Palmetto Bay vice mayor says vandals hacked his trees

03/29/2013 4:44 PM

03/29/2013 4:49 PM

A Palmetto Bay council member is offering a $50,000 reward for tips leading to the capture of whoever illegally cut mangrove trees on his property.

John DuBois, the village’s vice mayor, says someone came onto his bayfront property around 3 a.m. on Monday and chopped off limbs from the state-protected trees. Police say they are investigating.

The incident comes while DuBois faces a lawsuit from Miami-Dade County environmental officials, who accuse him of illegally trimming mangrove trees and filling wetlands on his 8-acre property during the last few years. DuBois has asked a judge to dismiss the county’s complaint.

The vice mayor filed a report with the Miami-Dade Police Department Monday afternoon, saying that someone vandalized the mangroves on his property at about 3 a.m. Monday at the 17500 block of Old Cutler Road.

“That’s a major hack,” DuBois told The Miami Herald. “I don’t believe it was done by a fisherman. It was done by someone with bad intentions.”

Florida mangroves enjoy special legal protection because the trees are vital to Florida’s ecosystem and protect the shores from erosion.

While state statutes regulate the cutting and alteration of mangroves, in the mid-1990s Miami-Dade County became a state-delegated authority, which means that instead of the state, the county takes action to regulate mangrove trimming and alteration, said Lisa Spadafina, manager of the Coastal and Wetlands Resources Section of the county Department of Environmental Resources Management.

Generally, Miami-Dade County homeowners who want to trim mangroves on their property have to obtain a permit from the county. There are certain exemptions outlined by the state.

Monday’s “hack” job on DuBois’ property comes six months after the county sued DuBois on allegations of improper tree-trimming.

The county is asking for a court order requiring DuBois to remediate the violations on his property as well as for civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day per violation, according to court documents.

The suit was filed in September during the Palmetto Bay elections campaign season when DuBois successfully ran for the vice mayoral seat.

“I hope there’s no connection between the two,” DuBois told The Miami Herald when asked if there is a relationship between the lawsuit and the recent police report he filed.

As for the county’s lawsuit: “I’ve maintained and continue to maintain that there have been no violations on this property,” DuBois said. “I am confident that everybody will realize that there have been no violations here.”

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