Fourteen lawsuits and counting.
The city of Holmes Beach, insured by the Florida League of Cities’ Florida Municipal Insurance Trust, is fielding its 14th lawsuit under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act.
Mayor Bob Johnson was served March 6 with the suit, which alleges the city’s two-person-per-bedroom occupancy rules enacted in 2015-16 devalued a duplex property at 204 72nd St. belonging to developer Shawn Kaleta.
The latest filing in the 12th Circuit Court brings the total of Bert Harris suits against the city to $5.3 million.
It claims the vacation rental ordinances required reducing the occupants from 18 to 16 at a home built in 2010 “before occupancy restrictions contained in the ordinance were even considered.”
Filed Feb. 22 by attorney Aaron Thomas of the Najmy Thompson law firm of Bradenton, the latest complaint also alleges his client suffered an inordinate economic burden due to the occupancy restriction and therefore is entitled to the actual market value loss.
Other suits against the city allege similar Bert Harris devaluation from short-term rental ordinances adopted in 2013-16 restricting building footprints, living areas, setbacks, parking and pools.
Kaleta initially notified the city of his 204 72nd St. claim for a $400,000 loss in April 2017 supported by an appraisal.
Prior to filing under the act, owners must first bring their claims to the applicable government entity. The entity — the city in these cases — is required to respond with an offer, which can include an offer not to change in its actions.
Holmes Beach has responded to all claimants with “no change” offers.
The city began receiving Bert Harris claims, numbering now more than 50, in March 2016. In January 2017, the first suit was filed in 12th Circuit Court.
Mayor Bob Johnson said March 9 the city is maintaining the same position — not negotiating with claimants and defending the city’s ordinances in court.
“There’s nothing new with these things,” he added.
According to treasurer Lori Hill, the city is insured by a $1 million annual policy, including loss coverage related to Bert Harris suits.
As far as costs and attorneys’ fees in the pending cases, Johnson said the city is waiting for “a clear answer” from the insurer.