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Island cities, Sandpiper mum on 27th Street lawsuit

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

The border dispute between Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach over 27th Street has almost nobody talking, but nonetheless, it’s become an all-Island affair.

Holmes Beach filed suit against its neighbor May 24, asking the 12th Judicial Circuit Court to void Bradenton Beach’s 2008 quitclaim deed to Sandpiper Resort Co-op Inc. and declare the street — which runs east of Gulf Drive to Sarasota Bay on the north side of the Sandpiper — a public right of way.

Holmes Beach also is asking the court to order the Sandpiper to remove the gates and private property signs from the fence along the boundary of the resort and 27th Street, and also remove a portion of the fence to provide access from an adjoining alley to 27th Street.

The court assigned Judge Diane L. Moreland to the case.

Attorneys for the two cities agreed June 1 to extend the time allowed for Bradenton Beach to respond to the complaint. A stipulation, signed by the respective city attorneys, gives Bradenton Beach until July 6 to file its answer or other response.

Portions of the platted street have been used for Sandpiper parking as well as public utilities, but is otherwise unimproved. Some of the Sandpiper’s mobile home residences also reportedly encroach on the platted street.

Tracy Moon, office manager of Sandpiper, a community of some 120 shareholders, said, “We can’t actually comment because it’s in legal hands right now.”

However, she confirmed that Sandpiper received the lawsuit, and that the co-op has retained Chuck Webb, local attorney and Anna Maria city commissioner.

Last week, Webb qualified to run for another two-year term as commissioner. He also was Sandpiper’s attorney in 2008 when the city of Bradenton Beach quitclaimed the 27th Street property.

At presstime for The Islander, Webb had not returned a call for comment on the suit.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy — a Sandpiper resident — and Sandpiper association president Doug LeFevre also have not returned calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.  Unlike attorneys and city officials, Sandpiper resident Carol Wallace did not shy from comment on the litigation last week.

She said, “Most of us think it’s a waste of time. We’ve had three attorneys advising us — it’s a very narrow issue.”

The lawsuit was filed in response to Holmes Beach Commissioner John Monetti’s concerns about his rental property adjacent to 27th Street in Holmes Beach, according to Wallace. And, she said, he has “the ear of Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.”

“It’s a waste of taxpayer’s money in Holmes Beach,” she said. She said she’s confident Sandpiper’s positions will prevail in court, and believes Sandpiper and Bradenton Beach will look to recoup their attorneys’ fees from the city of Holmes Beach.

While Monetti did not return calls for comment last week, in a recent letter to the editor, he denied any personal financial gain, and also stated, “a dispute exists between those residents of Holmes Beach who wish to continue to use 27th Street, just as they have during the past 60 years, and the Sandpiper, which appears to have taken the street as their own private property.”

The dispute first arose in December 2008 when Holmes Beach was first notified by Bradenton Beach of the impending quitclaim deed and an ordinance in support of the conveyance.

While Holmes Beach commissioners dropped the matter shortly after city attorney Patricia Petruff sent a letter of objection to Bradenton Beach, the issue arose again last summer when the Sandpiper erected a fence, installed gates and posted no trespass signs along the border.

In October, Holmes Beach instituted a state conflict resolution process required before one municipality sues one another.

During the process, Bradenton Beach representatives maintained Holmes Beach had no standing in the matter, as Shaughnessy pointed out — no part of the subject property is within the jurisdiction of Holmes Beach.

The conflict resolution meetings ended in February after the two governmental entities could not resolve their issues. The state-mandated process, however, did not compel the Sandpiper to participate, which was central to a resolution.

In March, private settlement discussions reportedly occurred between the city of Holmes Beach and Sandpiper. The city then directed the lawsuit be filed if the Sandpiper did not respond by starting the process to quitclaim a portion of 27th Street back to Bradenton Beach within two weeks.

In April, Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino reported to the commissioners that a settlement was unlikely.

Sandpiper representatives said a written offer from Holmes Beach was requested of Zaccagnino, but was never received.

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