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Saying he's defending a ''paradise under siege,'' a Safety Harbor resident appeals the county commission's approval of a dock plan.
By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 6, 2003
SAFETY HARBOR -- It's easy to miss Mark Savoretti's private paradise among the lush mangroves along Bayshore Boulevard and Old Tampa Bay.
He likes it that way.
So it's no surprise that scattered across his table these days are piles of pictures and papers documenting neighbors' plans to build a dock behind his house and his plans to try to stop it.
"I'm trying to tell them: 'You're ruining the beauty here,' " Savoretti said. "It's almost like paradise under siege."
Savoretti says building a dock there not only will disrupt wildlife and natural beauty, but it will set a negative precedent that would make way for more docks and increased boat traffic.
"I'm an army of one," Savoretti told Pinellas County commissioners at a Dec. 3 meeting. "But I am also here to serve the interests of those who could not be here: the fish in the area who use it as a marine estuary, the native birds and the endangered manatees who all consider this a harbor of safety."
His neighbors say Savoretti is interested only in preserving his view and that they have a right to build a dock -- like the one he has.
"He has a dock," said Giao Nguyen, one of the co-applicants who lives at 945 Bayshore Blvd. "He keeps complaining about his privacy, but I don't know on what basis."
Nguyen plans to split the $20,000 or so it would cost to build a nearly 200-foot dock with Dennis Gulkis. Gulkis owns the vacant land next door at 941 Bayshore Blvd.
Each had originally filed separate dock applications but later agreed to share one dock.
Savoretti said he did not like the dock attached to his property at 910 Bayshore Blvd. and that it was there when he purchased the house in July.
Savoretti said that if he doesn't first sell the house, he eventually will have the dock moved because he does not like to look at it.
"All along, it's been a question of his view and his privacy," Gulkis said. "Our dock will be 150 feet from his house. There are no environmental issues, and there are no issues with easements, so I suspect (the application) will go through."
County commissioners approved Nguyen's and Gulkis' applications and even granted variances that will allow two docks to be built despite not meeting the county's requirement of 18 inches of water at low tide.
In addition to environmental concerns, Savoretti took issue with the approval process -- specifically Safety Harbor's role in it.
"When you look at what you're supposed to be evaluating, they don't really do it," he said. "When a dock permit comes through, (city officials) don't review it. They just approve it and send it to the county. That whole due process with the city doesn't occur."
Ron Pianta, Safety Harbor's assistant city manager, said, "The city has never had regulations governing docks. The only requirements we have for permitting is if somebody wants to add an electrical or water line to a dock."
"There is no formal application process with the city, and we do not have any expertise to determine water depth and environmental impact," he said. "That's why we defer to the county."
County officials approved the application based on nine criteria that consider whether construction of the dock, among other things, affects erosion, health, safety, wildlife, natural beauty or navigation of the waters.
"We didn't see any," said David Walker, program manager for the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management. "There's no sea grasses or sensitive things over there that we might be looking for. We looked at the manatee issue and there have been some spotted in there, but nothing heightened."
On Thursday, Savoretti filed papers with the County Clerk's Office appealing the commissioners' decision on the dock.
"People don't want those docks in there," Savoretti said. "It's not just the view; it's the fact that this is an area of natural beauty and to be able to construct 1,500 square feet in structure there will directly impact that area forever."