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Condominium gets protective wall extension

April 9, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Two years after a shoreline emergency was declared due to eroding duress at the beachfront adjacent to Leonardo Arms condominiums, another extension for a temporary sandbag wall has been given to allow more time for an upland retaining wall to be constructed in front of the 7400 Estero Blvd. property.

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved to extend a Town permit (issued in March 2012) until Feb. 1, 2015, so that contractors can obtain the proper state and federal permits, remove the sandbag structure that was embedded into the seawall area and anchor the retaining wall as close as practical to the building. The wall has a reported design of roughly 400 cubic yards of fill.

Back in early 2012, Gulf water migration and recession from an erosion process caused by tropical storm waves was cited as threatening the foundation of one of the condo buildings (Unit II). It was noted that tidal flow has come as close as 15 feet of the foundation of the building, which houses 60 units.

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At this time, there is no eroding duress at the beachfront near the affected building at Leonardo Arms condominiums. Time and weather may change that scenario, though.

"The sand bags in place actually did protect the building from the strong surge from Tropical Storm Debby a few years ago," said Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen, the first Town official to bring the erosion problem forward. "Without the protection of that wall, there might have been some erosion and potential undermining of the building."

This past January, Council approved a special exception with certain conditions to allow a roughly 300-foot-long upland retaining wall seaward of the 1978 Coastal Construction Control Line in the environmentally critical zoning district to be built. Reports say the wall will be buried in front of Leonardo Arms condominiums.

This action comes after Council unanimously approved a resolution on March 19, 2012, to issue a Declaration of Local Shoreline Emergency from the Department of Environmental Protection to allow the Town to seek a permit for temporary protective measures.

The permit granted the placement of large sand bags brought in by flatbed trucks and embedded into the seawall area at Leonardo Arms to aid in the erosion stress area caused by tidal action that has been cutting back the existing bank at the property. Protective vegetation and boulders that made up a barrier had fallen into the eroded area.

That measure was only allowed temporarily. After a six-month permit, authorization to keep the sand bags in place was extended, while officials at the condominium looked into a longer-term solution. Another layer of sandbags was added during a phase II implementation. The original extension was to expire next week.

Officials at Leonardo Arms decided to hire a coastal engineering firm to address the deteriorated landscape. Naples-based Humiston & Moore Engineers was first hired for consultation reasons then began working with DEP and Town officials when the erosion problem came to light.

In January, staff engineer Marc Damon stated to Council members that the shoreline had receded about 650 feet in 2012. After a recovery period in the summer of 2012, tide and current influence caused another recession.

"The erosion has been consistent over time," he said at the time. "This is why we are going after the retention wall."

Humiston & Moore's original request for a second extension was for another year, but Laakkonen expressed concerns that the sand bag situation was transitioning from a temporary one to a more permanent one.

"Our only concern is the extensions keep getting extended," he said.

Upon consultation with interim Town Manager Don Stilwell, Laakkonen recommended Dec. 31, 2014, be the maximum extension. During public comment, Leonardo Arms condo owner Rene Van Someren asked that the extension be until February or March because time would be needed to give authorization to tear down the sand bag wall. He mentioned the permit for the retaining wall would not be issued before May 1, 2014.

"Once we get the permit, we won't know what the conditions of that permit are," he said. "We need to evaluate that, then get estimates for installing the wall and (get approval) for the cost factor from the board."

Laakkonen has stated the upland retaining wall is the best possible option to protect the upland building.

"In staff's opinion, the upland retaining is the best possible option to protect the upland building, and it is an appropriate request," he stated in January.

With hurricane season beginning soon enough, the dynamics of that landscape may change once again.

Leonardo Arms, like much of the south end of Fort Myers Beach, has had a changing beachfront over the years with a lagoon-type of an area migrating forwards and backwards. In the past, extreme tidal action at high tide and especially with westerly winds washed out the north end of that particular lagoon, cut back sand three to four feet and caused duress on the bank.

Town reports says the wall is expected to be completely buried and will not be visible unless an erosion event takes place. Officials from Leonardo Arms condos are responsible for the undetermined cost of the project.

Conditions that were applied in January include:

- 1) Within three years of construction, if the building is ever demolished due to redevelopment or acts of nature, the upland retaining wall and rip rap must be removed and the property be brought into compliance.

- 2) Within three years of construction, if the wall becomes exposed to an avulsion from a storm event, dune vegetation must be replanted if the beach naturally returns to its pre-storm profile within 12 months of the storm event. Re-planting should be from top of wall to a maximum seaward distance of 15 feet.

- 3) Within three years of construction, if the wall is ever exposed to an avulsion from a storm event and sand is lost in front of the wall, the dune must be restored by means of nourishment once the beach returns to a pre-storm profile if the wall does not become naturally buried again within 12 months of the storm event.

- 4) Daily monitoring is conducted during construction to ensure that wildlife, particularly sea turtles, beach nesting birds and shorebirds are not impacted by construction.

- 5) Dune vegetation should be planted on 12' by 12' spacing and be composed of native sea oats, dune sunflower, panic grass and railroad vine.

- 6) Dune vegetation must achieve 80 percent plant survival after six months.



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