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Upscale motel to get dock approval

The owners of Charlie's Fish House should get regulatory approval thisweek to build a dock for an upscale 30-unit motel they plan on Kings Bay off U.S. 19, federal officials said Monday.

But a plan to upgrade the docks at the nearby Hunter Springs Condominiums still is being questioned because of potential harm to endangered manatees, they said.

Brothers Phil and James Kofmehl want to build the motel next to Knox's Bait House, not far from the fish house and the Old Oyster Bar restaurant, which the Kofmehls also own. The units in the three-story, Cracker-style buildings will have kitchenettes, separate bed and living rooms, and outdoor decks.

If all the regulatory requirements can be met, construction could begin this year, he said. One stumbling block may be sewage: City utilities director Bernie Hilgenberg said the city will not be able to hook up the motel until the city's wastewater treatment plant is expanded.

The expansion is scheduled to be completed in December 1991, although Kofmehl could put in temporary septic tanks or a package plant, Hilgenberg said.

Approval of the dock was a major hurdle, given the growing concern about the number of boats on Kings Bay and their effect on manatees.

The county is developing a manatee protection plan that would regulate waterfront development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service objected to Kofmehl's original plan to create 12 boat slips with seven 24-foot-long piers extending into the bay. His modified plan, a 140-foot pier parallel to the shore, could accommodate about 10 average-size recreational boats, he said.

Kofmehl argued that the dock would not add boat traffic but simply replace the eight commercial fishing boats now tied up there. "He'll be replacing one type of boat with another type," said Don Palmer, a biologist in the Fish and Wildlife field office in Jacksonville.

After the Fish and Wildlife Service dropped its objections, Frank Arrendale of the Jacksonville office of the Army Corps of Engineers recommended approval of the project to his supervisors, he said. The permit is expected to be issued this week, he said.

Hunter Springs Condominiums Inc. also modified its dock plan to try to satisfy Fish and Wildlife Service objections. The revision still is being reviewed, but Palmer said he thinks the plan to connect three existing floating docks with a walkway could result in more dock space for boats.