Bob’s River Place variances 2018-08-14

The Bob’s River Place agenda item on the SRWMD agenda for August 14, 2018 turns out to be the latest in year-long series. Every time I’ve stopped by it’s been closed, so I have no dog in this fight. I’m merely presenting what I’ve dug up in a few minutes by following leads backwards. This agenda-and-minute trail is probably incomplete, but what I’ve found tells a tale about SRWMD granting permits, then receiving citizen complaints including about safety. After which it seems SRWMD discovered numerous structures and other features that had been operational for years, yet had not been permitted.

[Slip and slide ramp removed from permit application 2/5/2013 yet constructed 4/7/2017]
Slip and slide ramp removed from permit application 2/5/2013 yet constructed 4/7/2017

FAR 2018-01-17

Starting with the earliest mention I’ve found in this series and going forwards, Florida Administrative Register, Volume 44, Number 11, January 17, 2018, Section V: Petitions and Dispositions Regarding Rule Variance or Waiver, second item:

Suwannee River Water Management District

40B-4.3030: Conditions for Issuance of Works of the District Permits

[Aerial Site Map]
Aerial Site Map

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that on June 5, 2017, the Suwannee River Water Management District received a petition for variance from Robert Hawkins, 2878 NE Hwy 340, Branford, FL 32008. Pursuant to Section 120.542, F.S. Petitioner is seeking a variance from subsection 40B-4.3030(13), F.A.C., as to no construction, additions or reconstruction shall occur in the front 75 feet of an area immediately adjacent to and including the normally recognized bank of water. The applicant is requesting (perpetually) to have one inch of sand above the normal grade of the riverbank to allow wheelchair access for applicant and guests. The project is located in Township 8 South; Range 14 East; Section 16; in Dixie County. These rules are intended to set forth criteria for development activities within a Works of the District. The petition has been assigned ERP Number ERP-029-214825-6, Hawkins Project.

A copy of the Petition for Variance or Waiver may be obtained by contacting: Tilda Musgrove, Business Resource Specialist, Suwannee River Water Management District, 9225 CR 49, Live Oak, FL 32060, (386)362-1001 or 1(800)226-1066 in Florida only.

I’m not sure why it shows up in the Florida Administrative Register six months after SRWMD got the variance petition, but there it is.

SRWMD 2018-02-13

The same ERP number was on SRWMD’s February 13, 2018 agenda as

RM Page 1 13. Denial of Final Order 18-0002 for General Works of the District Permit Application Number ERP-029-214825-6, Hawkins Project, Dixie County

SRWMD’s March 13, 2018 agenda includes the minutes for that February meeting, which note:

Agenda Item No. 4 – Public Comment.

  • Sara Gardner, Bob’s River Place – Spoke regarding the positive economic impact on the Dixie County community.
  • Bob Hawkins, Bob’s River Place – Requests approval of variance that is on the Board agenda for denial.

And later:


Agenda Item No. 13 – Denial of Final Order 18-0002 for General Works of the District Permit Application Number ERP-029-214825-6, Hawkins Project, Dixie County. Leroy Marshall, Chief Professional Engineer, presented this item to the Board.

Mr. Hawkins provided comments to the Board.

Agenda Item No 13 moved to end of Board Meeting for discussion.

And just before adjournment:

Agenda Item No. 13 – Denial of Final Order 18-0002 for General Works of the District Permit Application Number ERP-029-214825-6, Hawkins Project, Dixie County. Mr. Marshall presented this item to the Board.


Well, that explains why they have to vote on it in August: the temporary variance expires in September.

SRWMD 2018-05-08

On SRWMD’s May 8, 2018 agenda, a different permit, ERP-029-214825-7, was on the agenda, with:

Staff recommends the Governing Board approve Environmental Resource Permit ERP-029-214825-7 with 31 standard conditions and one special limiting conditions to Robert Hawkins, in Dixie County.


The application is for a minor Individual Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) modification for Bob’s River Place project. The permit will authorize the implementation of the variance approved by the Governing Board on February 13, 2018, which authorized the temporary placement of no more than 10 cubic yards of clean fill in outside of the front 75 feet of the Suwannee River in Dixie County. This permit sequence will expire on September 16, 2018; consistent with the terms of variance Order Number 18-0002.

District staff received objections to this minor modification, therefore necessitating Governing Board issuance of the permit. Objections are related to health, safety, and welfare concerns about the unpermitted activities at this project.

According to the SRWMD June 12, 2018 agenda, the minutes for that May meeting include:

  • Sara Gardner, Bob’s River Place — Concerns regarding objectors to Bob’s River Place ERP project on the agenda.
  • Bob Hawkins, Bob’s River Place—Concerns regarding objectors to Bob’s River Place ERP project on the agenda.

Agenda Item No. 16 – Approval of Environmental Resource Permit ERP-029-214825-7, Authorizing the Temporary Placement of Fill at Bob’s River Place, Dixie County. Mr. Marshall presented this item to the Board.


