Sarasota County looking for faster response from property owner who cut mangroves

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - More penalties could be on the way for the Manasota Key property owner accused of tearing down and filling in a mangrove swamp. A plan to restore the area was not submitted by the Friday deadline.

Sarasota County Natural Resources workers say they're moving forward to take more action. And while some work to start to fix the damage has taken place, the county says it needs to be done quicker.

Neighbor Rick Schuessler has been watching closely. "Our hope is the fill would be removed and the mangroves restored."

County natural resources officials like Howard Berna are watching, too. On a Saturday back in late February, they say the property owner, Paul Maurer of Cape Coral, illegally and without permits cut down and filled in a rare mangrove swamp. "The unfortunate situation is, it does not take much time to damage the environment but it takes a much longer time to restore that."

Maurer, who was forced to stop work, has not faced any fines yet. He was however required to submit a restoration planting plan by last Friday, detailing how he plans to replace the impacted area.

The county says he hasn't done it. "There were some items on there which were not completed in time, so we are moving forward in the compliance case with what is called an Affidavit of Violation."

Berna says some initial corrections have been made. "We are moving forward in the right direction. We have managed to get the fill material outside of our water and navigation control authority area along the shoreline."

ABC 7 was unable to reach Maurer on Tuesday. He did tell our coverage partners with the Englewood Sun that while he disagrees with the initial violation, that he is obligated to work with the county and is trying to comply.

"We are working through the process. It often times doesn't happen as quick as people would like to see but we are working through that process," says Berna.

So for now, neighbors like Schuessler say they'll continue to wait and watch to see what happens. "Such a shame it could not have been stopped sooner."

Neighbors tell ABC 7 that much of the work which has been done there took place last Friday. As far as when the rest of it will get complete? Well that's still a mystery.