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Walkover war of words continues

Town of Fort Myers Beach, property owners trade barbs over suit against state

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 22, 2020

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council issued a statement to respond to claims made by property owners Ed Rood and Kurt Kroemer regarding their latest lawsuit against the state to take quiet to property behind their homes.

The lawsuit filed by Kurt Kroemer and Ed Rood against the state to gain quiet title to property behind their homes as part of their latest bid to build a 298-foot long walkover may not have been filed against the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

That doesn’t mean the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council is ignoring the words of Kroemer and Rood.

The town council on Monday voiced support for Town Attorney John Herin Jr. to issue a series of bullet points to refute recent public statements made by the property owners following their lawsuit against the state this month. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said she had sought such a statement to respond to the various claims made by the property owners.

The council rejects any notion by Kroemer and Rood that they would not need to apply for a special exception permit from the Town of Fort Myers Beach for what they have called a dune walkover even if they were to win rights to property behind their homes from the state which they had previously sought sovereign land state permits for.

The statement, which was drafted by Herin and issued through town communications coordinator Jennifer Dexter, stated that “all beaches and wetlands whose preservation is deemed critical to the town are designated as being zoned EC (Environmentally Critical). Furthermore, “[accreted] beaches or wetlands, whether by natural causes or through beach renourishment or artificial filling, [are] automatically assigned to the EC zoning district.”

The “dune walkover” is an accessory structure and per § 34-652 of the Town LDC, accessory structures in the EC zoning district may be permitted as a special exception.

Herin said two judges have ruled that Kroemer and Rood would have to apply for a special exception permit to build the dune walkover, which the council has previously rejected.

The town also doesn’t believe their actions would jeopardize the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area, according to the statement by Herin.

Following the town’s latest declaration, Rood issued a statement accusing the town of “attempting to downplay the severity of the outcome. It is in fact about both ownership and the CWA (critical wildlife area) since the state can not support the CWA on private property. So, when we gain the ownership of the property, the CWA can no longer exist on private property and will be abandoned by the state.”

Rood did acknowledge that he and Kroemer lost their court battle challenging the need to apply to the town for a special exception permit for their walkover, which would cross over water, marshland and vegetation to connect their property to the other side of the beach. Rood said he believed that previous court decisions found that their walkover would meet town requirements.

However, state approval of sovereign land permits to build the walkover adjacent to the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area, was conditioned upon town approval for a special exception permit.