City can't settle dock dispute - yet
Maybe if Hugh Holmes Sr. hadn't created so many canals when he first planned developments in Holmes Beach, there wouldn't be so many problems today with docks, canals and who owns what along the numerous waterways.
As if the T-end canal and Sunrise boat basin problems weren't enough for the city to deal with, city commissioners were asked at their May 23 meeting to attempt to settle the McCaleb-Lindahl lawsuit over dock space at the end of the canal between 71st and 72nd streets with some legislative changes.
The essential issue in the problem, according to city planner Bill Brisson, is that the city codes require a 10-foot setback at the canal end for a dock, and property owners can extend their dock outward into the canal 20 feet. In other words, there is an overlap of 10 feet that the owner of property with a dock at the end of a canal and the two property owners adjacent to that property can claim.
The McCaleb-Lindahl lawsuit is regarding which adjacent property owner is allowed to expand a dock into the canal.
It is, said Brisson, who suggested that the lawsuit could be settled if the commission agreed to change the city code on the canal setback requirements.
"So if we took away the 10-foot setback, that would work?" asked Commissioner David Zaccagnino.
"It would if they both agree," replied Brisson.
Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger suggested the commission first contact both parties to determine if they would agreed to the recommended legislation before proceeding.
But Commissioner Roger Lutz, an attorney, wondered why the city was trying to settle a lawsuit.
"I hate to get in the middle of pending litigation," he said.
Speaking for the city's law firm, attorney Jim Dye said the idea is to fix the problem through legislation because there are other areas in the city where the same problem could arise.
Lutz, however, suggested the city should let a judge decide the McCaleb-Lindahl issue before taking any action.
Bohnenberger again wanted to know if both parties would agree to the proposed legislation to settle their dispute. While McCaleb has reportedly agreed, Steve Lindahl apparently indicated to Dye that both parties were deadlocked.
Without any agreement between the parties to let the proposed legislation settle their dispute, commissioners were reluctant to proceed.
Dye then said that McCaleb had just asked for a "shade" meeting with the commission and Lindahl, where the parties and their attorneys and commission will meet without the public to seek a resolution. Bohnenberger scheduled the shade meeting for Tuesday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m.
More canal problems
But discussion of the city's canals didn't end with the McCaleb-Lindahl problem.
In April, Bruce Hammond had approached the commission with documents that he claims prove ownership of a dock in the Sunrise boat basin.
While research by City Attorney Patricia Petruff and a thorough title search has said the city owns the docks and bottom land, Petruff agreed in April to examine Hammond's documents for proof of ownership.
Returning to the May 23 meeting, Petruff said that Hammond's original 1959 deed only says that the owners should "have a designated spot" for a dock.
According to a senior partner in her law firm, said Petruff, the 1959 deed does not describe any particular property and there is no way to locate said property on the canal bottom. Therefore, Hammond's deed "does not give the person any specific rights."
In her opinion, Hammond does not own a dock, he just has a "right" to a dock as do others in the area. "He has a priority," for a dock, said Petruff.
In fact, Hammond doesn't even own the property, noted Zaccagnino, who researched the property through available online records.
Petruff agreed. Her research found there is a new owner.
In addition, Petruff refuted Hammond's claim he was being taxed separately for the dock. She said she could not find any evidence of that claim at the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office and his tax bills do not reflect a separate charge for a dock.
In other business, the commission passed the first reading of an ordinance to amend the police officers pension trust fund and approved a motion to use the disaster management services of Crowder-Gulf Disaster Recovery and Management under the terms of a contract the company already has with Manatee County.
The commission also endorsed Tarpon Springs Mayor Beverley Billiris as second-vice president for the Florida League of Cities.