SRWMD 2018-08-14

Back on that first ERP, the August 14, 2018, SRWMD agenda switches to recommending denial and more.

Under BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES, Steve Minnis, Deputy Executive Director, there’s this item:

BCS Page 122 24. Denial of Environmental Resource Permit Application ERP-029-214825-6,
Hawkins Project, Dixie County, and Associated Sovereign Submerged Lands Lease Application

Down in the details:

Staff recommends the Governing Board:

  1. Deny without prejudice Environmental Resource Permit application ERP-029-214825-6 and associated Sovereign Submerged Lands lease application submitted by Robert Hawkins due to failure to provide requested information necessary to complete the applications; and
  2. Proceed with enforcement action to address unpermitted ERP structures on the Hawkins property.


Mr. Hawkins operates Bob’s River Place, an unregistered Florida business in Dixie County. In response to public complaints received in August 2016, staff has been working with Mr. Hawkins to address all unpermitted Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) structures on his property through the permitting process. Following a letter of non-compliance from the Suwannee River Water Management District (District) (dated 5/2/2017) and from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) (dated 8/25/2017), an incomplete application for the ERP and Sovereign Submerged Lands (SSL) lease was submitted by Mr. Hawkins on November 20, 2017. After seven site inspections, three office meetings, and two requests for additional information (dated 12/20/2017 and 4/20/2018), staff has been unable to obtain the items necessary to complete the ERP. These items include:

  1. A survey of the property showing all existing structures;
  2. An accounting of all unpermitted ERP structures (since 2002);
  3. A building plan and engineering calculations showing all unpermitted ERP structures meet minimum engineering standards;
  4. A zero-rise certification of all unpermitted ERP structures; and
  5. The remaining SSL application materials.

Failure to complete this application leaves several unpermitted ERP structures on the property.

These ERP structures have been identified in multiple public complaints and include:

  1. A slip and slide ramp (see Exhibit A);
  2. Sandbag walls along the riverbank (see Exhibit B);

    [River bank (no sandbags) 4/14/2007 and 5/20/2007]
    River bank (no sandbags) 4/14/2007 and 5/20/2007

  3. Sandbag walls in the slough (see Exhibit C);

    [Slough (no sandbags on sides) 8/4/2012 Slough (with sandbags) 4/17/2017]
    Slough (no sandbags on sides) 8/4/2012 Slough (with sandbags) 4/17/2017

  4. One floating dock (see Exhibit D); and
  5. Bleachers installed in 2010 after the issuance of ERP-029-214825-4 (ERP02-0300M3).

    [two floating docks....]
    two floating docks….

Failure to complete this application also results in an incomplete SSL lease application, and enforcement associated with this application will be addressed by the FDEP. Staff recommends denial of the applications and enforcement proceedings as the course of action for bringing this project into compliance with Chapters 40B-4, 62-330, and 18-21, Florida Administrative Code.


Attachment and Exhibits


I was curious about what were the safety complaints. The Dixie County Advocate provided a list, which I have put in chronological order, plus a few notes. Another Death at Bob’s Swings, Dixie County Advocate, June 16, 2017,

  • In June of 2013, a 65 year old Raiford woman also died at Bob’s after jumping off of the dock and never resurfacing.

See also, Woman dies at swimming hole, Chiefland Citizen, June 17, 2013, “A 65-year-old Raiford woman died on Saturday, June 15, while swimming with family at Bob’s River Place off of Northeast Highway 340 in Old Town.”

  • In July of 2014, 21 year old Grant Hatchett went off of a swing at Bob’s and never resurfaced. His body was later recovered.

See also Full release from the CDSO (The family has been notified), Dixie County Advocate, facebook, July 8, 2014 and Man drowns on Suwannee, The Staff, Chiefland Citizen, July 17, 2014, “A tourist from Brunswick, Ga., died on July 8 after he went out on the swing overhanging the Suwannee River at Bob’s River Place and did not surface.”

  • In 2015, a Bell high school football player was paralyzed while jumping off of a swing at Bob’s.
  • June 16, 2017, “The caller stated that a 22 year old male subject had gone under water and had not resurfaced. According to the caller, other individuals have been searching for him for approximately ten minutes…. At approximately 2:10pm the victim’s body was recovered….”

Statement from Bob’s River Place re: accidental rope-swing death yesterday. Third reported death since 2013. @WCJB20, Scott LaPeer, twitter, June 17, 2017,

We are devastated about what happened to this young man and are still waiting on official reports to clarify the cause. Thousands swing from this rope without incidents. We give safety instruction from a loudspeaker, which is located in trees and all rope swing locations. In this case, we were just starting the day and noticed this young man was not responding to safety instruction spoken to him on the speakers, which alarmed us. This is all we know for now, until an investigation is complete.

I don’t know how this fatality and injury record compares to other river places. However, if I am not mistaken, one person breaking his neck jumping into Madison Blue Spring resulted in the high dive off the tree being closed.

However Tuesday’s SRWMD meeting turns out, this is an interesting example of citizens having their say on all sides and an appointed body trying to sort out its own duties.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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