Hobe Sound preserve controversy

HOBE SOUND, Fla. - It measures 40 feet by 60 feet and sits behind the Flash Beach Grille in Hobe Sound but for owner Anita Breinig it's a huge weight on her shoulders.

"It is a nightmare," says Breinig, "I wanna cry."

Anita and Robert Breinig bought the property on Bridge Road three years ago.

"This is what we've always wanted to do," says Robert Breinig, "My wife and I have been in the business for all our lives."

They did their research and even paid a company to do a title search.  Last year they began plans to expand and that's when Martin County dropped a bombshell: their small backyard is marked as a preserve.

"There was nothing to be found about a preserve or anything that will prevent us from growing our business," says Breinig, "We were gonna do fruit trees and an herb garden."

The Breinigs asked the commissioners to remove the preserve designation.  Right now they have storage units on part of it.

"This is all of our cold storage for the restaurant," says Anita Breinig as she pointed to one of the large metal containers behind the building.

On Tuesday county commissioners denied that request voting 4 to 1.

"That's about trying to protect the environment and the ecology," said Commissioner Ed Fielding.

Martin County refused our request for an interview. 

But the Breinig's aren't alone. There are 650 preserves like this one.  County officials acknowledge many property owners don't know they have one and may not find out unless they need a building permit. 

"We get one lot owner that comes in for a building permit that comes in and wants to fix something on their house or do something but we'll hold them up meanwhile the entire rest of the neighborhood is not in compliance," said Commissioner Doug Smith.

The commissioners agreed to give the Breinigs 60 days to get in compliance but the Breinigs say that will cost too much money.

"They want us to rebuild a preserve that we never even saw," says Anita Breinig.

They have a lot of support from their customers.

"We've been coming here for years and years," says Martha Gordon.

The Breinigs aren't sure what to do now.

"We're at the mercy of God at this point," says Robert Breinig, "I view it as David and Goliath."

So how do you know if you have a preserve on your property? A Martin County spokesperson says you can call the county to find out.

The Flash Beach Grille will re-open Friday for Mother's Day weekend.