, county and state agencies to address the violations which have occurred, as well as preventing future similar incidents.

2 responses to “Dune Vegetation Removed Illegally at Madeira’s Beachfront”

  1. Patrick A. Thawley says:

    The comment in the article that ” the fines imposed in these cases are often insignificant and do little to deter further destruction” is both damaging to reputations and implies a careless disregard of our fragile and protected eco environment. As a former Board member and current owner at the Royal Seafarer, I can assure you that, although significant mistakes were made, we are horrified and deeply regret the destruction done by our contractor. You can be sure that the lesson learned was a hard one and the mistake will never again be repeated!

  2. Andrew Tyler says:

    I’m glad to see you are reporting on this. It raises the question of what is an ‘appropriate penalty’ for this type of egregious behavior? Fines in the hundreds of dollars are pathetic when the underlying contracts are priced in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
    How about :penalties shall be not less than the value of the contract and not to exceed ten times the value of the contract”? Similar fines for the contractor and the originator of the contract should also be considered. At least then fly boy contractors and those, like this condominium, who contract with them would have pause for thought before such flagrant violations occur.

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