Karen Bell didn’t have much to say in mid-May about ongoing construction in Sarasota Bay not far from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. docks and the Cortez shoreline.
Cortez artist Linda Molto says she wants to know what’s going on.
“Everybody is wondering and no one knows,” she said.
Raymond Leslie Guthrie Jr. and Capt. Tom Mora built the structure and they’re using it for storage and a workshop, according to Mora.
Guthrie said he plans to conduct seagrass experiments at night.
The structure is in Sarasota Bay — not attached to land — an Outstanding Florida Waterway and a national estuary.
Molto wondered, “Aren’t there building restrictions?”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates submerged lands, is unaware of any permits, Shannon Herbon, DEP media relations spokeswoman, wrote in a May 25 email.
The DEP is looking to determine whether the land beneath the structure is state or privately owned before it evaluates what regulations apply, she added.
Florida is the owner of submerged lands along the coast not otherwise held by a private landowner.
Bell owns A.P. Bell Fish Co., which runs grouper and stone crab boats and markets, producing a daily catch that is sold locally and internationally, and leases submerged lands from the state.
But the new structure is not part of that lease, Bell said.
The submerged lands where the house is built could be grandfathered into Bell’s ownership or owned by Guthrie, also known as Junior.
Bell also said Guthrie told her it once had been a net camp in his family and she “wasn’t going to dispute that,” but considers the remnants of historic net camps as belonging to the Cortez community.
Photographs at the Cortez-based Florida Maritime Museum show net camps — small wooden shacks that stored nets and provided temporary shelter for fishers — and net spreads — broad wooden platforms on the water where fishers dried and mended their nets — peppering the Cortez shoreline in the early part of century.
Molto said there’s been only one net camp in the water in the 30 years she’s lived in Cortez — a short distance from the Few-Miller Dock, east of the new construction.
Cortez fishermen Joe Capo and Curt Johns originally built the remaining net house before 1960, according to a FMM website article, “Net Fishing in Cortez.”
Storms destroyed the remaining camps, which fell into disrepair, no longer needed after monofilament line replaced the cotton webbing in the older nets.