All indications are attorneys for Holmes Beach will wear a virtual path to the courthouse as the city maintains a hard line in defense of its ordinances.
Seven lawsuits were filed Nov. 3 against the city under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act.
The state law gives owners the right to sue for market value loss against municipalities that inordinately burden their property rights when an initial claim goes unresolved.
Served Nov. 13 on Mayor Bob Johnson, the suits challenge the city’s short-term rental and two-occupants per bedroom ordinances enacted in 2015-16 and allege a total of $2.5 million in damages.
“Right now, we have no reason to change our strategy. We have decent regulations and rules,” Johnson said Nov. 16. He believes four similar cases filed earlier this year are “defensible.” Each is in various stages of discovery, alleging $1.3 million in damages against the city.
Notice of an additional $22.5 million in losses has been given to the city by other owner/investors — but their claims have not reached the level of lawsuits.
City treasurer Lori Hill said the city’s Florida League of Cities insurance would cover claims up to $1 million and, depending on the ordinance challenged, also would cover legal fees.
The city had no occupancy restriction before 2015.
According to the newly filed lawsuits, the properties were purchased before the new laws were enacted and the owners intended to rent the homes to more people than the two-person per bedroom limit the city allows. And thus, the city, by enacting the new laws, inordinately burdened their property rights, resulting in economic losses.
Two of the seven properties in the new suits — 209 54th St. with a $690,000 claim and 307 66th St. with $295,000 in alleged losses — are, respectively, owned by AMI Breeze and 307 66th, limited liability companies, and list Jennifer Kaleta as the corporate manager, according to Florida Secretary of State records.
Attorney Aaron Thomas of Najmy Thompson PL, representing the owners in all the new suits, contends the 54th Street eight-bedroom property had been intended for at least 20 renters and the six-bedroom 66th Street unit had been intended for 16-plus renters.
Robert and Michele Carl own two properties for which they seek damages, 4805 Second Ave., Unit B, and 118 50th St., Unit A. They allege $275,000 and $400,000 in damages, respectively, for the four-bedroom and six-bedroom units.
Brian Wien alleges $220,000 in damages for being limited by the new city ordinances to no more than 10 occupants for his five-bedroom rental home. He had intended to market the property for at least 12 occupants.
Wien also is involved in a new case with another property, 132 50th St., which he purchased in 2009, and transferred to corporate ownership in 2012.
As the manager of the Coral Escape of Holmes Beach LLC, Wien’s claim is for $240,000 in damages for the six-bedroom home allegedly intended for 14-plus occupants.
R. Carlile Roberts, owner of a three-bedroom condo in LaPlage Place, 6422 Gulf Drive, filed suit, claiming he intended to rent his three-bedroom condo to at least eight people. He is seeking $380,000 in damages.
Najmy Thompson PL represented developer/investor Shawn Kaleta in a federal discrimination case against the city of Anna Maria, through the same Florida League of Cities’ insurance arm representing Holmes Beach, and received a settlement of $1 million, among other concessions for Kaleta.