South Siesta property owners seeking approval to fill in about 2,000 square feet of mangrove swamp for seawall construction

Proposed mitigation would entail new plantings and installation of pipeline to establish water flow to affected wetlands

This graphic shows the parcels located at Sea Plume Way and Peacock Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Owners of property on Sea Plume Way and Peacock Road on south Siesta Key are proposing the construction of approximately 307 linear feet of a seawall/retaining wall that would necessitate filling in about 2,024 square feet of mangrove swamp, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

To serve as mitigation for the work’s impacts on the environment, the applicants would enhance 1,833 square feet of the mangrove swamp by planting 20 black mangroves — each 1 gallon in size — and installing an 8- to 10-inch pipe through a section of the new seawall between a boat basin and the mangrove area north of the walkway to the boat basin dock, Sarasota County staff explains. That pipeline, staff says, would re-establish a flow of water to the affected wetlands.

Staff further notes that the property owners “have expressed an interest in constructing a swimming pool in the future within the mangrove swamp area to be filled.”

Maintenance of the mitigation site and monitoring reports would be required for three years, staff adds.

The application for the project was included on the Aug. 30 County Commission meeting agenda. That session was cancelled because of concerns about Hurricane Idalia’s potential effects on the county. As of Sept. 5, the county website did not cite a new date for the hearing.

A memo from the county’s Planning and Development Services Department staff explains that the applicants are seeking a Major Work Permit from the County Commission in its role as the county’s Water and Navigation Control Authority.

All of the construction would be located landward of the Mean High Water Line, with most of work to take place at 1245 Sea Plume Way, a county staff memo says. The boat basin area is located at 6841 Peacock Road, the memo adds.

The following are the “key facts [of the proposal] as they relate to the Water and Navigation Control Authority (WNCA) permit approval criteria,” the memo points out:

  • Portions of the affected shoreline “are already hardened with a seawall or rock revetment.
  • “Existing mature mangroves within the shared basin” and along Little Sarasota Bay would not be affected.
  • “The Management Guidelines for Mangrove Swamp Habitat, found within the County’s Comprehensive Plan, relevant to the scope of work for this Major Work Permit application [state,] ‘Mangrove swamps shall be preserved or enhanced’; ‘Dredging and filling of mangrove swamps shall be strictly prohibited’; ‘Previously cleared mangrove swamps should be restored’; ‘Discourage shoreline hardening adjacent to mangrove swamps and promote shoreline softening through vegetation projects’; ‘A resource management plan for perpetually protected areas, based on best available technology, shall be submitted for review and approval by the County prior to or concurrent with the preliminary plan or site and development plan development review process.’ ”
  • The WNCA “may find the project inconsistent with the Management Guidelines for Mangrove Swamp Habitat, as it reduces mangrove habitat within the County” and entails the loss of more than 50% of the mangrove swamp habitat on the affected properties.
  • The commission may consider mitigation for impacts associated with altering mangroves as outlined in the Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Code (Chapter 54, Article XXXV of the County Code of Ordinances).
  • “The remaining enhanced mangrove swamp mitigation area will be monitored and maintained free of nuisance/invasive species in perpetuity …”
  • “The proposed construction is not likely to affect the waterway’s use for navigational, recreational, or other public purposes and conveniences.”

The applicants, the memo says, are the Geoffrey Raker Trust and the Jill C. Raker Trust, which purchased the property located at 6841 Peacock Road on Nov. 14, 2019 and then bought the parcel at 1245 Sea Plume Way on July 31, 2020.

The trusts paid $3,145,000 for the Peacock Road property, the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office record shows. This year, the market value of that parcel is $5,386,400, the record says.

The trusts paid $1,640,000 for the Sea Plume Way parcel, the Property Appraiser’s Office record notes. This year, the market value of that property is $1,859,800, the record says.

Details of the project site and the application process

This engineering drawing shows details about the seawall proposal. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“The 38,729-square-foot property at 6841 Peacock Road is zoned RE2 (Residential Estate),” the staff memo points out, “while the 17,118-square-foot property at 1245 Sea Plume Way is zoned RSF-1 (Residential, Single Family). Both properties are developed with residential structures.”

