Storied Hernando Beach property draws new environmental permitting concerns

Owner dumped unpermitted fill on the site in 2015 and is marketing it as a place to make money storing boats. The Southwest Florida Water Management district is crying foul.
Published April 17

HERNANDO BEACH — A high-profile piece of property at the heart of a hotly-contested rezoning case five years ago was listed for sale this month and has run afoul of state environmental rules -- again.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District sent a letter on April 12 to Gordon Wolf, owner of a 17.6-acre parcel at 4545 Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando Beach, saying Wolf’s boat and trailer storage business on the site is not permitted.

"In order to bring this matter into compliance, contact me by April 26, 2019, to discuss corrective actions or permit authorization needed to address the additional activities,'' wrote John Powanda, of the environmental resource permit office for the water management district.

The permit as written allows only stockpiling of fill.

In April 2015, Wolf dumped truckloads of fill dirt onto the site without the required permit. After neighbors raised the alarm, Hernando County code enforcement and the water management district ordered him to stop filling. But a week later, the filling continued. Ultimately Wolf applied for a permit for the fill, but the district remains undecided about whether the owner has met the original permit conditions, according to spokeswoman Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

Previous coverage: Hernando Beach marina owner guilty of moving fill with no permit

Two months after the filling, the water management district sent Wolf a permit condition violation letter because silt fencing on the site was allowing dirt to wash into adjacent canals. Pictures taken by a neighbor showed the milky water on the fringes of the property. In July 2015, the agency sent Wolf another letter about the problem.

Previous coverage: Marina comes under watch of agencies as fill washes into coastal waters

The site also is where Wolf told commissioners in 2014 that he planned to build what he called the Nature Coast Lodge, a 42-unit hotel that was part of a larger project county officials discussed with him for months. Commissioners approved rezoning for the lodge site, but eventually rejected plans for the rest of the project, which included a $6 million education and tourism center funded by the state and the county. Wolf never built the lodge, and the county gave back the $3 million in state money.

Previous coverage: Failure of Nature Coast tourism center has lessons

When the Tampa Bay Times contacted Wolf last week about the latest letter from the water management district, he said he had not seen it. Several hours later, he said he had talked to Powanda and learned that his 2015 permit allowed him only to stockpile dirt on the site, not to level the dirt or store boats, trailers and other items there.

If permit modifications are needed to bring it into compliance, Wolf said he would work with the agency to do that.

On April 2, Wolf listed the property for sale for $395,000 and said the boat and trailer storage made the site a money maker.

"Permitted fill was added so the land is above tides,” the ad says. “Current owner uses the property for storing boats and trailers, which provides monthly income. Two other contiguous lots could be available to purchase as well.''

The contiguous parcels include property that county Commissioner Wayne Dukes has pushed the county to buy for expanded parking for the Hernando Beach boat ramp. The county is conducting a feasibility study of that site and others sandwiched between Shoal Line and Calienta Street.

The listing sparked commentary on the Hernando Beach Next Door social media site, calling up controversies that swirled around the parcel in 2014. During that rezoning, dozens of residents stormed public meetings with signs and railed against turning their residential neighborhood into a tourist destination.

At the time, Wolf also owned the adjacent Blue Pelican Marina, which he sold to AFLG Monaco LLC of Tampa for $2 million in September 2016, according to county property records.

Last week, Hernando Beach residents commented about how much more Wolf’s property is worth since the County Commission rezoned it for commercial use in 2014. Wolf paid $140,000 for the site and the two adjacent parcels in January 2011 and is selling it for $395,000. No price was listed on the real estate advertisement for the adjacent parcels.

"Here’s a perfect example of how to make lots of money at the expense of the entire community,'' Hernando Beach resident Jodie Pillarella wrote on the social media site. "Lots of profit here, folks.''

"Everyone who showed up at the county meeting concerning the rezoning of the Blue Pelican said this would happen. And it did! '' wrote Hernando Beach resident Lisa Savarese. "Looks like a junk yard anyways!''

Wolf defended his effort to sell the property and shrugged off the neighbors’ argument that the county rezoning unfairly benefited him.

"Things go up in value all the time,'' Wolf said. "If you want to find a bad guy, Gordon Wolf is not a bad guy.''

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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