Belleair Beach Goes to Court in Long-Delayed House Project
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - The long-standing problem - going back to September, 2005 - with a property on Harbor Drive will most likely wind up in court before it is finally settled.
The City Council held a special meeting June 13 to discuss the controversy about the incomplete work on the house at 801 Harbor Drive, owned by Tom and Sandra Brown, which, in the complaint of neighbors, is an eyesore.
Paul Marino, Belleair Beach's City Attorney, will file papers in Pinellas County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the city is entitled to execute a huge fine against the Browns.
The case goes back more than 21 months when Belleair Beach's Code Enforcement Board imposed a $100 a day fine against the Browns in September, 2005. They appealed that through their lawyer but to avoid the long delay that the appeal process would entail, the Brown and the city entered into an agreement that ended the appeal and they entered into a stipulation that the project would be completed within 12 months.
Subsequently it appeared to the City Council that the Browns were not pursuing with diligence the stipulation, a meeting among the Browns, their contractor, Belleair Beach's city manager, Marino and a building official produced an agreement that specified a quarterly timetable the contractor was to meet to satisfy the completion of construction in one year.
If that was not met, the city would re-institute its $100 a day fine retroactive to September 1, 2005.
Quarterly deadlines were not met, the city claimed, and several times meetings were held by the City Council to have the Browns explain the failure.
Finally, the Browns and the city agreed to a deadline of May 19, 2007 for them to complete the project and obtain a Certificate of Occupancy by that date or the city had a right to reimpose the daily fine.
As of today, if the court were to uphold the city's position, the fine would amount to $65,900.
The Brown's position, according to Marino is that their lawyer, Dominic Amado, argues that the city may not be able to reimpose their claim because the city had previously released it under the terms of the joint stipulation.
To that, Marino says, "I disagree."
The court will decide.
At its special meeting last week, the City Council heard Jack Tipton, the county building official tell them that the work on the house was at least two or three months from completion and no Certificate of Occupancy could be issued.
The council therefore found the Browns in breach of the agreement and directed Marino to begin legal action.
There seems to be confusion about why the delay in completing the project that is now approaching two years.
One view was that the specialized construction is relying on a particular contractor for the work.
In the meantime, neighbors on Harbor Drive are pulling out their hair in frustration over what they call an eyesore.
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