The Pierre dropped out of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition LLC last month, just before IPOC filed a second legal challenge to the Islandside renovation-and-expansion project.
On Monday, Aug. 9, IPOC filed its second challenge to the town’s approval of the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s $400 million Islandside renovation-and-expansion project in the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
IPOC, which filed a declatory judgment July 30 seeking a de novo, or new, hearing in court to challenge the project’s consistency with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, has now filed a writ of certiorari, which challenges the ordinance the Town Commission adopted to approve the project.
In this instance, a judge relies on the record formed over countless hearings at Temple Beth Israel to make a decision.
Both challenges could take up to two years to be completed after all appeals are exhausted.
IPOC President Bob White said the writ of certiorari was filed, because a few items IPOC wanted to pursue as part of its de novo challenge were, instead, only available by using this avenue.
By filing a writ of certiorari, White said IPOC could challenge whether town code was interpreted properly when the commission approved a 50% parking-space waiver credit for its approved meeting center.
But before IPOC’s latest challenge was filed, the limited liability corporation lost one of its six managing members.
New Pierre board resigns
Pierre Association Inc. attorney Jeremy Anderson told The Longboat Observer the recently installed board of directors that oversees the 66-unit condominium association in Islandside decided it no longer wanted to be one of IPOC.
“They decided they are not taking a position either way on whether the Islandside project should have been approved or not,” Anderson said. “Their current position is individual owners can participate with IPOC financially if they want.”
Pierre Association President Irwin Lowenstein sent an undated letter to IPOC President Bob White last week, which states that The Pierre Association Inc. never formally entered into the operating agreement governing the IPOC LLC.
“Accordingly, The Pierre Association Inc. is not currently and has never been a managing member of IPOC as erroneously indicated in the company documents filed with the Florida Division of Corporations and has been conveyed to city officials and to the general public,” Lowenstein wrote.
Lowenstein, however, told The Longboat Observer Friday that he has since found the documentation that did prove The Pierre Association Inc. had agreed to become a managing member of IPOC.
But it hasn’t changed the board’s opinion, according to Lowenstein.
“Our board of directors just decided to resign as a managing member,” said Lowenstein, who explained that not all of his condominium’s unit owners believe the Islandside project should not be built.
Other members consider liability
Sarasota attorney Steven Thompson, who was hired by Lighthouse Point resident John Saputo in April 2009 to question his homeowners association’s involvement as a managing member of IPOC, is positive The Pierre backed out of IPOC because of liability concerns.
“I have received a number of calls from owners in other Islandside associations, including some from The Pierre, who have liability concerns about being an IPOC member,” Thompson said. “I have told them all that I question why association fees are being used to fight a project instead of being used to protect and enhance the common elements of the properties.”
Thompson said he believes all of the associations that are managing members of IPOC have liability.
“Board members have a fiduciary responsibility, or very high standard to their owners,” Thompson said. “That duty is to be responsible for the maintenance and repair of condos and common elements and not to use owner monies to fund lawsuits.”
If IPOC were to lose the legal challenges it has filed in Sarasota County that challenge the Islandside project, Thompson believes monetary judgments could be placed against the associations involved.
Thompson also believes some of the Islandside association condominium documents prevent some associations from joining IPOC as managing members altogether.
“There have been a number of violations by these boards that have gotten involved with IPOC,” Thompson said. “The prevailing party would be looking to the board and, ultimately, the unit owners, who fund assessments, to pay attorney fees if they lose a lawsuit.”
John Saputo, who is still arguing with his homeowners association over its involvement with IPOC as a managing member, was glad to hear The Pierre has dropped out.
“I think it’s great,” Saputo said. “What it’s showing is other organizations represented by IPOC are as worried as my wife and I are that everyone’s interests are not being represented the way they should be.”
White, however, said there are no liability concerns for any managing member.
White denies liability issues
“I am disappointed The Pierre decided to drop out over concerns on potential liability,” said White, who cited the Pierre’s change of heart on a new board of directors and stated that IPOC is only funded through voluntary contributions. “Our attorney has given an opinion that shows there are no grounds for any legal liability.”
White said there would only be liability concerns if IPOC filed a frivolous lawsuit.
“We don’t believe that is the case with these lawsuits,” White said.
IPOC still lists L’Ambiance, The Sanctuary, Lighthouse Point, Longboat Key Towers and Beaches of Longboat Key South as associations that are IPOC managing members.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].