Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Some disappointed with punishments for Clearwater Beach dune destruction

CLEARWATER — A homeowner and a contractor who illegally bulldozed sand dunes earlier this year on Clearwater Beach have completed the punishments meted out by various environmental regulators.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will follow up in December on the survival rate of sea oats homeowner Rosemary DeJoy replanted behind her home at 780 El Dorado Ave. as part of an agency-ordered restoration plan. She also paid a $1,000 fine.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had charged contractor John Woodhull, owner of Nice Services Inc. in Safety Harbor, with failing to obtain a permit to modify a dune, a misdemeanor. Court records show he pleaded no contest and paid $450 in fines and court costs.

A Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board investigator said that agency also fined Woodhull $300 for violating his contracting license. In addition, Woodhull received a warning letter from the DEP.

However, the sanctions don't satisfy at least one member of the Clearwater Beach Association, which has pleaded for years with developers and Clearwater Beach residents to protect the dunes that buffer coastal properties from high tide and storm surge damage.

Dunes also provide sheltered habitat for shorebirds and other creatures. State law protects them from destruction.

Association members who captured DeJoy's Jan. 12 violation with pictures and video turned the evidence over to police, just as city officials have advised.

President Wendy Hutkin fears the "lenient" punishments will do little to deter other potential offenders. "Why wouldn't anybody just go do it?" she said.

According to state investigative documents, DeJoy said she was in the process of getting a permit when her ex-husband hired Woodhull to flatten dunes that blow sand onto her patio and attract snakes and rodents.

Woodhull told investigators he was led to believe permits had already been obtained, but he accepted responsibility for failing to check.

The citations for both could have resulted in fines of up to $10,000 or, for Woodhull, a license suspension.

Clearwater environmental manager Ed Chesney said DeJoy's case is the only one the city has encountered since officials in spring 2011 sent certified letters to beach residents reminding them of the rules. Violations had centered mainly in the 700 and 800 blocks of El Dorado Avenue, and occasionally north of that, he said.

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

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