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Final order expected for Hunters Point dock challenge

CORTEZ – The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board is expected to issue an approved final order regarding the Hunters Point Resort & Marina dock permitting efforts.

The final order pertains to a permit challenge initiated by the owners of the Cortez Village Marina in 2021.

The governing board will meet Tuesday, May 23 at 9 a.m. at the water district’s service office at 7601 U.S. Highway 301 N. in Tampa. The Hunters Point action item is listed as item 7.2 on the meeting agenda. The meeting will be live-streamed on the water district’s website and the meeting video will later be archived there.

The meeting-related general counsel’s report prepared by senior attorney Jennifer Soberal notes Administrative Law Judge Bruce Culpepper presided over the multi-day hearing conducted on behalf of the Division of Administrative Hearings last June, August and September.

On March 7, Culpepper entered his order that recommends the water management district enter a final order to issue the environmental resource permit needed to construct 49 docks along the man-made Hunters Point-owned canal surrounding the development property on three sides. The docks would service some of the 86 homes currently being built on the property in Cortez.

The privately-owned canal is also utilized by Cortez Village Marina clients, several residential property owners and guests at two canal-side RV resorts in Cortez.

Final order expected for Hunters Point dock challenge
Several residential docks are already located along the other side of the man-made canal. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Soberal’s report notes Culpepper found that the preponderance of the evidence demonstrated by the attorneys and witnesses representing Hunters Point developer Marshall Gobuty’s Cortez Road Investments and Finance ownership group provided reasonable assurances that constructing the docks is not contrary to the public interest.

“The administrative law judge further concluded that there are no reasonably anticipated significant adverse impacts on safe navigation from the construction of the dock; the marina (Cortez Village Marina) did not meet the burden of the preponderance of competent substantial evidence proving the dock is contrary to the public interest,” Soberal’s report says.

Final order expected for Hunters Point dock challenge
The owners of the Cortez Village Marina challenged the issuance of the permit needed to construct the Hunters Point docks. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

“During its review of the entire record and, based in part upon the marina’s first exception, district staff found that one sentence in paragraph 42 of the administrative law judge’s recommended order was not based on competent substantial evidence and should be stricken. Otherwise, the rest of the marina’s exceptions were denied for the reasons stated in the proposed final order after a thorough review of the entire record,” Soberal’s report says.

Paragraph 42 in Culpepper’s recommended order pertains to bathymetric surveys and canal depths.

“Because the administrative law judge’s findings of fact were based on competent and substantial evidence in the record, with the exception of the stricken sentence in Paragraph 42, and the administrative law judge’s conclusions of law were reasonable, the recommended order should be adopted as the district’s final order,” Soberal’s report concludes.

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