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Date of Issue: July 08, 2009

DEP: Yes to controversial AM beach construction

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit to Stephen Walker to build a single-family residence seaward of the coastal construction control line on one of his two lots on Beach Avenue, Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has approved an application by Stephen Walker to build a residence seaward of the coastal construction control line on beachfront property he owns on Beach Avenue in Anna Maria.

The approval came despite objections by adjacent landowners that the project would violate zoning ordinances. Earlier this year, the property was subdivided into two lots and titled Banyan Tree Estates.

However, the June 25 letter from the DEP to Walker and contractor Robert Whitehead of Whitehead Construction authorized construction of only one dwelling at 104 Beach Ave., Anna Maria.

 According to building official Bob Welch, Walker applied for three DEP permits: for two structures on the two lots at 104 Beach Ave., and one for the lot Walker owns on the north side of the beach access at Park Avenue. Walker’s Beach Avenue property abuts Park Avenue and the two properties are separated by a public beach access on Park.

“We have not received the other two approval letters,” said Welch. “Until we do and until Walker applies for building permits, there’s nothing for us to do.”

The DEP gave its approval for construction of a three-story, single-family dwelling with swimming pool, and other structures/activities, including excavation with fill placement.

Walker is required to have a pre-construction conference with city building officials, obtain a building permit and comply with all permit conditions.

Attorney Stephen Thompson, representing adjacent landowner Richard Friday on Park Avenue, wrote to the DEP in April to protest the applications, claiming that Walker was creating a subdivision on the city’s Gulf coast in violation of city codes.

Thompson said that the property in question is zoned for conservation on the city’s comprehensive plan maps.

City planner Alan Garrett said that creating the subdivision was done according to code, and the city has no ordinance prohibiting construction seaward of the state Coastal Construction Control Line.

The CCCL was designated to manage, not prohibit construction.

Garrett said any application to build on a subdivision is reviewed by himself, Welch and the city commission.

Walker, an Oregon winery owner, has said he and his family have been visiting the Island since the 1940s and have owned property in Anna Maria since the 1950s.

His parents owned what was called the “The Bear House,” built exclusively to house his mother’s extensive collection of stuffed bears and bear memorabilia. It has since been demolished.

He said his family intends to “preserve and enhance the property and its natural resources.”

Walker noted that he could have created more than two lots in Banyan Tree Estates, but chose to limit the sub- division to just two lots to “maintain the character of the surroundings and continue to provide Gulf views for upland owners.”

He said he would “continue to show concern for the environment” during the construction process.