Boca Grande NHR proposal future uncertain

April 16, 2021
By BBadmin7502

The proposal to put a portion of Boca Grande’s residential district onto the National Register of Historic places has been removed from the May 6 agenda of Florida’s National Register Review Board, the Boca Beacon has learned.
The item had been up for discussion by state officials based on an indication there would be an appeal of its rejection by two local governing boards.
But as of Tuesday, April 13, a written appeal had not been received, according to an email sent by Ruben Acosta, survey and registration supervisor for the state’s Bureau of Historic Preservation, to an interested party.
In the email, Acosta noted that absent the appeal “the nomination process is currently stopped and the nomination will not be on the May 6, 2021 National Register Review Board meeting agenda.”
This latest action follows a scathing letter on the matter sent on April 9 by the Lee County attorney to Florida’s secretary of state. The Beacon was unable to confirm whether the letter played any part in the item’s removal from the agenda.
The letter from attorney Richard Wesch to Secretary of State Laurel Lee, asked for clarification on what appears to be “a startling lack of due process afforded to certified local governments and affected property owners” in the state’s handling of the nomination process.
The letter was sent after Wesch and other county officials learned that the state intended to proceed with an appeal on the matter at the May 6 hearing. Wesch complained that the source of the notice of intent to appeal was not the State Historic Preservation Officer, as expected based on state guidelines, but “a local reporter.”
“Star Chamber proceedings have never enjoyed a place in American jurisprudence,” Wesch wrote. “Ambiguous, shadowy and amorphous programs are the antithesis of good government.”
Wesch also told the secretary of state that since its outset, the nomination has been “clouded with a lack of transparency.” Lee County was first notified of the nomination by a historic consultant operating out of Sarasota in a letter from Acosta dated Oct. 19, 2020. However, the consultant has said publicly that the project had been underway for two years.
News that an additional, federally-listed district was being proposed came as a shock to the residents of Boca Grande, which is a small island community where many residents place a high value on privacy,” as well as to the Lee County Commissioners Board, Wesch said.
He also pointed out that the nomination was filed at a time of year when many of Boca Grande’s seasonal residents were away from the island or could not attend public meetings due to concerns about the COVID pandemic.
Wesch said the Lee County Board of County Commissioners as well as the property owners in the proposed district should be mandatory parties in any appeal “which so greatly affects them. If the Florida Certified Local Government Guidelines do not provide for this essential protection, then perhaps legislative oversight of this process is needed.”
On April 6, the county commissioners upheld opposition to the project by the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board. The local board has twice voted against the proposal, with the most recent four to two vote following a public hearing on March 10.
County and state officials did not respond to emails and calls seeking additional information.