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Longboat Key Monday, Jun. 4, 2018 2 years ago

Longboat Buttonwood Drive property still in disarray

Town officials have met with project managers at 500 Buttonwood Drive more than 10 times since the project began, yet not much has changed.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Bob Erker often gets asked what happened to his neighborhood. Rather than go into the whole story, Erker just tells them a bomb went off — at least that’s what it looks like.

Erker lives on Buttonwood Drive, a road that begins at Gulf of Mexico Drive with a lot full of upturned dirt, gnarled roots and standing water. 

That property — 500 Buttonwood Drive — has been that way for months, causing neighbors concern over the aesthetics of their neighborhood, the impact of mosquito swarms born in standing water on the property and the impacts such a site has on property values. 

“It’s very unsightly and detracts from our neighborhood,” said Erker, a board member of the Buttonwood Harbour Association. 

Town officials got involved in the project soon after work on the site began, issuing a stop work order at the end of July to put an end to power outages and damage that had been done to a neighboring property as a result of felling trees. 

The town has been in contact with the contractor at the site — developer Michael Gautier and project manager Kyle Adams — at least 10 times since the town issued a stop work order in late February. But since then, not much has been done at the site. 

Adams and Gautier did not return requests for comment. 

One of those conversations also included members from the Buttonwood Harbour Association in a meeting at Town Hall organized by town officials. But that meeting was not productive, said Laurin Goldner, another board member with the Buttonwood Harbour Association. 

Homeowners sought answers about a timeline when they can expect the development project to complete, Goldner said. But all they got were answers about rain or engineering studies delaying the progress, Goldner said. 

“You don’t just clear a piece of property and not clean it up if you have a plan to go forward,” Goldner said. 

The town has issued warning and notices to comply to the contractor, to no avail. There is no citation process by which the town may fine a developer without that entity appearing before the Code Enforcement Board — an action that the town has planned at a June meeting of the board. 

“We’ve been prompting and pushing and using the code enforcement process,” said Town Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons. “The town has been unsuccessful in getting action.” 

Bob Erker

The problem Erker said he noticed with the project is that it seemed to him that the contractor was “trying to do all the work on the cheap.” 

“We knew someday that someone would try to develop [that property],” Erker said. “We had no idea that the quality of the development and the people hired to do it would be so terrible.” 

Goldner said that her biggest concern with the property is drainage — the site, and neighborhood, struggle with excess water after storms. 

But the town, Goldner said, has taken all appropriate action in this case. 

“They are there, they are paying attention, they know what’s going on, and you can’t ask much more than that,” Goldner said. 

The project manager has been summoned to a code enforcement board hearing Monday, where fines may be imposed for non compliance with town codes. 

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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