Clearwater -- Last week Judge Nellie Khouzam ruled the Class Action law suit brought against the City of Clearwater by Anne Garris and Suzanne Boschen should be consolidated with the City?s court action to validate $15 million in bonds. The bonds will finance the Beach Walk on South Clearwater Beach.
The class action suit alleges that the City of Clearwater violated its charter by signing an agreement with the developers of the Hyatt Hotel. The development agreement allows the vacation of a street that accesses the water; and also permits the operation of a concession by the Hyatt. The concession will be built on the public beach in front of the resort hotel.
The development agreement calls the permission to use the concession building a license and allows it for 50 years. The lawsuit contends that it is, in effect, a lease, which, under the charter, is not allowed on recreation/open space lands without a referendum.
Mr. Richard Fee, attorney for Garris and Boschen, has been requested by attorneys for the City to agree to a two-hour time limit for the consolidated trial. Mr. Fee responded that more time is needed for the plaintiffs to bring forth evidence to prove their case. He added that it might take a number of days to adequately present the case.
In a letter to the City?s attorney, Mr. Fee stated, "In closing, I note that your effort to set this action for a two-hour trial is consistent with my perception that the city is seeking to eliminate the Plaintiffs? rights in this case via consolidation with the bond validation action. I sincerely hope that the City demonstrates by its actions that my perception is erroneous."
A recent article in a local newspaper reported that the suit against the City by Garris and Boschen would "stop redevelopment on Clearwater Beach for years." When questioned, Mrs. Garris replied, "Our lawsuit does not address Beach Walk. We?re only interested in the development agreement, which we believe violates the Charter, and only pertains to the Hyatt project. If the City wants to consolidate our suit with the bond validation, any resulting delay to redevelopment progress will be caused by the City."
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