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DEP warns builder on condo project

The frames of 10 new condominiums have risen from the soil at River Cove Landings, one of Citrus County's last large coastal housing complexes.

But in the past week, the developer, Fred Del Guidice of Maitland, has faced some difficulty dealing with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP notified Del Guidice last week that it had found a new sewer lift station built without a permit on the property. The agency also found another unapproved sewer lift station that was modified. The change allowed the sewer lift station to serve more condos.

David MacColeman of the DEP said officials hand delivered a warning letter to Del Guidice at a meeting Thursday and issued a $1,200 penalty for building the lift station without a permit. The amount Del Guidice's Crystal River Isles Inc. eventually will pay, though, is negotiable, MacColeman said.

Roland Leduc, Del Guidice's project manager, said it was true that the sewer machinery was put in the ground without DEP permission.

"It was a mix-up in communication," Leduc said.

But the lift station was never connected to sewer lines, he said, and DEP officials who attended the meeting last week didn't seem intent on collecting the penalty.

"We were told," Leduc said, "that there will be no fines and no penalties."

The DEP's decisions about what Del Guidice can and cannot do with the River Cove Landings sewer system could play a key role in determining how many condominiums can be built.

With 39 acres, River Cove Landings includes only enough land to handle one home under today's zoning rules.

But the project was one of the last coastal developments to pass through the approval process in the 1980s before the county dramatically stiffened its housing density limits for environmentally sensitive areas. Plans for the property located off Fort Island Trail now call for as many as 260 residential units, even though DEP officials say the development's current sewage treatment plant only has enough capacity for a significantly smaller number of units.

Central sewer lines could begin to creep from U.S. 19 along Fort Island Trail as early as next year. The Crystal River City Council has made extending sewer service to the Plantation Inn and Golf Resort a goal, with funding proposed to come through a special assessment district.

That extension, according to City Manager Roger Baltz, would be the first step toward a long-term goal of building sewer lines farther from Fort Island Trail to areas such as River Cove Landings. Baltz said the city hopes to extend the sewer lines beyond the Plantation Inn as funding becomes available.

In the meantime, there are already 18 condominiums at River Cove Landings, and Leduc says the next 10 will be completed soon. Seven of the 10, he said, already have been sold, for an average price of about $135,000.

Leduc also said Del Guidice has necessary government approvals to build a slip dock for 28 boats to replace a similar dock damaged in the no-name storm of 1993.

As for the DEP's concern about the work done without permits, Leduc said, "it's over with."

MacColeman agreed that the developer should be able to get a permit for the new lift station if its equipment can be elevated above the 100-year flood level for protection.