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Boundary dispute complicated by lack of quorum

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A lack of action on the part of Bradenton Beach city officials has frustrated Holmes Beach officials over the disputed 27thStreet quitclaim deed granted to Sandpiper Resort in 2008.

Who may or may not have access at the northern boundary of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach has come into question, and has launched a complicated dispute.

Bradenton Beach officials made it clear at their Jan. 5 meeting that they would like to move forward in settling the dispute, but are unable to do so with two of the four voting commissioners having to recuse themselves from the issue due to living in the Sandpiper Resort, which is central to the dispute.

Hopes were high during the meeting that a new Ward 3 commissioner would be appointed at the meeting, allowing a quorum of three voting members, but that did not happen.

At the Jan. 5 meeting, the mayor only acknowledged one applicant and his appointment was put on hold following a concern raised about a conflict of interest.

The applicant earns an income as the city’s webmaster, which lead to a concern at the meeting of a conflict with Florida statutes concerning contract fees paid to city officials.

Virtually every Bradenton Beach commissioner voiced a desire to move the dispute with Holmes Beach forward toward settlement, but reiterated that they have not been able to do so without a third voting member.

A lengthy discussion on the dispute went forward with city attorney Recinda Perry saying the issue will not likely be resolved without input from the Sandpiper Resort board of directors.

“Sandpiper has not been given enough say in this,” said Perry. “Personally, I feel no solution can come about without input from Sandpiper.”

Sandpiper board member Danny Rains provided a presentation to the city commission at the Jan. 5 meeting, highlighting the board’s desire to resolve the boundary issue and presented possible solutions. However, Rains did so not as an official representative of the board.

Mayor John Shaughnessy, who has had to recuse himself from the dispute, spoke as a private citizen with approval from Perry.

“Sandpiper is not having a board meeting until February,” he said. “Anything being proposed now is something I don’t know has been approved and, they are having an election in January, so there may be different board members.”

Shaughnessy also noted that if the dispute comes down to land ownership, it would require Sandpiper to take the issue to a vote of its shareholders, approximately 120 of them.

“It would take two thirds to approve that,” said Shaughnessy. “A lot of residents are absentee owners, so proxies would have to be mailed out. It could be 30 or 60 days, if it came down to a vote. This thing is a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface.”

Perry said it was still important to work with Sandpiper to gain their input and have that input included in the Holmes Beach proposal, although the city lacks a quorum to take action.

“As city attorney, I have only so much authority and latitude until I have direction from my commission,” she said. “I need to know if the Sandpiper proposal is agreeable, or if you have an alternative idea. I need to know if I’m digging in my heels and litigating, compromising, or working on one of the proposals.”

Perry asked for a consensus from the only two voting members of the commission, Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and Vice Mayor Ed Straight, to work with Sandpiper, and attempt to include their input in the conflict resolution process.

“The whole reason this came about is because Sandpiper was renovating and their lending agent mandated that the quitclaim deed be put in place,” said Perry. “Sandpiper can’t release any property without their lending agency signing off on it. It’s all tied together.”

Perry said the crux of the argument is that evidence was submitted in 2008 that Sandpiper owned the property.

“It was never dedicated as a public street of Bradenton Beach,” said Perry. “If the city maintains the street, anyone can park on it. If it’s private, then Sandpiper can regulate who can park there.”

Both Straight and Vosburgh agreed that Sandpiper should be a part of the process and consented to allow Perry to work with Sandpiper on their recommendations.

The unofficial Sandpiper proposal is to remove the “No trespassing signs,” and replace them with directional “To beach” signs. Rains also suggested the removal of the locking devices on the gates.

Other suggestions made by Rains were for parking north of Seventh Street, a street owned and maintained by Sandpiper within the park; to require Holmes Beach to install a gateway in the alley; and for Holmes Beach to acquire two feet of property from adjoining residents, while Sandpiper would add two feet on its boundary for a beach pathway.

Perry summed up her presentation by pointing out that Holmes Beach’s current settlement proposal has legal ramifications.

“I recommend you digest those,” she said. “I still don’t believe Holmes Beach has adequate legal standing, but (Holmes Beach) neighbors could get frustrated with this process and sue the city and undo everything that has been done.”

Representatives of both cities are scheduled to meet again Jan. 18 to continue the state-prescribed conflict resolution process.

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