In an Oct. 26 counterclaim filed in the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit by Charles Webb, attorney for the Sandpiper Resort in Bradenton Beach, Webb said the Holmes Beach lawsuit to declare a portion of 27th Street as public property is unlawful.
Holmes Beach filed the lawsuit in May seeking to void a 2008 quitclaim deed by Bradenton Beach to the mobile home park, and is asking the court to order Sandpiper to remove gates and private property signs, as well as a portion of a fence to allow public beach access.
In Webb’s counterclaim, he cites Article 7 of the state constitution, which prevents the use of public funds for private purposes.
Webb claims the hiring of an attorney by the city to litigate the lawsuit is an illegal expenditure of public funds.
“This is an extension of Holmes Beach’s credit, and an expenditure of public funds,” Webb writes.
The attorney with Webb, Wells & Williams of Holmes Beach, said 27th Street has been an unimproved vacant lot in excess of 60 years.
Holmes Beach maintains that county utilities in the area indicate the street is improved, and therefore public.
“Prior to the quitclaim deed, no public entity used or improved 27th Street, including Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. Prior to the granting of a utility easement from Sandpiper to the county, it has never been improved by the county,” Webb wrote.
Webb also said the numbers of Holmes Beach citizens who “allegedly” use the street “are so few as to not give rise to public usage of 27th Street.”
Holmes Beach Commissioner John Monetti has been at the center of the controversy, as a rental property owner on the Holmes Beach side of the street, which marks the boundary between Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.
Webb said Monetti has objected to the quitclaim since Bradenton Beach began the process with public hearings, stating in those hearings that his property would be adversely affected by the quitclaim.
Webb said Monetti used his position as a Holmes Beach commissioner in an attempt to involve the city of Holmes Beach in Bradenton Beach proceedings. Other commissioners initially refused to get involved until recently.
“This lawsuit by Holmes Beach is an attempt to enforce alleged rights of private individuals, including Monetti, and constitutes the unlawful use of public funds and credit for private purposes,” Webb writes.
The counterclaim follows an Oct. 23 judge’s ruling to deny a Holmes Beach motion for judgment. Holmes Beach claimed Sandpiper did not meet their legal obligation to respond to the lawsuit in time, but the judge disagreed.
A second motion also is being considered by Bradenton Beach’s defense attorney Chuck Johnson, who has asked for a dismissal because Holmes Beach lacks standing.
The judge is expected to render a decision on Johnson’s motion sometime this week.
Webb’s motion had not yet come in front of the judge, as of press time for The Islander.