Volume 4 Number 42
October 19, 2007

DOCK PROJECT DENIED APPROVAL

At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was joined by Attorney General Bill McCollum in opposing a controversial proposal to build a 1,540 foot dock along a stretch of mangroves in Collier County. The dock would have allowed 49 boats up to 35 feet in length to be moored on state submerged lands adjacent to a private condominium, development in North Naples.

The South Florida Water Management District had previously approved a permit for a condominium project, but the developer also needed approval from the Florida Cabinet to obtain a submerged lands lease and consent to dredge bay bottom. Florida owns submerged lands below the mean high water line and the Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund oversee the disposition of state submerged lands. The private use of such lands is allowable if it does not negatively impact the public interest.

Much of the debate from people who opposed the project centered on whether the project posed a navigational hazard, its impacts to mangroves and manatees and whether the state's lease fees were too low. Residents who were in favor of the project focused on the fact the developer had preserved 54 acres of mangroves north of the dock and that others in the area have docks.

Remaining consistent with remarks she made in past Cabinet meetings, CFO Sink focused her comments on the fact that the approximate $29,500 the state would receive in lease fees was insufficient relative to the amount of money the developer would receive by renting or selling the slips, which estimates to be $15 million. “It’s just a bad economic deal for Floridians,” CFO Sink stated in voting against the project.

At the request of CFO Sink, the Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of revisiting its rules pertaining to lease fees in an effort to address the inequities concerning the amount of money the state receives for the use of its submerged lands. “We Floridians are not getting our money’s worth and we’re in tight budget times. Why are we giving away millions and millions of dollars in profit to private developers to sell docks when we need money to buy more environmentally-sensitive lands?”