The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to a Cortez man, claiming he didn’t get permission to construct a 1,200-square-foot structure on Sarasota Bay.
Since Raymond Guthrie Jr. was a child, he has seen the structure’s transformation with every rebuild. Once it was a place for anglers to store nets, and another time it was used to farm clams. As Guthrie started his most recent reconstruction project, which sits just yards away from A.P. Bell Fish Co., he said he wanted to use it as a net repair station and research facility for seagrass and mangroves.
“I’ve been grandfathered in all my life,” said Guthrie, 68. “I don’t know what to say.”
He said he submitted photos and documents to the state agency to prove that it fell under the Butler Act, which was passed in 1921 to encourage waterfront property improvements over submerged lands. He said he’s never had to acquire a permit for this type of work.
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“I don’t get what the big deal is about it,” he said. “It’s just one person.”
After a complaint was filed against Guthrie in late May, drawing a verbal notification from the department and a compliance assistance letter, Guthrie’s representative Joanne Semmer agreed with the department that he would sign a consent order, according to the notice signed Oct. 19.
The department granted requests to extend the allotted time to about a month and a half, and the signed consent order was sent back to the department with three conditions crossed out: that Guthrie violated the law, that if he went through the proper channels he would reduce the size of the structure to 500 square feet, and that he would waive his right to an administrative hearing.
An email was sent by the department to Guthrie requesting him to re-send a signed consent order without the unauthorized changes, but the department never received the second copy.
The notice states that Guthrie has 30 days to pay $5,500 in fines, plus another $1,000 for department costs. Within 20 days, the notice states that Guthrie has to remove the structure waterward of the mean high water line, but that the owner has a right to mediate, negotiate or request an administrative hearing.
He said he plans on fighting the notice.
“We’re going to do whatever’s necessary to challenge whatever they’re saying,” Guthrie said.