■ BY SUE ERWIN
At the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 14 the public comments were actually more interesting than the lone agenda item set for discussion.
When it came time for public comment, Pat Ball of Ball Construction addressed the board, stating he was shocked to have received a notification from Lee County zoning about a property he recently renovated, and that it was encroaching on the historic district promenade.
“I was last here to ask you to approve some work at 351 Gilchrist Avenue, when we requested to add a room to the side of the house,” Ball said. “After we finished, we received a note from the County code enforcement two months later, saying we had built walls out into the promenade, invading the right-of-way on the seawall … and that upset me, because we didn’t build them – they are the old historic walls that already existed.”
Ball called the code enforcement department and learned there was an anonymous complaint about encroachment issues with the seaside building projects, citing the enforcement of six properties involved.
The letter requested to remove 8 feet of the wall from the 16-foot promenade right-of-way..
“The thing that really upset me was that the letter said if I didn’t remove the walls in 15 days, they would fine me $250 per day,” Ball said.
After speaking with a supervisor at the County regarding the issue, Ball was told they would put a stay on the issue until it could be heard by County attorneys, but he has yet to learn about any hearing, so he asked the board for help with getting something scheduled.
“It also dawned on me that if we have to remove part of the wall, we have to get the permission from this board, the DEP and the Coast Guard … it’s a pretty big deal,” Ball said.
Historic Preservation Board member and Realtor Becky Paterson chimed in and said she was prepared to discuss that exact issue, because a property she is listing received the same notice.
“In the case of the property that I represent, they received a judgment in 1999 saying they own that 17 feet of property,” Paterson said.
A motion was made to invite the County attorney to attend the next meeting, which is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11.
The history of the promenade is simple. From Fourth Street to First Street, the land along the seawall has been publicly owned since a deal was struck for one dollar in April of 1927. The original 1897 Gilchrist plat shows the six-block area of what is today First to Third Streets, and Gilchrist Avenue to Palm Avenue. Another land ownership document, this one from April 12, 1927, shows an indenture between the Boca Grande Corporation and Boca Grande Associates, Inc., which describes the fact that people in our community have the right to, as the document states, “bathe and promenade,” and that “no fences or other structures of any kind shall be built … ” on the walkway along the beach.
The board also discussed one certificate of appropriateness request on the morning of Wednesday, March 14 at their monthly meeting, and they approved renovations requested at 280 Palm Avenue.
Lee County zoning planner Peter Blackwell said the request is to add an expansion to an existing outdoor pool and add a swim lane to the pool, and also to enclose an existing screened in porch area.
“The change to the pool doesn’t cause any alterations other than just adding a bit more pool space,” Blackwell said.
The enclosure area will be roofed over to match the existing roof, and the outside will no longer have an entrance. The siding will also match the existing siding of the home. The area being renovated is not the historic part of the home, which was expanded in 2008.
Blackwell said Lee County staff recommends that the Historic Board make a finding that the proposed pool expansion and porch enclosure are in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation and Lee County Land Development Code Chapter 22.
Bill Caldwell made a motion to approve the request, and Susan Hanafee made a second; the motion passed.
The meetings are held in the Boca Grande Community Center auditorium. For more information, visit leegov.com.