The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is seeking over $58,000 in civil penalties and costs per homeowner from four Ponte Vedra Boulevard residents, including the CEOs of Web.com and United Airlines, for engaging in non-compliant excavation of beach sand at their properties.
"The department is committed to assisting homeowners recover from hurricane-related impacts as quickly as possible," Dee Ann Miller of the DEP Press Office said in an email to the Recorder. "DEP is also committed to ensuring that, as corrective actions and restoration activities are implemented for protection to the beach and dune system and private property, they also comply with Florida’s environmental rules and regulations."
The department’s recent investigation on the matter concluded the residents violated DEP rules. As a result, the DEP will be pursuing Short-form Consent Orders. According to the DEP spokeswoman, a Consent Order is a legally enforceable agreement for violations warranting a formal enforcement action.
The orders, which include over $58,000 in fines, have been sent to the homeowners for review. The properties are owned by financial advisor Christopher Aitken from Aitken and Associates, resident Margaret Conolly, Web.com CEO David Brown and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.
"DEP is proposing this amount in fines to account for the fact that the sand used during these multi-day violations was taken from surrounding beaches," Miller noted, "harming these economically and environmentally important natural resources. The fine also includes the amount the sand would have cost these homeowners had they brought it in correctly."
Both the DEP and the homeowners must agree to and sign the Consent Order, and the $58,625 penalty must be paid by June 22.
In March, the department sent warning letters to Aitken, Conolly, Brown and Munoz regarding sand scraping activity on their beachfront properties. Following a department inspection yielding photographic evidence, the DEP concluded that the homeowners scraped or pushed sand from the existing beach to create a small frontal dune at the base of the original eroded dune. Miller noted at the time that the excavation of sand seaward of the Coastal Construction Control line requires a permit, and these activities must be conducted in accordance with the state's environmental laws and conditions.
The Recorder was unable to get in touch with any of the homeowners for this story. Any updates or input from the homeowners will be added to the online version of this article at pontevedrarecorder.com