October 3, 2008

Vilano Homes Get State OK for Seawall Homeowners Have Been Asking for the Protection for Their Oceanfront Residences.


After eight months of waiting, four Vilano Beach oceanfront homeowners whose dwellings are within feet of tall, eroded dunes have permission to build a seawall to protect themselves from further beach erosion.

The homeowners have been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to get approval to build a permanent wall that would stop more sand from slipping away from their homes' foundations.

DEP officials had said they would give the homeowners a decision by today.

The erosion started in March after a series of windy storms and high waves carved away at the dunes behind the homes, in some cases exposing the foundations.

Martha Thomas, one of the homeowners, had been submitting plans and engineering studies for months to the DEP, only to find that, after 30 days of review, more testing or another study had to be done. Finally, after Tropical Storm Fay increased the erosion in August and threatened nearby Florida A1A, the DEP said it was time to act.

Thomas said she and the other homeowners were told that they would be permitted to build one continuous permanent seawall to protect all four homes.

"It's a relief. Finally, after all this time, we can protect our homes," Thomas said Friday.

Other homeowners in South Ponte Vedra Beach have faced similar erosion problems in the past several years, but they were allowed to construct seawalls to stop their erosion.

The four homes in Vilano Beach are different cases because they were built after 1985, atop pilings. Prior to that year, oceanfront homeowners weren't required to build on the vertical supports that lift homes above ground level. The DEP says pilings should protect homes from erosion, even if the dune system is washed away.

However, the utilities in all of the homes have been compromised. Thomas said she has power on only one side of her home, her water heater won't stay on and her fire alarm keeps sounding. Thomas said her next-door neighbor's outdoor surge protector was exposed and caught fire. In addition, with the electricity surging off and on, homeowners have lost televisions, computers and other electronic equipment.

"The pilings might stay, but the utilities won't," Thomas said.Christina Abel can also be reached at (904) 249-4947, ext. 6319.

(c) 2008 Florida Times Union. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.