CORTEZ – Raymond “Junior” Guthrie Jr. plans to contest the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s final order issued on Friday, Nov. 17 requiring him to remove the unpermitted structure he built in Sarasota Bay earlier this year south of A. P. Bell Fish Co.
The order assesses Guthrie $6,500 in fines and costs, and states that up to $10,000 a day in fines could be assessed.
Guthrie failed to properly respond within the required 20 days to an Oct. 27 notice of violation, which is deemed an admission of guilt, according to DEP. Department officials claim the state owns the submerged land that lies in Sarasota Bay, an Outstanding Florida Waterbody.
Guthrie can appeal the final order, DEP spokesperson Shannon Herbon said, adding that he told DEP that he was using the structure for seagrass research.
Guthrie did respond to DEP’s notice, but struck out three items that indicated he admitted liability, said Karen Bell, manager of A.P. Bell Fish Co., who is working with him to save the structure.
“It brings character back to the community,” she said.
Bell said that Guthrie intends to file an appeal under the 1921 Butler Act, which awarded title of submerged lands to adjacent waterfront property owners who made permanent improvements on the submerged lands. The law was repealed in 1957, but continues to affect title to submerged lands improved prior to its repeal.
Bell said she offered to place the 1,200-square-foot structure on her submerged lands lease to satisfy DEP requirements. But Guthrie contends the structure should be grandfathered because he built it where his family built a net camp.
Net camps were wooden shacks used to hang hemp and cotton fishing nets to dry; they became obsolete when netmakers began using other materials. According to historic photographs, dozens of net camps once dotted the bay off Cortez. Guthrie’s structure is west of a net camp that the Cortez not-for-profit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) rebuilt as a historic artifact.
Aerial images show that a smaller, dilapidated structure existed in the place where his “enclosed docking structure” was later built, according to the DEP order.
However, “At times it was completely unusable, so that’s a problem for the Butler Act,” Herbon said. “You need to show historical consistency.”
Guthrie also would have to sign a consent order, including the items he previously crossed out, she said.
The case was investigated pursuant to a complaint from The Islander newspaper, Herbon said.