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Date of Issue: March 24, 2010

Anna Maria legal woes continue

Anna Maria’s ever-increasing legal problems continued to mount last week when Richard Friday of 104 Park Ave. filed a complaint in the Manatee County Circuit Court against the city and the Stephen A. Walker Land Trust.

The trust has proposed a housing project — Banyan Tree Estates — at 100 Park Ave.

Attorney Stephen Thompson, representing Friday, argued for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging that two of the lots on which Banyan Tree Estates would be located are “conservation” land-use in the city’s comprehensive plan and on its future land-use map.

As such, the city should not have issued the Walker Trust a letter in February 2009 stating that the proposed project “did not contravene” the city’s zoning code requirements.

Not true, alleged Thompson. The zoning code is inconsistent with the comp-plan, and the stated policy of the comp-plan is that “property designated as conservation must not be developed.”

The comprehensive plan takes precedence over the land-development regulations, Thompson said.

Among other claims for a declaratory judgment, Thompson said the permit issued the Walker Trust by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to build is “null and void, based on the inconsistency between the zoning code and the city’s comprehensive plan.”

Thompson asked for a temporary injunction to halt any construction, followed by a permanent injunction from the court. He also asked for “such other and further relief as this court deems just,” but made no mention of monetary damages.

The lawsuit was not unexpected.

Thompson wrote the city in early February that if the city declined to halt development on the lots in question, Friday would have no choice but to “move forward with litigation to stop and prevent this violation of the city’s comprehensive plan.”

Anna Maria already faces a request by Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck, representing Robert and Nicky Hunt, for an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Community Affairs. The Hunts claim the city’s method of computing density in its retail-office-residential district is incorrect.

The DCA recently wrote the city requesting responses on several questions and clarification of some issues. The DCA indicated it would schedule a telephonic conference with all parties involved a few weeks after it receives the city’s responses.

Along with those two legal actions, Pine Avenue Restoration LLC may be considering a lawsuit against the city if the proposed moratorium on site plans along Pine Avenue passes and includes PAR’s applications submitted in mid-November.

City attorney Jim Dye usually gives his opinion on lawsuits and legal actions against the city at a commission meeting. The commission meets again March 25.

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