Holmes Beach takes neighbors to court

Two neighboring cities on Anna Maria Island and the mobile home park that separates them are now on a path to the courthouse over rights to 27th Street.

The city of Holmes Beach filed an action for declaratory relief May 24 against the city of Bradenton Beach and Sandpiper Resort Co-op Inc., 2601 Gulf Drive N., asking the court to decide the ongoing border dispute.

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Diane Moreland was assigned to the case and issued summonses to the defendants May 24.

In the action, Holmes Beach requests the court void the 2008 quitclaim deed Bradenton Beach used to transfer the 27th Street property to Sandpiper, a nonprofit association of mobile home owners in Bradenton Beach. It also asks the court to declare the 27th street right of way to be a public street.

The portion of the platted street in dispute runs east of Gulf Drive to Sarasota Bay along the northern border of the Sandpiper, and mostly has been used for parking by the mobile home park residents.

Among the allegations in the complaint, signed May 22 by Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, include the city’s contention that Bradenton Beach improperly relied on a state law that allows municipalities to re-convey property because the rights of way “were never conveyed to Bradenton Beach.”

In addition, the lawsuit states that when Bradenton Beach enacted its ordinance authorizing the quitclaim, “there was evidence that portions of the rights of way, specifically the north 30 feet of 27th Street … were improved and had been used for right-of-way purposes, including vehicular use, pedestrian use and utility use for decades.”

Before the city of Bradenton Beach authorized the quitclaim to Sandpiper, Holmes Beach contended the conveyance was improper in a Dec. 3, 2008, letter to the city of Bradenton Beach.

Holmes Beach commissioners dropped the matter shortly after the letter was sent, but again addressed it last summer when the Sandpiper erected a fence, installed gates and posted “no trespass” signs along the border.

In October, Holmes Beach instituted a state process required before one municipality sues one another, attempting to settle the matter with Bradenton Beach. However, the process stalled in February after the two governmental entities could not resolve the deed to the Sandpiper. Further frustrating officials was the fact the Sandpiper was not compelled to participate.

During the conflict resolution process, Bradenton Beach representatives alleged Holmes Beach had no standing in the matter. Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy maintained that no part of the subject property was within the jurisdiction of Holmes Beach.

Recent attempts by Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino to resolve the matter with Sandpiper officers were reportedly made and rejected. At a March 27 city meeting, Holmes Beach commissioners gave Sandpiper two weeks to notify its residents, hold a meeting and make a decision as to whether it will pursue a quitclaim of the property.

In April, the Sandpiper owner’s association president Doug LeFevre was waiting for Holmes Beach’s formal settlement offer to resolve the dispute, but, he said, the association had never received such an offer in writing.

In addition to asking the court to declare 27th Street a public street, the city of Holmes Beach also is asking Sandpiper be ordered to remove the gates and “private property” signs from the fence, and also remove a portion of the fence to provide access from an adjoining alley to 27th Street.

At press time for The Islander, neither LeFevre nor Shaughnessy returned calls to comment on the lawsuit.

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