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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Torres offers settlement option in Holmes Beach lawsuit

A settlement in an ongoing legal dispute between the Torres family and the City of Holmes Beach may soon be on the table.

Holmes Beach and Noah's Ark Enterprises Inc. were served with a lawsuit filed on behalf of Carmen, Fernando and Gladys Torres of Holmes Beach in August 2001.

The Torres family owns property on 38th Street next to the Anna Maria Island Beach Resort, formerly the Aquarius Motel, which was owned and operated by John Pace of Noah's Ark Enterprises Inc.

The Anna Maria Island Beach Resort was recently sold to Milt and Brenda Boyd-May and has prompted Torres to negotiate a settlement.

At the heart of the lawsuit is Torres' complaint that the beautification project on Second Avenue granted to Pace by the city restricts access to his home. Both Torres and the motel abutt Second Avenue, an unpaved city right of way. Second Avenue runs north to south along the beachfront, south of the Manatee Public Beach.

The lawsuit argues that the landscaping done by Pace impairs access to the Torres home and diminishes the value of the property.

In a letter to City Attorney Jim Dye, Torres' attorney John Thomas stated that "the sale of the Anna Maria Island Beach Resort to new owners removes the underlying antagonism between the neighboring parties, thereby removing one obstacle to final resolution of the issues."

The Torres family has offered several terms in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable resolution with the city.

Torres has offered to co-fund with the city the improvement of the disputed portion of Second Avenue by covering a two-lane width of right of way with shell or similar material. The improvements would include a 10-mph speed-limit sign, a no-parking sign and some markers indicating a crosswalk for resort visitors.

The city is also being asked to move the posts placed in the right of way and the resort is being asked to post a sign warning visitors not to move furniture or place objects in the road.

The Torres' would not oppose any reasonable use of public property to the west of the Second Avenue right of way or the remaining road right of way not affected by the proposed new two lane shell road.

Finally, all parties would dismiss the appeals with each party paying its own fees and costs.

According to Dye, the city commissioners would need to schedule a shade meeting in order to discuss any settlement offer and the earliest available date is Feb. 24.