Water's Edge Wins Arbitration Over Disputed Bluff Land
by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - It didn't take arbitrator James Case, a retired judge, long to issue a ruling in the case of disputed land on which Opus South had already constructed part of its 25-story downtown condominium tower. Having heard arguments on October 2, Case found Water's Edge to be the owner of the disputed 24x174-foot strip of land on October 11.
The confusion about ownership of the land was caused by "two conflicting deeds issued by Clearwater in 1959" according to Case's ruling. On April 8, 1959, the city conveyed a 32.77-foot wide parcel to Calvary Baptist Church, then the owner of the large parcel adjacent to City Hall. Then on April 23, 1959, Clearwater filed another Quit Claim Deed to a 3-foot wide strip that was contained in the 32.77-foot wide area conveyed earlier.
Case opined that Clearwater had several opportunities in recent years to object to Calvary's, and later Water's Edge, use of the disputed property.
"Beginning in 1984, Calvary Baptist applied for and obtained approval from Clearwater to expand its church facilities," Case wrote. That application included fencing and installing an air conditioning unit on the disputed land. Clearwater raised no objection to the use of the later-disputed land.
In October 2004, Water's Edge entered into a contract to buy the Calvary Baptist property, including the piece that later came under dispute. Water's Edge later submitted development plans for a 25-story condominium tower that would partially occupy the disputed strip. Clearwater approved the application and raised no objections to the use of the disputed land.
"It is clear that Water's Edge acted in good faith and without any knowledge of any boundary dispute…" Case opined in his ruling.
Considering the impact if Water's Edge had to tear down the tower, Case went on, "The financial consequences to Water's Edge if it were required to remove any portion of the condominium from the Disputed Parcel would be disastrous."
Case concluded that "Clearwater has no interest in the Disputed Parcel", and awarded title to Water's Edge.
A feature of the agreement between the city and Water's Edge to enter into arbitration was a payment to Clearwater of $450,000 to not appeal if the decision favored Water's Edge. While Case's ruling did not please her, Anne Garris, long a champion of preserving public land and an opponent of commercializing the downtown public waterfront, said, "I would hope that the money would be used for the beautification of Coachman Park and the bayfront area."
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