The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association filed a lawsuit Friday in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court against the town of Longboat Key. The lawsuit asks a judge to quash a portion of a town resolution that mandates the association increase a bond the town can use to maintain the dilapidated Colony property in an emergency from $50,000 to $250,000.
The association filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which states “no competent substantial evidence supports the Town Commission’s decision to require a $250,000 bond.”
The association notes the town has never had to use the $50,000 bond the association agreed to post a year ago. Town Manager Dave Bullock, though, told commissioners in December he has come close to using the bond on more than one occasion.
On Dec. 11, commissioners approved a four-month extension of the grand-fathered tourism status of units at the shuttered resort, making the latest deadline April 30.
But the commission also mandated the association increase the bond despite objections from association attorney Jeff Warren at the Dec. 11 hearing. Bullock noted then that the increase was needed because of the association’s “track record.”
“If history is any indication, we will live on the edge of drawing the bond,” said Bullock, explaining the association still has not corrected a fire alarm issue in the mid-rise building at the town’s request. “I have no confidence things will get done unless we have resources to draw upon.”
Bullock originally recommended the commission require the association to increase the bond from $50,000 to $100,000.
Association President Jay Yablon told the Longboat Observer Friday that the association “has always sought to cooperate with the town and will continue to do so.”
“But I am concerned that on other Colony issues of much greater importance than the size of a bond, the town may, in a moment of passion, take ill-advised actions, which could embroil the town and its citizens in yet another costly and lengthy legal controversy that they frankly do not need or want,” Yablon said.
“The town needs to remain a neutral referee, constructively urging resolution and prudence upon all parties, including the association as well as upon our neighbors, and not turn itself into another Colony litigant via precipitous actions.”
Yablon said the lawsuit was meant to send a message on a narrow issue.
“The message is very simple,” he said. “The next time the commission is inclined to act in passion or haste, we urge them not to.”
Acting Town Attorney David Persson, who was present when commissioners made their decisions at the Dec. 11 quasi-judicial hearing (in which commissioners act as judges and base their decisions on the facts in front of them), said he needs to review the meeting record again before commenting on whether he feels the commission acted appropriately when increasing the bond amount.
The lawsuit claims there was no factual evidence presented that necessitated the bond increase.
Town Clerk Trish Granger confirmed Tuesday the town has not officially been served with the lawsuit.
Persson said a Sarasota judge will be assigned the lawsuit and will decide whether there is just cause to continue before the town is served. When the lawsuit is served, the town will have 20 days to respond.
“The association is challenging the amount of the bond only,” Persson said. “The question is whether there is competent, substantial evidence of record to support the larger bond amount. In order to figure out if there is or not, I need to review the record again.”
Persson said the Dec. 11 hearing accomplished a lot, including the commission’s decision to set a hearing in March to review the condition of Colony buildings and whether the buildings pose a safety hazard and need to be demolished.
In the meantime, Persson said the town is monitoring the Colony’s progress and waiting to see if U.S. Bankruptcy Judge K. Rodney May approves a settlement agreement among the majority of Colony parties Jan. 27.
“Progress on all fronts that help bring other Colony issues that arise like this (bond amount) is the key to resolution on the Colony for all parties,” Persson said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org