HERNANDO BEACH — As a Hernando Beach marina owner seeks to expand his business, he also faces building and code violations and warnings, as well as unpaid tax bills and other financial red flags.
Gordon Wolf, the owner of Blue Pelican Marina, is slated to ask Hernando County commissioners today for their blessing on marina improvements, as well as zoning approval for an environmental education center and lodge, a hearing expected to draw strong opposition from coastal residents.
That plan, however, was up in the air after the delivery of a letter to the county late Monday from attorney Joe Mason, who represents Wolf. Mason is asking for a continuance until May 27.
The education center is a project that has been pitched as a public/private partnership. The county would buy the land and build and operate the center adjacent to the marina. The county has a $4 million state appropriation for the project, if the governor approves.
With recent developments, one opponent has asked commissioners to carefully evaluate the rezoning.
"Does the county really feel that it is prudent to enter into a multimillion-dollar public/private quasi partnership with this business?'' Hernando Beach resident Forrest Bennett asked in an email to commissioners.
Bennett noted that the marina's forklift had been repossessed recently, that the company faces multiple code violations and that it had not paid its $850.83 tangible tax bill, as advertised in a legal notice late last week.
County code and building officials have issued two notices of violation to the marina for erecting a deck area without a permit and for remodeling of an office, including plumbing and electrical work, without a permit. In addition, the county has ordered the business to remove about 20 board trailers from an agriculturally zoned parcel within 10 days and compelled the business to get a permit for a rebuilt dock.
In addition to the unpaid tangible taxes, on Monday county Tax Collector Sally Daniel's office confirmed that the Blue Pelican has not paid $19,625.82 of its 2013 property tax bill, which was due March 31.
Ron Wolf, the owner's brother, said none of the issues facing the marina are consequential. The marina lost the only forklift it had because Gordon Wolf and the owner couldn't reach an agreeable price, Ron Wolf said.
The lack of a forklift meant some boat owners couldn't get their boats down from the barn over the weekend, so instead they got loaner boats, Wolf said. The marina's other forklift was put out of service last year after a tragic accident in which the lift, which Gordon Wolf was driving, severed a man's legs.
A new lift has been ordered.
The repossession "was all blown out of proportion,'' Ron Wolf said.
He called the code violations "nit-picking'' and said there were "some gray areas'' in what required and what didn't require a permit. He said he didn't think the dock repairs required a permit.
As for the unpaid taxes, Wolf said, "We pay the taxes when we pay them. All businesses do that.''
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The owner of Blue Pelican Marina, 5000 Calienta St., Hernando Beach, owes Hernando County $19,625.82 in back property taxes from 2013. The figure in a story published Tuesday was incorrect.