For years beachfront property owners Eddie Rood and Kurt Kroemer have been battling the Fort Myers Beach town council over the construction of a dune walkover. While we haven’t heard much about the fight with the town of late, Rood and Kroemer have been working another angle to get access to the Gulf of Mexico behind their homes.
Rood and Kroemer are currently involved in a lawsuit with the State of Florida they say will prove they own the land now designated as the Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area. And if that happens they would own the land the CWA now sits on and the signs designating that land as a CWA will be taken down.
In August of 2020, after unanimous LPA approval, the town council denied Rood and Kroemer a walkover that would get them from their homes, around the Critical Wildlife Area, and close to the water. The homeowners say that, over time, the State has moved the original CWA boundaries which were a mile north and has somehow migrated down to in front of these homes. They say not having access to the beach reduces the value of their homes. After receiving state permits to build the walkover, the final approval they needed was from the town, for a special exception, which the town denied
As of now, council members Jim Atterholt, Bill Veach and Rexann Hosafros are opposed to the walkover. The town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting it. Back in February, the town offered Rood and Kroemer a deal; make the walkover accessible to the public and we’ll approve it. That meant anyone would be allowed to access the beach by going through their private property. It was quickly rejected.
Rood has repeatedly said that if the special exception was not approved, and he and Kroemer win the quiet title lawsuit against the state, they will dissolve the CWA. The town council took that as a threat, not really sure Rood and Kroemer would or could follow through. They have so far.
“The issue has always been that most people against our project believe the CWA is on State lands. We believe Florida’s Riparian laws of accretion will prove otherwise.” commented Kurt Kroemer, who filed the action with Rood. “Access to the Gulf on beachfront property is a riparian right, by Florida law.”
Kroemer added, “Our position is that this land ownership trial would not need to take place if the town allowed our special exception to build the walkover. The CWA could have been left alone. However, the town used the CWA to deny our permit.”
Kroemer and Rood say they both have deeds filed with Lee County showing their lot ownership extends to the Gulf of Mexico. Court documents also state that the FDEP previously admitted the water behind their houses is no longer tidal and is non navigable, thus the ownership converts to the upland land owner.
Kroemer says, “The town’s lawsuits in 2018 that tried to stop FDEP from permitting our walkover opened up a treasure chest of information which we can use to prove ownership. The bottom line is that we have a deed with riparian rights. The State did not submit a counter claim or any additional facts to the case other than their original denial of the claim with their June response.
The judge in the case has set a trial date for June of 2022 if an agreement cannot be worked out before then. There will also be a chance to mediate in February. If during mediation, Rood and Kroemer win their case, they say they will remove the signs immediately. That doesn’t mean they can build the walkover. The would still need that special exception. However, if the town still refused to grant the special exception, Rood and Kroemer plan to follow through with a Bert Harris lawsuit and that could cost beach taxpayers even more money.