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Sarasota County seeks authority of mangrove enforcement

After being told it had overstepped its authority in enforcing mangrove protection violations, the county once again considers whether to request authority from the state.

In a high-profile violation of mangrove protection laws and county ordinances, Paul Maurer cleared his Manasota Key property in February 2014 of significant amounts of mangrove trees and dumped fill on portions of the property. The event still reverberates, largely because the county’s efforts to remedy the violation were stymied.

No one disputed what happened, but when Maurer was found in violation and ordered to replace the mangroves or face fines of $250 per day, he appealed, arguing that the county had no relevant authority, and had been preempted by state law.

In response to that defeat, county commissioners will decide whether to apply for state delegation of authority to enforce certain provisions of Florida's mangrove protection act, something the county decided not to pursue previously.

Though Maurer's appeal was upheld by Judge Kimberly Bonner of the 12th Circuit Court, she emphasized in her opinion that the court does not condone Maurer’s actions: “(Maurer and other appellants) engage in wholesale destruction of mangroves on their property and essentially decimated a wetland,” Bonner wrote.

In March, commissioners agreed not to appeal that decision, but told staff to research the effectiveness of the state’s enforcement capabilities.