Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Building Homes on 'Land' That Isn't?

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Building Homes on 'Land' That Isn't?

Article excerpt

Ask anyone who lives around Englewood, and they'll tell you the idea is crazy.

About 200 of them have written to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, protesting Lemon Bay Cove LLC's plan to tear out mangroves and fill in two acres of Lemon Bay to build 12 houses.

This 5.6-acre property -- of which about three acres are underwater, and the rest barely above it -- sits between the Swepston Bridge and the Sandpiper Condominiums on Sandpiper Key. The land abuts Beach Road, the sole entry and exit at the south end of Manasota Key in Charlotte County.

The whole world is in a cycle of rising temperature and sea level. Authorities worry over what to do with structures and populations already crowding the water's edge. Yet here comes a plan to build homes on "land" that's already underwater.

It defies logic, especially when we see the great pains the state takes to ensure that no new buildings arise westward of the coastal construction line established by law and common sense along the Gulf of Mexico.

These types of real estate schemes do little but generate consternation, but just as you can sue anyone for anything, you also can apply for permits to do anything. Then government regulators have to spend their time and our money giving them attention they don't deserve.

In October, the Corps of Engineers responded with a nine-page letter, which at least seems to say all the right things. Fort Myers section chief Tunis McElwain acknowledged the flood of public comments and noted that the LLC did not show why it could not build homes elsewhere, in an area that would not harm the aquatic ecosystem. There is certainly no shortage of home-buildable land in Southwest Florida.

The corps also addresses 17 elements that it calls "public interest factors." Among them:

Conservation. The site may appear to be no more than a tangle of vegetation ripe to be cleared and filled, but it's actually a mature forested mangrove wetland system, highly valued for shore stabilization and the filtering of pollutants.

Economics. The mangroves and the adjacent sea grasses provide the foundation for sport and commercial fishing as well as ecotourism. "Approximately 75 percent of recreational and sport fisheries species and 90 percent of commercial fisheries species in south Florida are dependent on the mangrove wetland system during a portion of their lifecycle," the letter stated. …

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