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Business Observer Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 9 months ago

Condo builder fined for illegally filling wetlands

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A proposed consent decree subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval.

NAPLES — A development firm accused of illegally filling in more than an acre of wetlands for a high-end Naples condo project is on the hook for $400,000 in fines and payments.

Federal officials contend the developer, under the names Lodge/Abbott Investments Associates LLC and Lodge/Abbott Associates LLC, didn't obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the work in north Naples. The work, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office was for “Tower 200, one of five towers comprising a high-end condominium development known as 'Kalea Bay.'” The developers, officials allege in the statement, “filled over an acre of high quality wetlands that abut and function in close proximity to the tidal waters of Wiggins Pass and the Cocohatchee River in Naples.”

The actions of the developers , say officials, is in violation of the Clean Water Act, which requires Corps of Engineers approval before development projects can take place in protected areas. Federal prosecutors submitted a proposed consent decree that would resolve the allegations, the Feb. 9 release states. Under the proposed consent decree, the developers are required to pay a $350,000 civil penalty. To offset the environmental impact of the alleged violations, the developers have also purchased some $54,000 in mitigation credits from a Corps-approved wetlands mitigation bank, the release adds.

Officials with Lodge/Abbott Investments Associates LLC and Lodge/Abbott Associates LLC couldn't be reached for comment. Executives with the LLCs, according to Florida Department of state records, include Yale Levin and Richard Brockhaus. They are both also executives at Detroit-based Soave Enterprises, a conglomerate that sells everything from metals to cars to agricultural seeds, according to its website. Soave Enterprises President and CEO Anthon Soave, according to previous Business Observer stories, is part of a team of investors that bought the Gulf-front, north Naples land for what's now Kalea Bay in 2001. In 2015, condos in the project, then under construction, were being priced at $1.75 million.

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval, the release states.

“When wetlands are filled in violation of the Clean Water Act, the loss is felt not only today, but by all generations to come,” says U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez in the release. “The substantial penalty obtained in this case sends a message to anyone who fails to abide by our nation's environmental laws that they will be held accountable.”

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