Gopher tortoise burrows damaged, man charged
"After a nearly two-month investigation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers have charged Roy Oscar Sauer, 74 (DOB 4-26-34), of San Mateo with 34 counts of damaging gopher tortoise burrows on private property in St. Johns County.
Sauer told investigators he ran over burrows while using a tractor and disk to clean up brush and weeds on property owned by his employer, Coy Alvarez, owner of A&W Homes in Palatka. The property is close to the St. Johns and Flagler county line, near Pellicer Creek.
During the investigation, officers walked the property and found at least 46 gopher tortoise burrows, including 34 damaged burrows and evidence of others that were destroyed. This is the largest incident of destroying gopher tortoise burrows in St. Johns County so far this year, according to the FWC.
Blue tape marked each of the burrows before the groundwork operation, according to investigators. The tractor-drawn disk damaged most of the burrows and completely covered others, possibly entombing the tortoises. FWC officers used GPS coordinates to locate and mark the damaged and destroyed burrows.
Alvarez told officers the property was zoned for silviculture and that he was going to plant grass on it. When officers checked with the St. Johns County Planning Division, however, they discovered the property has been zoned for planned unit development since 1984, which allows single- and multi-family housing and commercial uses.
Gopher tortoises are a threatened species in Florida, and it is a second-degree misdemeanor to harm tortoises or damage their burrows.
Joy M. Hill, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission"
Second Degree Misdemeanor - A second-degree misdemeanor is a crime punishable by no more than sixty days in jail, six months of probation, and a $500 fine.
Roy Oscar Sauer is just the fall guy. Should he have known better? Certainly. But let's delve into this further.
If the Gopher Tortoises are gone, then they can go ahead with the construction...
I'm aghast that the "developer/owner," Coy Lee Tate Alvarez, would dissemble and claim that the property was zoned for silviculture when he knows good and damned well that it is zoned for planned use development. I have been in the construction industry for years, and you know, to the tenth of an inch, what a piece of land is or isn't zoned for.
Proceedings of a meeting of the City Commission of the City of Palatka, Florida, held on the 14th day of October, 2004 clearly show that Coy Lee Tate Alvarez is more than aware of zoning, zoning regulations, zoning issues, and the laws.
Coy Lee Tate Alvarez is the owner of A&W Mobile Home Sales (311 S US Highway 17 East Palatka, FL 32131 Phone number: 386-328-4681) Alvarez also owns along with, Charlie Kinnard, Russell D. Castleberry, Peanut on the Suwannee, LLC., and The Road to Nowhere, LLC., again with Charlie Kinnard.
I am working on a small writing project involving property rights and affiliated themes. This might very well be an example that we can discuss, and maybe make heads or tails out of.
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt is On...