Saturday, 25 May 2024

Concerns over migratory birds halts Lake Sands Resort demolition

The Lake Sands Resort's demolition is being delayed because of nesting barn swallows. Lake County News file photo.


LUCERNE – The effort to remove another blighted building on Lucerne's lakeshore has hit a snag.

On April 28, Robert Affinito removed the Lucerne Motel which was located at 6339 E. Highway 20 on the lakeshore, which sits next door to the Lake Sands Resort, both owned by his family.

The aging Lake Sands resort building, now boarded up, also was slated for removal, but the county's Community Development Department reports that the building's demolition can't go forward due to nesting barn swallows.

The barn swallow, Hirundo rustica, is not an endangered or threatened species; it is, however, protected by the federal Migratory Birds Act, Community Development Director Rick Coel explained.

None of the birds had been found in the Lucerne Motel, but within the last week they've begun building nests on the stucco exterior of the Lake Sands Resort, said Coel. One of his staffers discovered the situation and brought it to his attention.

That caused Community Development to halt the next demolition, because Coel said Affinito could get into serious trouble with US Fish & Wildlife, which the department didn't want to see happen.

US Fish & Wildlife spokesman Steve Martarano told Lake County News that barn swallows have always been included in the Migratory Bird Act, first established in 1918.

“It's the most widespread species of swallow in the world,” said Martarano.

Fish & Wildlife reports that the original 1918 statute implemented a 1916 convention between the US and Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, to protect migratory birds, with later amendments adding in treaties with the US and Mexico, Japan and the Soviet Union/Russia.

The birds pass through Lake County on a seasonal basis, said Coel, who admitted his department doesn't often run into these kinds of issues.

Martarano said the birds have an incubation period of three weeks and two broods. “They should start hatching any time.”

US Fish & Wildlife estimates it will be August before the second brood is gone. The nests will need to be watched to make sure the birds are totally gone before anything can be done with the buildings, Martarano said.

From Lake County, the birds will head south around September, said Martarano.

“It's not all bad in terms of timing,” Coel said of the situation.

He said while they're waiting for the swallows to move on, Affinito can proceed with the prep work, gutting the interior and doing the asbestos study that's necessary on the older building.

Coel said older structures often have asbestos in their insulation and tiles. “That was an issue in the other building.”

“We think these birds out to be out of there sometime in August and we can pick up the pace again,” said Coel.

Affinito said the issue “kind of took me by surprise.”

However, he said he still has plans to draw for a new hotel property he wants to build there. “So it doesn't really affect me in any way.”

Affinito said that, with county permission, he may put up some cyclone fencing and banners to let people know what's going on.

Meanwhile, while it's been an issue for the town's human residents, the old building is a nice place for birds, with plenty of bugs to eat and a nice view of the lake. Coel joked that it's the “original mixed use” structure.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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