BROOKSVILLE — In a hearing last week, Blue Pelican Marina owner Gordon Wolf said he authorized moving fill dirt on his property before receiving a permit because it is common practice, because the county knew he was going to do it, and because he got an okay from his civil engineer.
Special Master Kenneth Warnstadt didn't buy it.
After finding Wolf guilty of filling his property without a permit, Warnstadt fined him the maximum penalty for a first offense — $1,000.
Wolf will also pay $175 in administrative fees, $60 for the time of the county attorney and $13 in postal expenses. Those fees are on top of the permit cost penalty of $300 and the standard $150 fee.
Wolf had applied for a permit for development in a flood plain prior to the first moving of dirt from the site of the county's old Hernando Beach water tower across the street to the marina. But that permit had not yet been approved when BRW Contracting Inc., began moving thousands of cubic yards of fill on April 11.
An official with that company said he thought Blue Pelican had a permit for the work.
Wolf had also not yet applied to the Southwest Florida Water Management District for the environmental resource permit he needed. After the filling activity was reported to the county and Swiftmud, each agency told Wolf to stop work.
But one week after the first trucks dumped the fill at the marina and Wolf was told to stop, a second operation of filling took place further riling residents who had been concerned about the marina's development since last year's controversial rezoning and the agencies that oversee dirt moving in a sensitive area.
During the hearing, which Wolf was required to attend according to the citation he was issued by county code enforcement, he and Warnstadt went back and forth about needing a permit before work began.
Wolf said he applied for the permit and that the county know that dirt would begin moving on that Saturday.
"You didn't have the permit in hand," Warnstadt said. "They may know that the end of the earth is coming but it doesn't mean squat until somebody has a permit to end the earth."
"But the county knew that the dirt was coming," Wolf replied.
"That's the whole point of this thing. It's not what the county knew or didn't know. It's the fact that you knew you didn't have a permit in hand," Warnstadt said. "Without the permit being in hand, you're in violation. … Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Wolf said he did but then argued that it is common practice to move dirt before getting the permit. Warnstadt said it is not common practice in Hernando County.
County Attorney Garth Coller noted, "Drug dealing is a common practice, but it doesn't make it lawful."
Warnstadt asked Wolf for the name of his civil engineer and whether the civil engineer told him to move dirt without the permit in hand. Wolf said that his civil engineer, Tampa Civil Design, had told him to move the dirt. Warnstadt said that the company should be brought up on a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation if that was true.
"They told him to go ahead and violate the law," Warnstadt said.
Before issuing Wolf the fine, Warnstadt also voiced displeasure with the contractor, BRW Contracting. "If they were here, I'd slap them between the eyes too,'' he said.
Chris Linsbeck, county zoning supervisor, said that he is awaiting the Swiftmud permit approval before granting the county permit. Swiftmud is awaiting additional information from the marina before processing the permit.
Wolf faces no fines or penalties at this time for filing after the fact from Swiftmud.
Wolf did not respond to a request to comment on the county's fine.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.