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Date of Issue: September 06, 2007

Olesens ahead in agreement with Anna Maria

The city of Anna Maria and the Olesen family of South Bay Boulevard have reached a “mediation settlement agreement” in the lawsuit filed by the Olesens last year against the city. The city commission approved the settlement in a “shade” meeting Aug. 28.

The Olesens were in the midst of renovating their property at 504 S. Bay Blvd. in April 2006 when then- building official Kevin Donohue issued a stop work order because of a 10-foot-wide right of way on the side of the Olesen property that the family included in their building plans.

Donohue said then that the land was city property, while the Olesens countered that the city had vacated the right of way to them more than 20 years ago. The Olesens produced letters from the mayor and building official from the early 1980s to validate their claim.

After several months of negotiations between Olesen lawyers and city attorney Jim Dye failed to break the stalemate, the Olesens filed a legal action in late 2006.

While there are generally no “winners or losers” in a mediation agreement, the Olesens would appear to have gained the upper hand under the terms of the agreement.

The city will pay $22,500 to the Olesens as its share of the mediation costs.

In addition, the city “will support an application for a variance” for the Olesens, although the agreement does not bind the city to grant the variance. The city will “make all accommodations as necessary to expedite any and all processes herein,” the agreement states.

If the city denies a variance, the agreement will be “null and void,” states the settlement.

Surprisingly, the city agreed that the property in question “shall remain owned by the Olesens,” although the city will have an easement that makes up 50 percent of the existing 10-foot platted right-of-way.

The city had contended from the beginning of the dispute that it, not the Olesens, owned the 10-foot right of way and that there was no legal evidence on file with the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s office that the city had ever legally vacated the property to the family. The city had offered the Olesens a “variance procedure” to be able to use the right of way, but the variance would not convey any ownership. The Olesens refused, claiming the letters they have from city officials clearly indicate the city’s intent.

Based upon the mediation agreement, it would appear the mediator who prepared the “compromise” sided with the Olesens and not the city over ownership of the right of way.