CORTEZ – Seven new wooden pilings have been placed in the privately-owned Hunters Point canal near the canal-side entrance to the Cortez Village Marina.
Installed last week, the pilings have various signs affixed to them that say, “Caution, Narrow Bridge Ahead,” “Mana- tee Zone, Slow Speed, Minimum Wake,” “You Are Entering a Private Canal, Please Monitor VHF Channel 9,” “Inbound Traffic Every 15 Minutes on the Hour,” “Outbound Traffic Every 15 Minutes on the Hour” and “No Wake Zone.”
Hunters Point developer Marshall Gobuty said the new pilings and signs were installed for safety reasons in response to concerns that Cortez Village Marina representatives repeatedly expressed during the multi-day permit challenge hearing held in 2022, presided over by administrative law Judge Bruce Culpepper.
The new pilings appear to narrow the navigable area of the canal near the marina entrance, but Gobuty said the pilings still provide a 20-foot-wide clearance for boats to pass through, one at a time, and that a water district representative viewed the new pilings and expressed no concerns.
The marina ownership group seeks a ruling as to whether the Southwest Florida Water Management District properly issued the environmental resource permit in 2021 that allows 49 Hunters Point docks to be built along the decades-old, man-made canal Gobuty purchased in 2016 when he bought the Hunters Point property.
During the hearing, marina representatives and expert witnesses claimed two-way boat traffic on the canal would become more challenging and less safe with the installation of the 49 canal-side residential docks desired for the Hunters Point community currently under construction in Cortez.
During the hearing, Gobuty, his attorney, Susan Martin, and his expert witnesses suggested limiting boat traffic on the canal to one-way travel occurring at 15-minute intervals to help ensure greater navigational safety for canal users.
The privately-owned canal currently provides marina users with their only direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway and it was stated during the hearing that the marina ownership group has no written or verbal agreements that guarantee the continued use of the canal.
The canal also provides several canal-side homeowners (some of whom have been named in an unresolved civil lawsuit filed by Cortez Road Investments) and two RV resorts with access to the Intracoastal Waterway.
The parties involved in the dock permitting challenge dispute still await a recommended order from Culpepper regarding the permit issued by the water district, to be followed by a final order issued by the water district’s governing board.
Gobuty said a water district representative viewed new pilings and expressed no concerns. The new pilings appear to narrow the navigable area of the canal near the marina entrance, but Gobuty said the pilings still provide a 20-foot-wide clearance for boats to pass through, one at a time.