DEP probe clears Holmes Beach developer of dune destruction charge

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has ruled no dune destruction took place at a Holmes Beach property where an older home was being demolished to make way for new.

Environmental remediation will be required by the DEP, but no fines or criminal charges will be assessed.

It is good news for owner Shawn Kaleta.

“I waited for the state research to conclude to yet again confirm we acted in accordance with the laws,” Kaleta wrote in an email to the Islander. “We only removed invasive species that did not impact the dune system.”

A July 13 compliance inspection by the DEP’s Brandon Miller indicated native dune vegetation and topography was altered, although the damage fell short of dune destruction, Miller reported.

“It does not appear that adverse impact to dunes occurred,” according to Miller in his July 18 DEP report, dated five days after his on-site inspection at the beachfront property at 102 77th St.

Protected sea oats and seagrape trees were removed, along with invasive Australian pine trees.

A letter dated Aug. 1 from Michael Lynch, DEP environmental manager for the Southwest District, notes some potential violations must be addressed.

“The purpose of this letter is to offer compliance assistance as a means of resolving these matters,” Lynch wrote.

After investigating allegations of destruction of dune vegetation, Holmes Beach building official James McGuinness issued a stop-work order July 7.

Holmes Beach issued multiple permits, including for a $24,500 pool, a silt fence and home demolition, along with the master permit from DEP.

The city permits were issued to Gulf Front Paradise LLC, which lists Louis Najmy of Najmy Thompson Attorneys at Law as title manager.

The DEP gave 21 days for the job site to come into compliance with the project description and approved plans.

Copies of the compliance letter were sent to Holmes Beach-based contractor Agnelli Pools and Construction LLC as well as Kaleta, a Holmes Beach developer and partial owner of the property, and Najmy.

Once the DEP receives a plan showing how native plants will be replaced on the property, a new expanded permit will allow invasive plant and tree removal and confirm no protective dunes were destroyed, Najmy said.

“The DEP was unimpressed with the claim by the city that protected dunes had been destroyed,” said Najmy.

The contractor for the site, Agnelli Pools and Construction, 6000 Marina Drive, will be required to replace native growth.

“Basically, the DEP mitigation plan addressed things we already were going to do,” Frank Agnelli wrote in an email to the Islander.

Agnelli, Najmy and Kaleta, who owns Beach to Bay Construction and other Holmes Beach businesses, were all listed on the DEP report.

In the next three weeks, the DEP wants a response indicating what has been done to bring the job site into compliance or a timetable to address any shortcomings. Another DEP site inspection will be required.

“It is the department’s desire that you are able to adequately address the aforementioned issues so that the matter can be closed,” Lynch wrote. “Failure to respond promptly may result in the initiation of formal enforcement proceedings.”

The 1,398-square-foot home built in 1950 last sold in 2016 for $2.2 million. The initial state permit expires July 6, 2019.

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