Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Destruction of Clearwater Beach sand dune outrages witnesses

CLEARWATER — The bulldozer swooped in on a Saturday, when the watchful eyes of code enforcement officers weren't around.

Neighbors were, though.

Cameras flashed and video cameras rolled as members of the Clearwater Beach Association witnessed a backhoe scoop up sand from a dune at a beach access in the 700 block of Eldorado Avenue, at Mango Avenue.

The fine grains of sand were then dumped atop sea oats and grass covering another nearby dune.

"It was pretty disheartening," said association president Wendy Hutkin. "All the protective vegetation was destroyed. … Now it doesn't look like a dune. It's a big, heaping mound of sand."

But members hope that there is a silver lining.

The beach association turned over its information about the destruction to Clearwater police, who responded and, after determining the homeowner didn't have a permit for dune excavation work, contacted state officials.

Investigations are under way by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which will determine whether to order fines or file criminal charges against the homeowner or machinery company.

And so, it might come to pass that last Saturday's battle represents the first victory in a years-long war against lawbreakers, who repeatedly destroy sand dunes in violation of state law, and city officials, who association members say don't do enough to keep the protected dune habitats safe.

"We want the city to have a protocol," Hutkin said, "not only internally but so the public can have an awareness and there's less destruction."

Sand dunes help to protect coastal properties from the damaging effects of high tides and storm surge. They also provide sheltered habitat for shorebirds and other creatures. State law protects them from destruction.

Hutkin was among 15 beach association members who attended the Clearwater City Council meeting Thursday to express their outrage over last weekend's bulldozing by a Clearwater Beach property owner.

Speaking on the group's behalf, Hutkin alleged that the same beach residents had also broken the law in 2011, when they brought in a Bobcat and exceeded the scope of a permit they had for some beach excavation. She said nothing happened to them.

"If the property … was cited appropriately in April of 2011," Hutkin wrote in an email ahead of Thursday's meeting to City Manager Bill Horne, "… we would probably not have to now deal with this loss of a full dune."

Police records confirm that the homeowner, Rosemary DeJoy, had a permit for the 2011 work. And this week's Department of Environmental Protection violation report said the agency had issued two permits to DeJoy in the "recent past which authorized minor sand re-location from the area of the patio/seawall to a more seaward location."

While the state said Saturday's "unauthorized" excavation resulted in the removal of 450 to 500 cubic yards of vegetated sand dune without a permit, neither agency indicated that the homeowner's past work resulted in violations.

Attempts Friday to reach DeJoy were unsuccessful.

Saying this represented one of many dune destruction cases that had gone unenforced, Hutkin asked council members for clarification on who has jurisdiction to enforce laws and said she wanted the city to put a protocol in place for future problems.

She told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that the beach association learned during Thursday's council meeting that two prior sea oat destruction cases had been closed satisfactorily. But, she said, the community members who make dozens of calls rarely learn the outcome of cases.

The response this past weekend was the way it should go, Mayor George Cretekos told Hutkin.

"The protocols are there," he said. "The problem is that some of our neighbors, some of your neighbors, don't like rules."

Cretekos said the state has jurisdiction over this issue, since it is state law that protects sand dunes. But he urged residents who see dune destruction "to call the police department right away and take photographs."

Added City Manager Bill Horne: "You can count on us responding to your complaints."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or ksummers@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Destruction of Clearwater Beach sand dune outrages witnesses 01/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 10:47am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. AP: Rick Scott to name Jimmy Patronis CFO on Monday

    Blogs

    From the AP's Gary Fineout:

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is turning to a political ally and former legislator to take over one of the top jobs in state government. 

    Then state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, tour downtown Panama City, Fla. on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. Scott will name Patronis CFO on Monday.
  2. Despite Pride success, Grand Central business owners upset over losing parade

    Events

    The Grand Central District was packed with people Sunday, there to enjoy the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    Patrons eat lunch and cool off inside of the Community Cafe during the St. Pete Pride Street Festival along Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times

  3. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) scores in the eighth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  4. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie

    Blogs

    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  5. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A

    Blogs

    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.