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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Lake LaVista preferred parcel - 'another fine mess'

As Stan might have said to Ollie, "Another fine mess you've gotten me into."

Shades of Holmes Beach and its ownership problems along some of its canals!

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn told city commissioners March 11 that there is some confusion regarding ownership of seven boat docks along a vacant piece of property on Lake LaVista.

Some Lake LaVista residents have built docks at the property and have used and maintained them for a number of years, some since 1950.

But some of the docks had fallen into disrepair and a complaint was made to city hall, she said.

A recent investigation of ownership by City Attorney Jim Dye requested by the mayor revealed that "the last deed to the property was to the city," Dye said. That was in 1959.

Some Lake LaVista residents, however, have ownership claims also, SueLynn added.

"So there is some question of ownership. It's a complicated issue," she said, in a classic understatement.

Dye said some property ownership rights may have been created by a reserve parcel in the 1949 plat, but the plat is "unclear on this issue."

In his view, the replat and subsequent deed made this property a private park owned by the city for the residents of the Lake LaVista subdivision. The problem, however, is that under state law, the city can't own and maintain a park for just a few people.

If the city owns the land, then the residents who have docks might lose exclusive use of the docks.

There's no simple answer about who owns, who should own, who maintains and who regulates, said Dye, and the city codes don't allow a dock on vacant property.

But if the city owns the property, then it owns the docks and the liability, he noted.

Adding to the confusion, some of the affected residents said the city's quit-claim deed is bogus.

Another fine mess, Ollie.

Resident Jim Callahan said the city has been allowing people to use the docks since 1952.

The system "has been working fine up until now. All we want is a permit to build a new dock. We don't care who owns the land, it's who has deeded rights to the property," he added.

Callahan said he brought the issue to the city commission seven years ago, but it never followed up with a workshop or a conclusion.

The city could sell the property to a homeowner's association, but there isn't one established in Lake LaVista.

In Dye's view, the city should not own the land, but that's a decision for the commission. He just needed direction on how to proceed.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said the "reasonable approach" is that the city should not own the land, but Dye countered that under that approach, 100 percent of the Lake LaVista subdivision owners (44) have to agree to ownership.

"Try," said Commission Chairperson John Quam, and Woodland and Commissioner Carol Ann Magill agreed.

OK, said Dye.

On another matter, the commission set the next parking meeting for 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 18.