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Date of Issue: January 05, 2006

Perico construction ready, lawsuit could apply brakes

perico st joe pic
Moving in
Work crews last week moved a construction trailer and pre-sales office to the Perico Harbor Marina in anticipation of the start of construction of the St. Joe Company's commercial development at the site. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The St. Joe Co./Paradise Pointe LLC wasted little time after receiving approval in early December from the City of Bradenton for its commercial development at the Perico Harbor Marina at the east end of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Crews last week moved in a construction trailer in preparation for the demolition of the former Leverock's Restaurant at the site, but St. Joe's enthusiasm for a quick start to the project may come to a screeching halt.

A lawsuit was filed Dec. 14 against the city's approval of the project by attorney Steve Chase on behalf of David Deitrich as trustee of adjacent property owned by developer Pat Neal that includes a 50-foot easement that Paradise Pointe would have to utilize in its project.

Deitrich claims in the lawsuit that the city failed to comply with the city's code requirements for notice to adjacent property owners. As a result, he "was not afforded an opportunity to participate" in the proceedings and was "denied due process."

The lawsuit also alleges that approvals by both the city's planning commission and city council were "not supported by competent substantial evidence."

Deitrich also said he has a "non-exclusive roadway easement" over a portion of the Perico Harbor property and construction of some of the improvements in the project would be within that easement.

Neal said it was "silly" for St. Joe to proceed with a project "without providing access from their community to our site." Eventually, St. Joe will have to negotiate with him for access. He was also surprised that no advance notice of St. Joe's commercial proposal was sent to his firm - Manatee Management Ltd. - as adjacent land owners.

Efforts to reach St. Joe vice president Ed Hill or a Paradise Pointe spokesperson were unsuccessful, but in the wake of a successful lawsuit several years ago against a Jensen Beach apartment project, St. Joe/Perico Harbor may want to proceed with caution.

In that lawsuit, developers received approval from St. Lucie County for a multi-million-dollar apartment complex and began construction, despite a lawsuit filed by adjacent residents against the county's approval of the project.

The residents eventually won the lawsuit and the Florida Supreme Court ordered the apartment complex torn down, despite the fact that the project was completed and people had already moved into the units.

Building the complex in the face of the lawsuit was a decision that eventually cost the developers millions of dollars and, since that court case, Florida developers have been reluctant to proceed with construction projects until all legal objections have been satisfied.

In addition to its Perico Harbor commercial venture, St. Joe plans a 686-unit condominium project on the adjacent property just east and north of Perico Harbor Marina. That project has already been approved by the City of Bradenton and cleared several legal hurdles, but no start date for construction has yet been announced.

Neal also noted that his company owns about one-half of the western frontage along Anna Maria Sound adjacent to  St. Joe's proposed condominium project. Neal's long-range plans for that property include several single-family homes along the waterfront.

Neal also owns about 55 acres of property on south Perico Island directly across Manatee Avenue from the proposed St. Joe project, but has entered into a sales agreement with Manatee County that will allow the county to preserve the lands for future generations.