The boat basin located at 6841 Peacock Road “has a hardened shoreline and includes a dock and boat lift,” the report continues. “Mangroves are present along a portion of the southern shoreline of the basin. The backyard of 1245 Sea Plume Way contains a mangrove wetland that has been historically impacted and degraded through the actions of prior owners. Specifically, a shell berm separates the backyard from the bay, which has altered the hydrology of the mangrove swamp such that there are few mature mangroves left. The backyard tends not to get adequate tidal flushing due to the shell berm, resulting in standing and often stagnant water and algal mats …”

The owners initially submitted the WNCA permit application to the county on Feb. 1, 2021, a staff report says. A staff review of those plans determined that the project would involve “filling an area of the property composed of mangrove swamp habitat.” As a result, the memo indicates, staff called for the property owners to apply for a WNCA Major Work Permit.

The memo adds, “Staff worked with the Applicants to explore options for avoiding and minimizing impacts. Revised plans were received on January 26, 2022. The Applicants were considering demolition of the existing residence and redevelopment of the property at the Sea Plume property but decided later in 2022 not to proceed with a demo/rebuild. Staff met with the Applicant and their agents on January 17, 2023,” the memo continues, “to review the site conditions and discuss the mitigation options for the project. Revised plans were received on February 10, 2023, and after minor revisions were requested,” the final plan set was received on May 4, for the project to be scheduled for a public hearing.

This graphic provides more details about the proposal. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The report also explains, “A stipulation requiring the use of best management practices (BMPs)” has been included in the draft resolution if the County Commission/WNCA chooses to approve the permit.

“Specifically,” the report explains, “the practice of constructing on, over, and adjacent to waterways may adversely affect the marine environment. This activity can create short and long-term changes in water circulation, mixing, flushing, and salinity that may result in increased turbidity, [silting], and lowered dissolved oxygen. These effects can cause severe stress on the surrounding marine life.”

Additionally, the report points out, “The project may result in increased turbidity of the water in the vicinity of the work and result in suspending many pollutants in the water. These pollutants may enter [Little Sarasota Bay ]if not appropriately controlled.”

Further, a Specific Condition in the draft resolution says, “All mangroves outside of the approved fill footprint shall be preserved. In the

event that any unexpected collateral damage resulting in loss of mangroves occurs during construction of the flood wall, WNCA staff shall require compensatory mangrove plantings to restore the shoreline. Any required plantings shall meet 85% success criteria within the first 3 years. Re-planting may be required to achieve the success criteria.”

Shoreline conditions

This photo shows the degraded area of the mangrove swamp that would be filled in for the project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The staff report also includes details about the shoreline conditions in the proposed construction area:

“The 6841 Peacock Road parcel is approximately 120 feet in width. The shoreline is [curved] with a teardrop shaped boat basin resulting from earlier dredging in the area.” The majority of the basin is bound by a concrete bulkhead, the report adds, though a small portion of that boundary “consists of a rock revetment landward of the existing dock within the boat basin. The total shoreline length is approximately 520 feet (305 feet of which is the created peninsula, and 35 feet of which is the rock revetment).”

The water depths within the boat basin vary from 0.5 feet to 1.9 feet at mean low water (MLW), the report adds.

Among the native plant species along the shoreline are “red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) and black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) near the dock and within the boat basin area,” the report says. “No seagrasses or oyster beds were observed within the immediate vicinity of the existing shoreline,” the report continues, and no “significant number of nuisance or invasive species were observed along the subject property shoreline.”

The 1245 Sea Plume Way parcel is approximately 64 feet wide along the shoreline of Little Sarasota Bay, the report continues. Among the native vegetation on this shoreline are “red, black and white mangroves and seagrapes (Coccoloba uvifera). The property includes a rock revetment and shell berm located landward of existing red, white, and black mangroves, which are regularly maintained as a hedge. Landward of the rock revetment and shell berm, the elevation of the property remains low all the way to the residential structure and represents historical mangrove swamp habitat.”

The report also notes that fill was added to the area in 2012, “and corrective measures were required to restore the area to its original grade.” The previous owner of the property completed that work in early 2013, the report says.

While several “black mangroves are in poor condition,” the report points out, staff observed mangrove seedlings — called propagules — and young mangroves growing in the area. The algal mats that staff saw are a reflection of the poor water flow in the wetland, the report explains.