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Work at wetlands ordered to cease

Officials step in to stop ex-council member Alex Ilnyckyj from doing any work on land he recently bought.

By RICHARD RAEKE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003


CRYSTAL RIVER -- The city has put a stop-work order on land owned by a former City Council member after he began working on the property without permits. Swiftmud, which considers the property wetlands, has referred the case to its legal department.

AlexIlnyckyj bought 2.2 acres at NE 11th Street and Citrus Avenue from the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch after the city rezoned the property from commercial to light industrial Jan. 13.

John Barnes, who represented the ranch in the rezoning, said the youth ranch decided to sell the land rather than obtain the necessary permits from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, known as Swiftmud. The youth ranch had planned to use the property, which had been donated two years earlier, as a truck transfer station.

According to city officials, Ilnyckyj began work on the land without any permits.

"He hasn't got a site plan or anything. He has nothing to work with," said City Manager Susan Boyer. "He dug a culvert, he put in a road, and he put material -- we won't call it junk, we'll call it material -- out there."

When the City Council approved the rezoning, council member Kitty Ebert said the land looked like a swamp and asked whether it was usable. Barnes told the council it would need to have drainage retention and that Swiftmud would determine how much of the property is usable.

Barnes told the council that the youth ranch would get the proper permits. Instead it sold the property to Ilnyckyj for $10,000 on Feb. 14.

Ilnyckyj approached Swiftmud on Jan. 21 about obtaining a permit exemption in order to fill in the wetlands but was told that he would need a permit, said Michael Molligan, Swiftmud spokesman. When Swiftmud learned from the city that Ilnyckyj had begun work at the site, it sent investigators.

"It was clear there was some unpermitted work," Molligan said. The impact will determine the punitive damages.

Ilnyckyj has denied doing any work on the site.

"I'm not doing anything out there," he said, adding that he had no plans, purchased the land only as an investment and was going to leave it the way it is. "I'm finished," he said.

Ilnyckyj said he doesn't know when he bought the property or how much he paid for it.

Since the stop-work order was issued, Boyer said Swiftmud has surveyed the site and marked the wetlands.

During the zoning commission meetings, Ilnyckyj spoke in favor of the youth ranch rezoning, saying he wanted to see the city grow and get the tax revenue from the land, according to the minutes of those meetings. James Blackburn, a member of the zoning commission, asked about a pending sale at the Dec. 4 meeting and Ilnyckyj said he was not aware of any.

At the time, Barnes said, Ilnyckyj had asked the youth ranch about buying the property but nothing had been formalized.

-- Richard Raeke can be reached at 564-3623 or rraeke@sptimes.com.

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