On the last possible day to file, The Florida Audubon Society has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Fort Myers Beach homeowners Eddie Rood and Kurt Kroemer, in an attempt to stop the construction of the dune walkover behind their homes.
The Audubon is alleging that the Town Council ignored its own staff and did not follow the rules of its own charter by approving the walkover.
When John King and Karen Woodson ran for Town Council they made it clear they wanted the walkover issue to go away. They wanted the town to stop spending money on the issue and they wanted to avoid any future lawsuits. There was also a question of whether a walkover actually disturbs wildlife as the Audubon has been saying. The Council now had three votes, including Mayor Dan Allers, to approve Rood and Kroemer’s request. It was first brought before the Local Planning Agency, which approved it 6-1, then brought back in front of the council and approved 3-2 in March.
Rood and Kroemer are in a court battle with the state of Florida to determine who owns the land behind their homes which is where a Critical Wildlife Area sits. They claim they once had access to the beach from their homes and through shifting of the CWA land over time, they lost that access. They have also threatened the town with a Bert Harris lawsuit if they were not granted a special exception to build the 293 foot wooden walkover.
In the lawsuit the Florida Audubon states that “the proposed bridge/dune walkover will significantly harm imperiled listed species of migratory and nesting shore and seabirds, and their habitats, which are adjacent and near to this proposed structure.”
Despite being given an opportunity to state their case before the Town Council last month, which turned the council meeting into a courtroom, the Audubon still decided to file the lawsuit. Now the town finds itself in the position of spending money to defend their position of allowing the walkover to be approved.
Rood and Kroemer, who are also named in the lawsuit, were hoping to start construction of the walkover after Turtle nesting season later this year. Audubon lawsuit throws a monkey wrench into that plan. In the suit Audubon states that the constantly changing nature of the beach and dune system supports keeping the dune free of fixed structures. “While the applicants’ counsel stressed “the unique” nature of this dune, that unique nature makes the project inappropriate. That very accretional change is an important reason why the construction of a fixed boardwalk structure is environmentally harmful.”
Audubon states that the Town Council’s approval of the dune walkover was done so without any competent, substantial evidence. “While the Town’s Resolution of approval included the lone, conclusory statement that the request will protect, conserve, or preserve environmentally critical areas and natural resources, there was no competent substantial evidence introduced at the quasi-judicial hearing to support that statement. Audubon and its partners have invested more than $100,000 and organizational resources in this Lee Shorebird Stewardship Program, and the construction of the proposed structure would compromise its research and conservation efforts and investment in protecting these imperiled wildlife species and their habitats.”
Southwest Florida Policy Associate for Audubon Florida Brad Cornell told us if the Audubon was going to file a lawsuit they would do so with a press release as well. There was no press release issued last Friday, only the filing which was done on the 30th day of the 30 day window anyone could object to the council approving the special exception.
The next step is for the town to the Audubon lawsuit which you can read HERE.
Audubon and most FMB residents would like to keep the same critical wildlife refuge that has been there forever in pristine condition for the birds that continue to come and breed during their yearly migration. I certainly don’t see that as a threat to humans.
Your comment was absurd, L.!
Is it your intention (Audubon) to try to get more wildlife to make the beach their home and chase all the human residents out?
Meanwhile the Town what’s to build a berm system to build dune walkovers over them, create a dune system that never existed and prevent turtles from accessing the beach. Un-incorporate the TFMB and get rid of all these political hacks.
I am one of those 100 Audubon members and CROW volunteer who lives on the beach. I will donate to their legal effort to stop the walkover from happening and I commend Jim and Bill for their efforts. I have watched the increasing damage to our water quality up close and personal over the last 15 years of rescuing birds, animals and marine life and this is the last straw. I am leaving FMB and will hopefully find someplace left where there is more respect for the environment. I hope that a younger generation will continue the effort to save the Everglades and what is left of our wildlife in Florida. Selfishness and greed seem to rule here and now. Good luck, Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and all of the organizations struggling to save our planet for future generations.
I find it amazing how low the Audubon will stoop because they can’t get their way. They have had several legal rulings against them over their fight against the walkover and yet they just refuse to accept those outcomes. Reminds me of a whiney child. The Audubon couldn’t win their legal challenges against the property owners, so now they are going after the town. I bet that will help their popularity with the community.
Ahhh, another frivolous lawsuit that taxpayers will have to deal with, as if this Island doesn’t have enough problems right now !!!
I posted my comment today but neglected to fill out information required.
Did you receive it?
Jason Green has left the building. He’s gone. Like he should have been long ago.
A low level walk way should not be a catastrophic event for the birds The beach and mangroves are forever changing in that area every time we have a tropical storm or hurricane.The birds will survive.Now on the other hand it’s not fair that the residents of the beach have to pick up the bill for a lawsuit by the Audubon society or from these two home owners.We need every penny to rebuild our beach and not pay lawyers for this
Major problem with FMB are all these one offs. That’s how we wind up with margaritaville Cleaving island in 2 –
The Town Council should be following their own rules and not tailoring one off rules to Fit their liking. Most members are Ill equipped to be making and overseeing these one off decisions for those they approve .
Marty, I completely agree.
So what happens if owners go ahead and build the walkover in the meantime? If there is no temporary restraining order, the case will languish in the court system and the society will then have to get experts to actually prove it will or has caused damage to the wildlife- Since shoreline erosion and other environmental changes that has happened as a result of Ian, the Society will have likely have difficulty in proving their case…So I’d think I’d build it and make them prove damages after the fact… what can they do then? Proceed with the walkover….the case will take years in the Court system. In the meantime- enjoy the walkover…its a losing case for them.
This is just another example of a mountain made out of a mole hill. The lawyers love this payday. A wooden walkway not the golden gate Bridge. Enough already! The Island is a disaster area with no end in sight.
It would appear to me an elevated walkway would be less invasive than people stumbling through the dune….
Totally agree, the walkway would be less intrusive!
Where is Jason Green?