Article Courtesy of The Treasure Coast Newspaper
By Tyler Treadway
Published May 27, 2019
When it comes to
preserving mangrove wetlands, call it "A
Tale of Two Developments."
At Sunset Beach, a 42-home project to be
built on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie
County, owner Lloyd S. Moody of Houston was
chided by the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection for cutting
mangroves and got the proper permit only
after the damage was done.
On Monday, the DEP
confirmed Moody had agreed to pay about
$32,000 to mitigate the loss of mangroves
TCPalm first reported in late January.
At the Atlantic
Wellness Center & Resort, a drug and alcohol rehab facility
to be built just north of Sunset Beach, the developer
outlined to St. Lucie County officials how it would save as
much mangrove swamp as possible and mitigate for what would
Island residents vehemently opposed the rehab center when it
was approved May 7 by county commissioners, but "from an
environmental perspective, we have no specific problems with
the center's plans," said Charles Grande, chairman of the
Presidents Council of Hutchinson Island, which represents
homeowners and condominium associations on the island.
"The developers seem to have taken care to minimize
impacts," said Grande, who also is vice president of the
Rivers Coalition, a consortium of environmental groups,
homeowners associations, fishing clubs and businesses
dedicated to preserving the St. Lucie River and Indian River
According to plans submitted to St. Lucie County, the
project will preserve 90.5 percent of the 12.6 acres of
wetlands and 79 percent of the entire 22.43-acre site.
Environmental plans for the Atlantic Wellness Center &
Resort call for:
filling 1.2 acres of wetlands
Mitigating that by
removing exotic plants throughout the wetland and buying
credits from the Bear Point Mitigation Bank along the
Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island north of the
acres of the adjacent upland buffer
Mitigating that by
restoring 0.18 acres of upland habitat and paying
$35,305 to a mitigation fund
Construction crewmen from York Bridge Concepts work
on a 267-foot timber vehicular bridge on Tuesday, Jan 29, 2019,
along A1A on South Hutchinson Island, south of Fort Pierce in St.
Lucie County. The bridge crosses over a section of mangroves and
non-native Australian pine trees, linking A1A to proposed Sunset
Beach, a housing development to be built along the ocean shoreline
at Joe's Pond, about four miles north of the St. Lucie Nuclear
Plant. The developer has been trimming, or cutting down mangrove
trees as part of a DEP permit for the project.
The wetlands will become an easement that the facility's
owners will be required "to maintain in perpetuity," said St. Lucie County
Senior Environmental Planner Jennifer McGee.
"We steered them toward concentrating on the uplands in order to minimize
the impact to the mangrove wetlands," McGree said.
'Jammed onto strip of land'
Although well-intentioned, that concentration "has resulted in an overly
crowded and poorly planned facility because of the limited amount of
buildable land they had left to work with," Grande said.
The facility's four buildings, Grande said, "are jammed onto a strip of land
just west of the dune and east of the wetlands because that's all the usable
land on the site."
Because of the limited space, two of the facility's four buildings will be
42 feet tall rather than the 35-foot height limit on that stretch of the
County Senior Planner Kori Benton said building heights on the island are
measured as the habitable area above the flood elevation, so they don't
include ground-floor garages.
Most 35-foot buildings, like homes at the Watersong development south of the
proposed rehab facility, are typically three stories above the garage;
42-foot buildings are four stories above the garage.
The county's Environmental Resources Department also has approved the
project's sea turtle protection plan that includes tinted glass and/or film
on windows facing the beach.
The beach along the facility from the high water line east has to remain
open to the public.
Besides Sunset Beach to the south, a project with 92 multi-family dwellings
called Hutchinson Sands Condominiums has been proposed north of the center.
"The land to the north and to the south of the center both have approved
building plans," said Grande, who became a member of the county Planning and
Zoning Commission after that panel recommended against the rehab facility.
"This area is going to be developed. It's not a question of if, but when."